Matt Damon delivers a Christmas miracle: a good ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Matt Damon and Miley Cyrus & Mark Ronson
December 15, 2018

How is it that this is only the second time Matt Damon has hosted Saturday Night Live? I mean, I’m sure it’s just a matter of his busy schedule: he is a movie star with four kids, it’s not like he has a lot of free time to spend hanging out on a sketch comedy series. But that said, Damon seemed to really be in his element last night. It was already evident from his surprise appearance as Brett Kavanaugh earlier this season that Damon is a natural comedian who seems to thrive under the pressure of a live audience. But last night just cemented the fact that his performance as Kavanaugh wasn’t a fluke. He genuinely seemed to be having as much if not more fun on the SNL stage as the cast, and he was a genuine professional the entire time. Matt Damon gave a Melissa McCarthy-level performance as host.

Additionally, the writing this week was so much stronger than it has been all season. From what I’ve read, hosts are invited to make sketch suggestions, and I suspect that played a large role in why this week’s sketches were just better than they have been in recent weeks. I’m guessing Damon, who is also a writer, came armed with some ideas, rather than just agreeing to whatever nonsense the writers gave him. Whatever the magic was, here’s to hoping SNL also recognized it and bring Damon back sooner rather than later.

The premise of the cold open, that Trump has his own It’s a Wonderful Life fantasy in which he never became President, and everyone’s lives, including his own, is better for it is both clever and timely, both because it’s the holiday season and because Trump and his cronies all must be regretting his running for President right about now. Cohen wouldn’t be facing three years in prison, the Trump kids wouldn’t be sweating the indictments that are certainly coming, Trump could have spent his days tweeting, playing golf and grifting … well, I suppose some things would have stayed the same …

Anyway, there are some sharp jokes in here, and it makes good use of its guest stars in that they aren’t required to carry the whole sketch (unlike last week’s performance by Robert DeNiro which still pains me if I think about it too much). The weakness of the bit lies in its ending, in which for no good reason at all, Trump decides he wants to be President after all. On the other hand, why Trump wanted to be President in the first place continues to be a mystery, so maybe this was the only realistic ending to this sketch.

Grade: B+

Matt Damon’s monologue is a master class in how a non-stand-up comedian should open SNL. He tells a personal and emotional story that involves Saturday Night Live and his childhood, adds some self-deprecating jokes, and then sticks the landing. Also, how is this only the second time for Damon to be hosting? That can’t possibly be right. But after tonight (and his appearance as Brett Kavanaugh earlier this season) methinks he’ll be back before another 16 years pass.

Grade: A+

It’s the Westminster Show of Daddies. Like a dog show, but with daddies. As someone married to a daddy, let me just say: YES TO ALL OF THIS. YES TO EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT THIS ENTIRE SKETCH. YES AND GIVE ME MORE DADDIES.


In tonight’s digital sketch, a married couple reminisces about the Christmas they just survived. This sketch is a good reminder for me in particular that most of the writers on Saturday Night Live are twenty-something idiots with no real life experience, and that when I dislike a sketch, it’s maybe not that it’s “bad,” it’s that I can’t relate as a middle-aged mom. This sketch, however, it gets me.

Grade: A+

In this sketch, a tacky Christmas tree ornament is relegated to the back of the tree with the other misfit ornaments. Imaginative and clever, it does make me wonder if there was a real Get Will Hunting For Your Consideration ornament that inspired this entire bit.

Grade: A-

Ugh, it’s one of those sketches where the entire joke is, “CELEBRITY IMPERSONATIONS!” Lazy lazy lazy.

Grade: B-

The more I thought about this “Jingle Bells” sketch in which Cecily Strong and Matt Damon play a pair of lounge singers doing a terrible version of “Jingle Bells,” the more it grew on me. It’s not great, but it is in the tradition of Bill Murray’s classic smarmy lounge act sketches, and it’s fine. It’s fine! It’s fine.

Grade: B

Y’all. I am about to do something I never do: give “Weekend Update” an A+. The jokes were good, Michael Che’s indignation about Trump not knowing the law feels very familiar to yours truly, and the bit where Che and Jost “gift” each other jokes for the other to tell was BRILLIANT. And — it pains me to say this — but Che’s jokes for Jost are far superior to Jost’s jokes for Che. Seriously, if you watch one thing in this entire list, start the second video at the 1:45 mark.

Grade: A+

Ugh, Angel, the girlfriend of a boxer is back to talk about how she’s going to take the kids again.

Grade: C+

In this bit, two dinner guests get into a disagreement about the band Weezer, and things escalate quickly. Everyone who has ever sat through one of these nightmare fights — which I assume is everyone everywhere — gets this.

Grade: B+

In maybe the weakest bit of the night, a bunch of cops bust each other’s balls over the holidays. That’s it. There are some cops and they make jokes about sleeping with the sister of one of the cops and shooting his wife and that’s the entire “joke.”

Grade: C-

In the final bit of the night, Teresa May hosts a Christmas special where she talks about how much everyone hates her. The best part of the bit is Damon’s gloating David Cameron, but the sketch struggles to find an ending, dragging Voldemort into it for reasons I can not explain.

Grade: B

Finally, this commercial spoof for “Glitter Litter,” the litterbox that turns cat turds into jewelry is mostly funny for the repeated insistence that the cat turd jewelry would be a money-maker.

Grade: B, but I’m not counting it in the final grade. 

Final Grade: A-

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

One thought on “Matt Damon delivers a Christmas miracle: a good ‘Saturday Night Live’

  1. I kind of hate-watch SNL these days (on Sunday mornings, because me old), but this will be a tough episode to top for the 2018-19 season, especially Westminster Daddy Show. Two great hosts in a row!
    In 2019, I want to see a Marc Maron-hosted episode, because (a) Maron has a weird psycho-history with SNL which needs resolution, and (b) he has developed the acting chops to do a more-than-decent job as host. Oh, and (c) I want to see Maron succeed against his own best efforts.

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