Not even Issa Rae can save this week’s ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Issa Rae & Justin Bieber
October 17, 2020

I really wanted to like this episode of Saturday Night Live. The past two episodes have been weak and pointlessly misogynistic, so I was hopeful that with a smart and funny woman like Issa Rae hosting, this week would be better.

Friends, it was not better. Leaving aside the weekly assault that is Jim Carrey’s Joe Biden, many of these sketches were awkwardly unfunny and barely elicited even polite chuckles from the audience. And then there was the sketch in which a woman is harassed by three different men, all of whom refer to her “titty meat.” Cooooooool.

What’s going on in the writers’ room, you guys? Are y’all alright? Anna Drezen, can you get control of this situation, please?

This week’s cold open is a spoof of this week’s competing Presidential town halls, and get this you guys, they depicted Trump as a wacky conspiracy nut and Biden as boring but comforting! Crazy, I know. They managed to hit every expected note: the weird lady who told Trump he was handsome when he smiles, the woman sitting behind Trump who served as a one-woman cheering section, Biden being compared to Mr. Rogers. But I don’t know why Maya Rudolph’s Kamala Harris was crammed in there — it just didn’t work, and it dragged out an already way-too-long bit. Points for Kate McKinnon’s Savannah Guthrie, though, it was a weirdly spot-on impersonation.

But also:

Grade: C

Issa Rae’s monologue is way too long and not particularly funny. But hey! She didn’t insult women and homosexuals for no good goddamned reason, so it’s a huge step up from last week.

Grade: B

See, it’s a French-Canadian morning show so they do French-Canadian things, like smoke on the set, add the name “Jean” to everyone’s first name, stalk Drake and eat weirdly-shaped bagels. I give Bowen Yang and Kate McKinnon credit for doing their best, but this is neither relevant nor insightful. I just don’t get it.

Grade: B-

The first commercial spoof of the night is for 5-Hour Empathy, a drink that allows white folks to experience the pain and racism people of color have been dealing with for centuries. Harsh, but fair.

Grade: A-

“Titty meat.”

Grade: F

“Weekend Update” was pretty strong again — riffs on Trump becoming an illegal immigrant, his use of steroids, and Michael Che’s dunk on NBC for hosting the Trump town hall was particularly brutal.

What was unnecessary was Che’s equating of Biden and Trump as both being “bad” candidates. NOT NOW, CHE.

Grade: A-

The Trump Boys are back and brought along baby sister Tiffany. Fantastic.

Grade: A

Aidy Bryant does a remote segment looking for undecided voters in the heartland.

Grade: A

Heidi Gardner has another cliché film character: this time an 80s wife high on cocaine. I like these characters well enough, and Gardner is very observant and talented, but often these bits run on too long and could be tightened up just a smidge.

Grade: B+

In this bit, a political show’s panel twist themselves knots in justifying voting for only Black candidates, including a Diamond and Silk parody deliciously played by Punkie Johnson and Maya Rudolph.

Grade: B+

I don’t know, something about Kyle Mooney and Issa Rae wanting to be backup dancers for Justin Bieber? I just don’t like him, y’all.

Grade: C-

A militia group hijacks a commercial for a restaurant, demanding that they be allowed to dine inside and for an end to mask requirements or they’ll kidnap the governor. Ha? The problem is that what the actual right-wing terrorists who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Whitmer wanted was just not that different than this punchline. The shame of this sketch is that there was funny material in this situation: the terrorists were complete imbeciles, and much could have been made of their gullibility, their bonkers plot, and their use of emojis. But just making a joke out of the fact that Americans want to get back to their Applebee’s equivalents and are willing to turn violent to do so? Too on the nose, guys.

Grade: B-

The final commercial spoof of the night is an ad for eBay: the place to unload all those things you bought to improve yourself or just enjoy during lockdown, but just never got around to. Solid premise, good execution. At least we ended on an up note, I guess.

Grade: A

Final Grade: C+.

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

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