‘Saturday Night Live’: Kristen’s ThanksWiiging

Saturday Night Live
Kristen Wiig and xx
November 19, 2016

It’s hard: last week’s episode hosted by Dave Chappelle in the wake of Trump’s presidential upset will long be remembered as one of the best Saturday Night Live episodes of this particular era. Sharp, emotional, defiant and fierce, it felt important. It felt like SNL was taking on the responsibility in helping that half of America who was still in shock and in grief at the election results to find a way to laugh again.

As such, this week’s episode was going to be difficult for any host to follow. So how’d Kristen Wiig, SNL alum and fan favorite do?

Eh, she was fine. Last night’s episode was not terrible — Benedict Cumberbatch, now that was terrible — but last night wasn’t great or memorable, either. Last night’s episode was the equivalent of putting on an old sweatshirt: comfortable, familiar and warm, but not something you’ll remember even two days from now. It was fine! But the shame of it was with a host like Kristen Wiig, it could have been much, much better.


No one was more surprised Alec Baldwin would receive job tenure playing Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live than Alec Baldwin. But here he is in the cold open, beoranged and bewigged, venturing once more unto the breach. Here, he plays Trump realizing for the first time what, exactly, he has gotten himself into and just how unprepared he is for it. “Siri, how do I kill ISIS?”

The sketch, which features a much-too-brief appearance by Jason Sudeikis as Mittens, is funny on paper, but it also feels a little deflated somehow, lacking the zing and fiestiness of earlier political sketches. And perhaps the best but also most heartbreaking part of the bit is Kate McKinnon as Kellyanne Conway, playing a woman who cannot quite believe this is where her professionalism got her, that this is her life now — a feeling Kate McKinnon herself surely identifies with in a very real way.

Grade: B+

This sketch did worm its way under our President-elect’s thin orange skin:

On the one hand, it is patently absurd that we have elected into office a man who is so unserious as to spend his time whining about how a sketch comedy show is portraying him. It is worth noting this tweet to point out again and again that he is a big baby who is spending his time not worrying about this country, but instead getting his fee-fees hurt by a bunch of TV comedians. Oh, and Alec Baldwin has replied, because that’s the world we live in now, where the President-elect screams at the man who portrays him on a comedy show and the man who portrays him on a comedy show screams back.

On the other hand, do not lose sight of what this tweet really is: a way to distract us from the very real scandals and controversies Trump is busily working on, including settling a fraud lawsuit against him for $25 million dollars; a brewing pay-for-play issue involving foreign diplomats and his hotels; and the appointment of some shockingly dangerous people into the highest positions of his administration. I mentioned the tweet at all because it’s part of our news cycle now and it is relevant to last night’s episode; but what I am asking of you as American citizens is to not be distracted by shiny nonsnse and to keep your eyes on the real ball, y’all.

BUT BACK TO THE SHOW.

Kristen Wiig’s opening monologue was an absurdist song about the history of Thanksgiving, and she was joined, for reasons unclear to me, by Steve Martin and Will Forte. Look, I love Kristen Wiig, Steve Martin and Will Forte, but this whole thing was just inorganic and lazy. HAHAHAHA ALIENS AT THANKSGIVING, CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE? Bah.

Grade: C+

A better effort was this commercial for “The Bubble,” a utopian paradise for liberals who are upset at the idea of living under a Trump presidency and being forced to confront ideas and people different from themselves. A sharp, concise poke at the preciousness of the left, this is one of those times when SNL proves, contrary to some twitter-obsessive’s opinions, they can make fun of both sides. “If you’re an open-minded person, come here and close yourself in.”

Grade: A

Kristen Wiig has an entire stable of recurring characters, some brilliant (Judice with the tiny hands; Kathy Lee Giffords; Suze Orman) some IRRITATING AS ALL GET OUT (I’m looking at you Gilly). “Mindy Gracin,” the 1960s overly dramatic struggling actress who is terrible at game shows, falls somewhere in between. I wasn’t mad to see her last night, just disappointed it wasn’t one of her other, better characters. That said, this outing of Mindy on “Secret Word” was better than average. It was OK! It had its moments!

Grade: B+

This sketch begins as an insightful look at how the Trump presidency has created a never-ending supply of media outrage, with each new scandal immediately supplanting the last, but then concludes with a twist ending that is “clever.”

Grade: A-

My favorite bit of the night was this Target commercial that captures all of America’s ennui as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday and spend time with our loved ones who may or may not have agreed with us in recent political events. It really doesn’t matter which party you voted for, this will resonate.

Grade: A+

In this bit, Kristen Wiig and Cecily Strong play frenemies who are both auditioning for a hosting role on QVC.  I don’t even know what to make of any of this. What IS this? Is this a rejected improv scene that Kristen Wiig just really really wanted to explore?

Grade: C

Here is your “Weekend Update.” It is not a particularly good “Weekend Update.”

Grade: B

Pete Davidson: C+ (although his comments about Kanye were eerily prescient)

Neighbor Willie: C   ENOUGH WITH NEIGHBOR WILLIE. ENOUGH.

In this bit, a family is menaced by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons, including a very scary clown balloon. Hey, whatever happened to all of those scary clowns, anyway?

Grade: B-

It’s a “Whiskers R We” bit: You know, Kate McKinnon and the female guest host play older cat ladies who host a show where they try to adopt out adorable kitties and make sexual innuendo. It is what it is, which is to say, familiar and unsurprising.

Grade: B

Speaking of surprises, the final sketch of the night is another of Kristen Wiig’s beloved recurring characters: Sue, the lady who JUST CAN NOT HANDLE SURPRISES. In this sketch, she is completely overwhelmed with the idea of keeping a Thanksgiving surprise. Again, this is fine. There is nothing new here: that’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, it’s just a thing.

Grade: B

In this sketch which was cut for time, Kristen Wiig describes various Thanksgiving foods. I assume this was written by the same person who wrote the weird Michael Keaton Easter candy sketch (see below) and a similar Halloween candy sketch starring Edward Norton from seasons past. Strange, slightly creepy and yes, funny, this is how you do absurdist humor. Shame this was cut and QVC somehow made it on air.

Final grade: B-

What did you think?

Next week: Reruns. But Emma Stone and Shawn Mendes will be on December 3rd.

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

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