Saturday Night Live
October 10, 2020
OH, WE WILL GET TO IT. I PROMISE.
Last week I complained about Jim Carrey being enlisted to play Joe Biden this season, arguing that SNL would have been better served using the current cast or bringing back old cast members — JASON SUDEIKIS — to play him (although, I suppose Sudeikis’ availability might be hampered if he has to maintain that sweet Ted Lasso ‘stache for filming purposes). This cold open is the perfect example of what I am getting at: Maya Rudolph is note-perfect as the cool Kamala Harris, and Beck Bennett captures Mike Pence’s insipidness beautifully, and I think that is in large part thanks to their experience as SNL players. The sketch goes about as well as any cold open would, until Carrey is crammed in there for no good goddamned reason, eating the scenery and making The Fly jokes that were old by the time I was making them on Twitter Wednesday night.
Again, kudos to the hair and makeup team: Carrey really does look like Biden. But he’s a distracting and unnecessary mess who he ruined a perfectly fine cold open with his hamminess.
Grade: C+ (the plus is for Maya Rudolph and Beck Bennett only)
For those of you who don’t know who Bill Burr was until last night, Burr is a stand-up comedian who has been around since the early 1990s. He has an animated series on Netflix that you might be familiar with, F is for Family. Burr’s got this everyman schtick: boorish, anti-PC, telling-it-like-it-is, he calls himself the “dude-bro guy.” It’s not my brand of humor, but I can appreciate why he has an audience, and I don’t get bunched up about him.
So the monologue. Burr begins his set talking about mask-wearing and how it’s fine if idiots want to go maskless and expose their family to COVID, and then makes a joke about how Rick Moranis being punched in New York City suggests that the town is back in its original form. Fine.
But the bits that you probably saw something about are when he goes off on “cancel culture” — which is certainly on-brand for Burr — before pivoting into a bit about how white women have co-opted the “woke” movement, which was supposed to be for people of color, and how white women shouldn’t be attacking white men because they are equally complicit. He then attacks Pride Month, complaining that Black History Month receives fewer days, pointing out that the gays have never been enslaved.
Look. This is a trap and an obvious one. He wants people like me — socially-aware white women — to be offended by his attack, and then bitch about it on social media so he can claim we’re making his point for him, and that he’s “being canceled.” Frankly, I don’t give a shit what Burr says or thinks, and I don’t begrudge Saturday Night Live giving him a platform to say it. As far as I know, he hasn’t been accused of sexually assaulting anyone and using his power in the comedy world to keep women down, so if SNL wants to have him host, I’m not going to complain or “cancel” him.
But I will point out that he’s conflating some shit. The whole set-up of his jokes about white women is that they are co-opting the “woke” movement for their own victimhood. I would call it “allyship,” but I can see where some might find white women shoving their way into racial justice movements to be irritating. But he then shows his hand — his real grievance — when he angrily suggests that white women are attacking white men. I assume he’s talking about the #MeToo movement which is a separate and specific issue from “wokeness,” a much broader term for all sorts of racial and political justice issues. He’s essentially accusing any white woman who has spoken out about a white man abusing them of taking something from people of color, and that’s just bullshit? I mean, I get that Burr probably has some friends in the comedy world who have been hurt by the #MeToo movement, but what he is he suggesting here that white women don’t have a right to seek their own justice just because of the color of their skin. OK.
And then there’s the bizarre attack on the gay community, which demonstrates his complete lack of education on Pride’s history and what it fundamentally represents for the gay community. I’m not shocked or disappointed by this: Bur’s entire gimmick is that he’s just a 52-year-old straight white guy who just says what other 52-year-old straight white guys are thinking. He’s not going to have a nuanced understanding of the events that precipitated the Stonewall riots or how trans people of color are still, to this day, murdered at an alarming rate. I get it.
But what I do find infuriating is that what Burr, a 52-year-old straight white guy, is doing in both of these jokes is punching down against two different minority groups, while using a third minority group — Black people — as his shield. He’s just pointing out that white women shouldn’t be able to speak up about sexual violence because Black people have it harder! He’s just pointing out that gay people shouldn’t celebrate their lives and try to normalize their experiences so that people will stop rejecting them from their families, firing them from their jobs, trying to deny them marital and parental rights, refusing to serve them as customers, and violently attacking them because Black people have had it harder! How dare anyone who is not Black in this country ever seeks any sort of social justice for themselves or ask that straight white men recognize that they exist!
As I said, Burr laid a trap, and I just walked straight into it.
In this sketch, a group of friends has a socially-distanced hang-out, where one couple makes some malapropisms and then completely lose their minds when their friends correct them. This feels like one of those sketches that is loosely based on something that happened to one of the writers and they thought it was funnier than it actually was.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed recently, but sports figures and sports commentators — particularly Black ones — have become very outspoken on social justice issues and the violence perpetrated against Black people by the police. In this bit, Burr is the only white guy on a sports show panel who taunts his co-hosts about a football game, only to learn they didn’t watch the game because they were too disturbed by another death of a Black man at the hands of the cops. Burr then tries to backpedal and pretend that he gives a shit, too, when he clearly doesn’t.
So, basically, Burr wrote this sketch. Got it.
Beck Bennett stars in this digital short about a struggling actor trying to go viral by posting a video bashing Trump only to have everyone, including Jason Momoa who makes a cameo, tell him to take it down because he’s embarrassing himself. Pomposity is always funny (less so is the tool used here where Becket narrates everything people are saying to him).
“Weekend Update” is here to save the episode and thank goodness because this is a mess so far. Michael Che’s joke about how Trump’s recovery from COVID feels like a car crash where the only survivor is the drunk driver and Jost’s bit about how Trump learning absolutely nothing from his experience is like watching someone smoke through a hole in their neck — SPOT. ON.
Kate McKinnon joins the desk as a doctor commenting on Trump receiving a medical examination on TV, except all she does is repeat her character’s name, “Wenowdis” which sounds similar to “we know this.” And it was VERY IRRITATING. But then the bit takes a sharp turn at the end and manages, unexpectedly, to make a remarkable recovery.
Pete Davidson speaks out on J.K. Rowling’s weird transphobia and sublimated ant-Semitism and God bless him, it’s great.
Oh, hey, it’s another sketch clearly written by Burr about aggrieved white guys who don’t like to be made to feel uncomfortable or guilty about their offensive behavior. In this bit, he plays a mafia boss who has returned after 20 years in prison, only to find his capos are more sensitive to racial and sexual language now. Please feel sorry for the poor, fragile white men who are being asked to moderate their behavior so as to not be complete assholes to everyone who is not them. They truly have it the hardest.
The best sketch of the night is basically a reimagining of the Casey Affleck Dunkin Donuts spoof from four years ago. But listen, I’ll take it.
Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.