Saturday Night Live
Aziz Ansari & Big Sean
January 21, 2016
It’s been an emotionally tumultuous weekend, what between inaugurating a walking definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder as our 45th President, followed by millions of people taking to the streets to stand for all of the rights that they are terrified said walking definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder will strip them of, and then being taught a fun new phrase: “alternative facts,” when the walking definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder wanted to pretend he had more people at his swearing-in than he actually did because the mean ladies protesting against him hurt his fee-fees.
Against this nausea-inducing backdrop, Saturday Night Live had the foresight to recreate their wonderful post-election episode by once again inviting a seasoned stand-up comedian and actor to helm this episode, and Aziz Ansari, he stood up to the occasion. His opening monologue is a sensitive tight-rope walk, taking on the country’s racial anxieties without demonizing Trump himself, and I am certain it will be remembered as one of the best moments of an excellent season.
That said, not everything in this relatively very strong episode made me happy — more on that — LOTS more on that — below.
In response to this weekend’s Presidential Inauguration, this week’s cold open featured the actual winner of the election: Vladimir Putin. And in a way, this might be the most subversive cold open Saturday Night Live has done in a long while. Think about it: Donald Trump loves nothing more than attention — while he hates Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of him, he can not resist staring into his own reflection (and then complaining that it’s not as beautiful as he remembers it). So how better to snub our Toddler-in-Chief but to not feature him at all on Saturday Night Live during his big party weekend? Instead, the man who ACTUALLY controls this country as of Friday, January 20th, 2017, was given the cold open. It’s a perfect metaphor, really.
Here’s how great and important and thoughtful Aziz Ansari’s opening monologue was: it was so important, The New York Times posted a transcript of it. This is not a thing The New York Times regularly does. The New York Times did not post the transcript of Emma Stone’s opening monologue or Benedict Cumberbatch’s. Trust.
“I know there’s a lot of people that are worried right now. This is a weird time.
If you’re excited about Trump, great. He’s president. Let’s hope he does a great job.
If you’re scared about Trump and you’re very worried, you’re going to be O.K., too. Because if you look at our country’s history, change doesn’t come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people. And if Day 1 is any indication, you are part of the largest group of angry people I have ever seen.”
The first sketch of the night was a game show parody: “Beat the Bookworm,” in which an well-educated egghead competes against a normal person in a trivia contest, only to be undone by 90s pop culture. It’s mostly a venue for Aziz Ansari to do a funny voice? I didn’t hate this, it was funny enough, but it felt a little flimsy.
In this bit, Aziz Ansari is interrogated by some aggressive cops for not being a fan of the film La La Land — a joke that is familiar with anyone who has found themselves attacked for not liking some piece of popular culture. (Look, I liked Rogue One just fine, guys, I just think that A Force Awakens is more of an accomplishment. BACK OFF.) It’s one of those ideas so obvious you can’t believe it hasn’t already been done already, elevated mostly by Ansari’s natural comedic talent.
Well, this couldn’t be more fitting. This sketch reimagines “Roxie” from the musical Chicago as “Conway” … as in Kellyanne. It’s pretty much a shot-for-shot recreation of the Chicago scene, in which Roxie is reveling in becoming a celebrity — even if it was thanks to a murder. This sketch marks an interesting change from the way SNL has been portraying Kellyanne Conway, away from being a regretful employee who proved just a little too good at her job towards portraying her as someone who relishes her new power. Whoever came up with this concept is a genius and deserves prizes.
I love this lawyer ad in which one lawyer is just way better at her job than the other. I imagine people who get the Texas Hammer Jr. working on their cases feel a lot like Aziz Ansari’s character here.
(But I think we can all agree this is the greatest lawyer commercial of all time. Just TRY to get “Juan LaFonta” out of your head now:)
Here’s your “Weekend Update.” For the most part, it’s very good! “I’m a doctor. Period.” That’s good stuff!
Buuuuuuut… you guys, I’m not sure what Michael Che is trying to do here with his comments on feminism? He’s for equal rights for women, but he is irritated by the word “feminist”? GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELF, MICHAEL CHE. We have to have a special word for it because so many people out there do NOT want equal rights for women, you dummy. If everyone was on the same page on equal rights for women, Hillary Clinton would be president and we wouldn’t be terrified about what is about to happen to Roe v. Wade in the coming days. THAT’S why the word “feminist” is important and why you should just embrace it instead of whining about it.
Grade: C+ (many points deducted for pissing me off)
Here’s Leslie Jones being hilarious about Hidden Fences and the importance of representation.
And then there was this, the giant turd in the punchbowl that was this episode, “Jake from the Friendzone.” Dudes, this sketch in which a guy whines that he has been friendzoned, you’re going to air this male entitlement bullshit on the same day that the Women’s March happened? Really? Are you sure? You want to think about why that might not be such a great idea? Here, let me help you: the reason this is a bad idea to air this sketch ever, but on this day in particular, is that millions of women took to the streets today to loudly proclaim that their bodies are their own, not to be grabbed or objectified or obligated to be given over to some dude just because he thinks he should be granted access to it because he’s “nice.” Fuck this fucking bullshit right here.
This sketch that features a couple trying a little dirty talk starts off great! But then turns into a vehicle for Melissa Villaseñor to do her celebrity impersonations. I guess if that’s what you hired her for, you gotta use ’em.
In this digital short, “Five Stars,” an Uber driver and passenger attempt to woo each other to earn a “five star ride” and drive up their ratings. It’s a smart little vignette of social observation that I don’t really have much to say about aside from “good job!”
“Pizza Town” is the “weird” sketch of the night, in which two cops chase a suspect into a pizza parlor with animatronics that keep going off. It feels like a half-written sketch: I thought the songs the animatronic band was singing were hilariously irritating, but it felt like they couldn’t figure out a good way to set up the joke, that being the disparity between the serious situation at hand and the absurdity of the animatronics. The whole cop angle element just felt like something they settled on. And now I’ve waaaaay overthought this dumb sketch.
The night ended with Cecily Strong and Sasheer Zamata singing “To Sir With Love” to Barack Obama (that’s the first time I had to write that without adding “President” in front of it. ~sad sigh~). I’ll be honest, I wasn’t loving Strong’s voice there at the beginning — this is a tough song to sing, it’s not her fault. But when Zamata joins her, it becomes something truly lovely. I’m not ashamed to say I blubbered my way through this bittersweet tribute.
Final Grade: B+ which is a shame because this was almost a great episode, but “Weekend Update” NEEDS TO GET ITS ACT TOGETHER.
Next week: It’s a rerun, folks.
Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.