Saturday Night Live
February 9, 2019
So, this episode of Saturday Night Live, it was not good. With the exception of three sketches I will get to in a moment, last night’s SNL was really not good. The host, Halsey, is very pretty and a decent little actress for someone who is ~checks notes~ a singer? Of popular music? Guess I’ll have to take your word for it. But this episode was bad and Halsey was let down by some straight-up terrible writing. Like, maybe this was the worst episode of the season terrible, and that’s REALLY SAYING SOMETHING, YOU GUYS.
That said, it’s interesting to note that, like I said, there were three good sketches, and that they were all very pointed takes on race issues: “Them Trumps”; the sketch on the appropriate uses of blackface; and the tribute to black performers on SNL were all funny, sharp, and took no prisoners. Considering that it’s been quite the week for race news between Virginia and Liam Neeson and it being Black History Month, I suspect SNL didn’t have much choice but to include so many racially-based sketches. I don’t know how many black writers SNL currently has on its staff, but it can’t hurt that SNL has its first black head writer EVER with Michael Che, and as a result not only were these sketches written, but they were really good. Similarly, it’s not a coincidence that when one of the head writers was a woman a head writer a couple of seasons ago, the female-based sketches that made it on air were really funny and trenchant and for me, a female viewer, very relatable. And what I’m saying is HIRE ANOTHER FEMALE HEAD WRITER, SNL. AND MAYBE SOME MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR AND LADY WRITERS.
The cold open was a spoof on Meet the Press which is a good starting point. As a political talk show, it’s a natural entry for discussing current political topics and Chuck Todd does need to figure out his whole look! However, it doesn’t live up to its promise. The sketch is devoted to the wellspring of comedy that is the Bezos/National Enquirer story and I think at least part of the joke is that the media is covering the story to the exclusion of “real” news stories (which, fair), but then they themselves spend six and a half minutes on a bunch of not-that-funny dick pic jokes themselves, so, you know, physician heal thyself. Points for using Aidy Bryant as Matthew Whitaker. It’s a shame she and Kate McKinnon’s Wilbur Ross weren’t showcased more, however.
Halsey monologue is spent explaining who the hell Halsey is. She’s charming and cute and does a mean Jersey accent but ultimately this is a completely forgettable monologue.
Them Trumps are back … and again, only briefly. I still love the conceit of this sketch, which is if a black President had done HALF the shit President ShitGoblin has, he wouldn’t be impeached because he’d already be in jail. As I scream on Twitter: IMAGINE IF OBAMA DID THIS. And by “this” I mean any of it. All of it! And not even the illegal crap — just imagine if Obama had an Acting Chief of Staff, an Acting Attorney General, an Acting Secretary of Defense, an Acting Secretary of the Interior and an Acting Administrator of the EPA ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Just IMAGINE how Fox News would be MELTING DOWN over that and calling for Obama to be impeached for incompetence!
But I digress. I was going to complain about SNL trying to turn this into a recurring sketch and ruining a good thing, but considering it’s virtually guaranteed that this will be Kenan Thompson’s last season, I’ve got no beef with them milking this point for what it’s worth.
In arguably the best sketch of the night, an exasperated Virginia Chairman of Ethics asks the rest of the Ethics Committee if they’ve worn blackface in the past, and answers their questions about the appropriateness of blackface. “But what if the costume won a contest?” “What contest?” “Blackest face.”
Because Halsey is a singer in real life, there is a lot of singing in this episode. For instance, we have another fake music video for “Valentine’s Song” which is a sex ballad about how no one wants Valentine’s cards from their mom or their boss or other people they don’t want to bone. This is definitely a lesser entry in the SNL music video genre.
Sometimes SNL does a sketch that is clearly inspired by some small real life experience by a writer. Sometimes these sketches contain some sort of kernel of universal truth and the recognition therein makes the bit relatable and funny. But sometimes the sketch is just the equivalent of being forced to listen to an acquaintance’s boring anecdote about some minor nuisance they had to endure from their parents. This sketch is that.
This bit introduces us to the Women of Congress in a Charlie’s Angels-esque intro and, y’all, I have to be honest, I don’t get what the joke is? Like, they all get “funny” nicknames and taglines, but … that’s … it? There’s no punchline, there’s no payoff, there’s no there there. There are a lot of people loving on this sketch, and I hate to be the party pooper, but I think y’all just love the Women of Congress, not the sketch itself, because the sketch ain’t funny.
Here’s the “Weekend Update.” Y’all, it’s been a crazy week. This is how crazy this week has been: this week, the Super Bowl was played and the State of the Union happened. THIS WEEK. And yet here we are drowning in blackface pictures and Jeff Bezos dick pics and Liam Neeson for some God damned reason.
The first guest to the Weekend Update desk was Melissa Villaseñor for the express purpose of doing a Lady Gaga impersonation. That’s it. That’s the whole thing: Melissa Villaseñor sings a Lady Gaga song and there’s no video because the rights are too expensive. It’s a good impersonation, but it’s not funny.
The next guests to the desk are Nico Slobkin and Brie Bacardi, an exhausting Instagram couple who proceed to squabble. It’s like this SNL generation’s version of Jason Sudekis and Kristin Wiig’s wonderful a-hole couple and I don’t hate it.
Guy Who Just Bought a Boat has some dating tips for men in the #MeToo era. I actually kinda like this douchebro character, but this was an “eh.”
Hey, more singing. This time, Halsey, Cecily Strong, and Melissa Villaseñor are three sorority pledges who take over a karaoke stage to sing “What’s Going On” and terrorize the male patrons. Thanks to the song rights, it also isn’t available online but you’re not missing much.
In this short and to the point bit, the black cast members are interrupted while giving a Saturday Night Live Black History Month presentation by Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett who are eager to whitesplain African-American accomplishments in entertainment. This is easily the second best bit of the night.
And it is followed by this sketch, in which Kenan Thompson plays an older father who has become a cam boy (is that what he would be called?) after being laid off. It’s not good, y’all. It’s bad. It’s borderline homophobic and I hate it.
The last sketch of the night is almost as bad: an actor playing a corpse on Riverdale insists on being “realistic” by moaning and thrashing around to the director’s irritation. I literally don’t know what is more irritating, the actor overacting in the scene or Pete Davidson OVER-overacting in the sketch as an actor overacting in a scene.
Final Grade: B- Those three sketches really saved this episode.
Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.