‘Saturday Night Live’: Lin-Manuel Miranda is a God damned national treasure

Saturday Night Live
Lin-Manuel Miranda & Twenty One Pilots
October 8, 2016

True story: I had Thanksgiving dinner with Lin-Manuel Miranda. And not at some big event where you buy tickets and the celebrity is in the room or something but you never meet them. No, I had Thanksgiving dinner with Lin-Manuel Miranda and probably 16 or 17 other people in my friend’s Brooklyn apartment.

Another true story: I remember nothing about meeting Lin-Manuel Miranda. This was 13 years ago, I was newly pregnant and not ready to tell anyone, including our friends who were hosting us, and so I spent most of my time pretending to drink my glass of wine and trying not to throw up. But Lin-Manuel Miranda, who when he wasn’t writing In the Heights, was working for my friend — who in turn was working for his father, Luis Miranda, a New York City politico — was there. I just don’t remember talking to him and I certainly did not have any idea that he was going to become LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA.

Yet another true story: Last summer, this same friend who hosted Lin-Manuel Miranda and I went to New York City together, and she was like, “I’m getting tickets to my friend Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway show. It’s a hip-hop adaptation of an Alexander Hamilton biography and it’s still in previews. Should I get you a ticket, too?” And I was like, “Nah.”

And in conclusion, I am an idiot.


Moving on.

When the Access Hollywood, “grab ’em by the pussy” news broke on Friday afternoon at 5:30 p.m., writers everywhere lit candles and said prayers for the Saturday Night Live writers room.

The thing is, Studio 8H’s typical schedule for the week goes like this: Monday: Pitches; Tuesday: Writing; Wednesday: Read-Through; Thursday and Friday: Rehearsal and Set Building; Saturday: Dress Rehearsal and Showtime. So to have the single craziest, comedy-ready news of this entire crazy, comedy-ready election cycle break when it did … just, God bless the writers. And not just because they had to come up with a whole new sketch to address “grab ’em by the pussy,”…  my heart also goes out to the poor writers who had to try to make the Vice Presidential debate funny, only to see all that work thrown out the window thanks to the likes of Billy Bush.

But I have to say, the writers managed to acquit themselves quite well. Alec Baldwin is the best, the greatest, he is yuuuuuuuuge as Donald Trump — he captures his blustery arrogance perfectly. And though I’ve always loved Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton, her delighted Hillary Clinton is her best Hillary Clinton so far. In fact, everything about this cold open was great: the Vice Presidential debate jokes, and even the wink at SNL’s own diversity issues, it all worked together beautifully. You writers may have had to stay up 48 hours straight this weekend, but you pulled it off, kids.

Grade: A++

As I’ve said again and again and again, I am not a fan of the host breaking into song during the monologue. I don’t like musicals, I think the song and dance routines are boring and trite, and I DON’T LIKE MUSICALS.

But I loved this. How can you not love this? Lin-Manuel is a genius, this adaptation of Hamilton’s “My Shot” is genius, his performance of this is genius. Give him another MacArthur Genius Grant for this monologue, he’s a genius.

Grade: A+

But it begins to turn into yet another typical SNL episode with this mediocre sketch about a couple who just wants to sing along with their friends only to be humiliated by them. NOT ALL OF US HAVE BROADWAY VOICES, LIN-MANUEL. SOME OF US JUST WANT TO SING ALONG, LIN-MANUEL.

Grade: B-

This one goes out to all the high school theater geeks out there. You know who you are. (I am not going to lie, I might have written and directed my own one-act plays back in the day. They were very serious and they were very terrible.)

Grade: A

In a sketch that is only available on a platform that I can’t embed here because The Cyber, Lin-Manuel Miranda plays an overly sincere and eager substitute teacher who wants to reach out to a class of hardened teens. It’s funny enough, Manuel gives a solid funny performance, but the whole bit feels recycled.

Grade: B-

I have to confess: I am unhealthily obsessed with this election — I check politico.com and fivethirtyeight.com religiously, and I watch pretty much every news talk show that I can stomach. And one of my favorite characters in this ongoing circus is Kellyanne Conway, the Republican strategist who was brought in back in July to become the Trump Campaign Manager and save the sinking Trump campaign — her job was specifically to appeal to female voters. In other words, she was tasked with virtually the impossible. But she made some admirable progress: she was able to wrest Trump’s phone out of his hands for days at a time to prevent him from tweeting his vilest thoughts, and she always presented herself as the calm (almost sedately so), measured female voice of the Trump campaign.

