Be thankful: Will Ferrell and a slew of other stars deliver an excellent ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Will Ferrell & King Princess
November 23, 2019

When it comes to judging hosts, it’s unfair to compare regular actors, sports figures, musicians or even other comedians to former cast members. For former hosts, this was their job for years — they understand how to play to the audience; they aren’t afraid of a live performance; they, better than probably most actors, understand comic timing. This is how they became household names. And among those who have been invited back to host Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell might be one of the funniest and most talented cast members of all time. So to compare him as a host to a Harry Styles or a Kristen Stewart, it’s just not fair. They aren’t on the same playing field.

Will Ferrell returned to Saturday Night Live for his fifth time hosting and delivered easily one of the funniest — if not the funniest — episodes of the season. Ferrell’s big golden retriever energy makes every sketch just that much funnier, even sketches that by all rights should have just been mediocre. And while I can’t be certain, it certainly felt like the writers held back on the last couple of episodes so that they could give Will Ferrell the choicest material. And honestly? I don’t blame them in the least. He knocked it out of the park.

The cold open featured perhaps the most ridiculous moment of our ridiculous week: President Trump coming out onto the White House lawn to deliver his spoken word poetry in response to Ambassador Sondland’s testimony. Host Will Ferrell then joins him as that messy bitch Sondland to confirm that there definitely was quid pro quo. The whole thing felt unrehearsed and weirdly short for a cold open, and also, one of the extras is waving around a notebook that has “LIVE LIKE A LOST BOY” written on it? For some reason? Was it a bet?

Yeah, I don’t know either.

Grade: B

During his opening monologue, Will Ferrell realizes Ryan Reynolds is in the audience and becoming suddenly self-conscious, Ferrell begins screwing up his delivery and says a bunch of nonsense. And then Tracy Morgan gets involved. It’s wonderfully goofy and 100% Ferrell.

Grade: A

The commercial spoof of the night is for a Heinz bottle that no longer sounds like it farts when you squeeze it. Instead, it sounds like something far more embarrassing. Juvenile and hilarious in large part thanks to Ferrell’s straight-man performance.

Grade: A+

I’m pretty sure the reason the cold open was so short was because this spoof of the Democratic debate runs for over 12 minutes — which, no matter how funny the sketch, is a bit too long. In those 12 minutes, they manage to cram in (big inhale): Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris; Larry David as Bernie Sanders; Woody Harrelson as Joe Biden; Rachel Dratch debuts as Amy Klobuchar; and Fred Armisen, who for my money, steals the sketch as Michael Bloomberg. Kate McKinnon is obviously back as Elizabeth Warren; Chris Redd returns as Cory Booker; Colin Jost is Pete Buttigieg; and Bowen Yang is Andrew Yang. Host Will Ferrell serves as an awkward Tom Steyer. Oh! And Cecily Strong debuts her Tulsi Gabbard, and while I hate me some Tulsi and think she’s out to destroy the Democrats, Cruella DeVille is sexy here.

Grade: A-

Will Ferrell plays a racist Native American who is suspicious of the “pale faces” who have invaded his land, who wants to put up a wall and who takes all of his talking points from a fox. But just when you think you know where this is going, it takes a HARD left turn. Spoiler: it’s going someplace gross.

Grade: B+

Mikey Day and Cecily Strong are a couple of high school kids throwing a rager while their parents are out of town, only to have their AP English teacher, who is going through some things, show up. Again, clueless straight-man Will Ferrell might be the best Will Ferrell.

Grade: A

A family is chosen to film a commercial for a pizza, but when the mother’s feelings are hurt by her kids and she leaves, the father struggles to get the ad back on track. It’s not the funniest bit of the night but there is a sweetness to it. And also, too, Will Ferrell.

Grade: A-

The “Weekend Update” was going so well and then Michael Che had to go and Michael Che. SEE, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PERIOD JOKE IN THE SKETCH ABOVE AND THE ONE YOU DID, CHE, IS THAT FERRELL IS MAKING HIMSELF THE BUTT OF THE JOKE WHEREAS YOU ARE MAKING WOMEN THE BUTT OF THE JOKE. THIS IS WHY WOMEN YELL AT YOU, DUDE.

Grade: B+

Guy Who Just Bought a Boat is back to ruin all your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes! And he brought a friend!

Grade: A-

“Cinema Classics” is back, this time with an alternate ending to the Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy explains to her fellow Kansans that they were featured as Munchkins in her dream. It’s very uncomfortable for everyone.

Grade: A-

OK, look. This sketch is very immature but I’d be a liar if I said it didn’t make me laugh. Whaddya gonna do?

Grade: B+

Cut for Time: A high school drama teacher teases his very dramatic students with the cast list for the upcoming play. This is one of those bits that clearly come from the cast and writers having been drama geeks in high school which can sometimes feel a bit navel-gazey. But, again, you add Ferrell to the combination and he elevates the whole thing.

Cut for Time: Wrangler Peekaboos. How did this not make it onto air? I mean, I genuinely do not want to see this much of anyone’s ass crack, but at the same time …

Cut for Time: And then there’s this bit in which Will Ferrell plays a dupe waiting for the Moldovian woman he’s been sending money to join him in Mexico. NOPE. TOO SAD FOR TV.

Final Grade: A. The numbers don’t lie, folks.

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

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