Needless to say, since the first debate, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for Kellyanne Conway. In fact, I haven’t seen her out hustling for him since he had his 3 a.m. tweetstorm attacking Alicia Machado. And in the wake of pussygate, she cancelled her appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows, forcing sewer goblin Rudy Giuliani to go in her stead. I imagine she has been in a bourbon haze for about 10 days straight or so.

Anyway, this is a long way to go to say that this sketch about the poor beleaguered Kellyanne Conway, the woman with The World’s Worst Job, was my favorite sketch of the night, even if no one else knew the woman being portrayed.

Grade: A++

“Weekend Update” was not posted on youtube.com, you can watch it here and here. It was fine. Jost and Che didn’t try to equate Trump and Clinton this time, so that’s good. But I do not care about Pete Davidson or his hair.

Grade: B

Okay, youse guys. We have to talk about this guest appearance by Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon as a pair of Philadelphia suburban female voters. My husband is from Philadelphia and THAT IS NOT A PHILADELPHIA ACCENT, JIMMY FALLON. I don’t know what the hell that is, but it ain’t a Philly accent. Tina Fey is from outside Philadelphia, and she is — as always — perfection. Bonus points for putting Fallon in his place for that gross interview he did with Trump.

Grade: Tina Fey: A fucking plus; Jimmy Fallon: Hard C

In this adaptation of “The Wells Fargo Wagon” song from The Music Man, the huckster who comes to town sells the small town folk bank accounts they don’t need instead of musical instruments they don’t need. Wells Fargo really walked themselves right into this one.

Grade: A-

In this lovely digital short that is almost entirely in Spanish, Lin-Manuel Miranda plays “Diego,” a recent immigrant who calls his mother to tell her about his new life. It’s sweet and funny and gentle and unexpected. And it was one of the best things on an exceptional episode.
Grade: A+

In this sketch, we meet the parents of Lucas from Stranger Things. Surprise! They are not interested in this Upside Down place foolishness. Points for Kate McKinnon’s amazing job as Eleven. Points deducted for a lack of ending.

Grade: B

Here’s the thing about these recurring short “Melania Moments” bits — they aren’t nearly as mean as they could have been. It’s easy to call Melania Trump a gold digger or dumb or an empty shell of a human being who sold her soul. But somehow these sketches find a Melania Trump who is experiencing an existential crisis — they find a questioning mind behind those beautiful dead eyes, and it is completely believable.

Grade: A

The episode ended with this World War II sketch in which a soldier on the verge of death asks his friends to hide his embarrassing personal items back home. It’s mostly an excuse for Pete Davidson to talk about butt plugs and make other immature jokes. Frat boys will love it!

Grade: C+

Final grade: A And a well-deserved one at that.

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Next week: Emily Blunt & Bruno Mars

Saturday Night Live airs on NBC at 10:30/11:30 p.m.

6 thoughts on “‘Saturday Night Live’: Lin-Manuel Miranda is a God damned national treasure

  1. LMM was at Thanksgiving one year? I have no idea if I was there that year but I’m now saying I was there that year. I was definitely there that year.

  2. I wish I had been at Thanksgiving that year! I would jump at a chance to hang out with Therese any time. I’m a political junkie, too, and am always checking for political updates (I would add The Atlantic (atlantic.com) to your list of frequently-checked sites). I just watched the second presidential debate (ugh), checking two liveblogs throughout. So…thanks for the SNL recap, a welcome reminder of something more positive. Cheers!

  3. I know it’s probably a pain for you, but I’m so happy you are recapping these. Tian calling out Jimmy for his terrible accent killed me. “Once a year, she goes to Jamaica. Her accent is shot”

    1. Oh, it’s not that much trouble. The bigger problem is that it takes time away from the other shows that I am WAY behind on. And yes, Tina’s improv was brilliant. As brilliant as Jimmy’s accent was terrible.

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