Kieran Culkin lifts up ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Kieran Culkin
November 5, 2021

Thirty years ago, Kieran Culkin began his acting career in a small role in his brother Macaulay’s breakout hit, Home Alone, playing one of the McCallister cousins. (And he was pretty cute):

In fact, Kieran’s career has long played out in the shadow of his older brother’s, despite being a very talented young actor in his own right. Go watch Igby Goes Down when you get the chance — he’ll blow you away.

It wasn’t until Kieran’s bitingly sharp role as Roman Roy on HBO’s brilliant Succession that audiences began really appreciating Kieran as the talent that he is.

It’s tempting to pull the ol’ “I liked him before he became cool” card with Kieran Culkin, but the truth is I’m just happy he’s finally getting the recognition he’s deserved for literally decades now. And in terms of hosting Saturday Night Live, he was just as nimble and funny as you would expect, able to play the straight man or the comedic focus with equal ease. All in all, another solid performance from baby brother.

The cold open features Judge Jeanine Pirro interviewing that liar Aaron Rodgers about not getting vaccinated and Glenn Youngkin about winning the Virginia’s governor’s race based on his opposition to CRT, which he knows nothing about. But the highlight of the sketch is when new cast member, James Austin Johnson, finally shows off his amazing impersonation of Former President Dingus, as he intrudes on the interview to tie himself to a visibly uncomfortable Youngkin and take credit for his win. If you hadn’t seen Johnson’s impersonation before, prepare to be impressed.

Grade: B+

Kieran Culkin’s monologue recalls the time 30 years ago when his brother Macaulay hosted the show, and Kiernan guest starred, insisting that he be lifted up during the goodbyes the same way his brother was. It’s pretty charming, though his ill-fitting purple suit is less so.

Grade: A-

Culkin’s first sketch finds him as a man trying to cancel his cable service, only to be trapped in a never-ending customer service hell loop. Culkin is the straight man here and does an admirable enough job. Only real criticism is it’s a bit long for a sketch that is all about being annoyed.

Grade: B+

In the first digital sketch of the night, a team attempts to steal a Lamborghini, only to be thwarted because the getaway driver can’t drive stick. I FEEL PERSONALLY ATTACKED.

Grade: A-

Ego Nwodim revives her Dionne Warwick impersonation for “The Dionne Warwick Show” in which she interviews — or rather, shouts pop culture questions at — Miley Cyrus, Jason Mraz, the real Ed Sheeran, and Post Malone. But the sketch has a treat up its sleeve, when the real Dionne Warwick, in a fabulous sparkly tracksuit, comes out and joins Nwodim on stage. The woman is a goddamned legend.

Grade: A

In this sketch, in which Tracy Morgan makes an appearance for some reason, a group of men negotiates the social nuances of using the men’s room. Their inner monologues reveal the painful awkwardness of making small talk and choosing a urinal. It’s fine, and I’m sure resonates with men (y’all know you could avoid all this mess if you only had stalls, right?), but they clearly have no idea how to end the bit.

Grade: B

Easily the dumbest sketch of the night is this digital bit in which a jockey rides a horse like a skateboard? And he tells his story via a Ska song? It’s exactly as stupid as it sounds.

Grade: C

“Weekend Update” is a big heap of whatever this week. There’s only so much humor you can wring out of “infrastructure,” I guess. I do think it’s interesting that they gave two jokes that might be considered borderline sexist — one about breastmilk and another about a women’s volleyball team — to Jost, as opposed to Che.

Grade: B-

Ice Cube joins the desk to discuss opting out of a $9 million payday for a film because he refused to get vaccinated. Basically, it’s a series of dunks on how dumb Ice Cube’s movies are.

Grade: B

The highlight of this week’s “Weekend Update” is Cecily Strong’s “Goober the Clown Who Had an Abortion When She Was 23.” Strong’s point — and it is a spot-on and poignant one — is that we as a society have made even discussing abortion taboo and painful and awkward even though it is extremely common — 1 in 3 women have had one. You know someone who has had one. And women shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for making decisions about their own bodies and futures.

Grade: A++

Culkin steps out of the straight man role in this sketch as a weatherman who has spent so much time on his turkey costume and rap, that he didn’t do his actual job. To his surprise, a deadly Nor’Easter blows in while he’s wearing a turkey on his head. Clearly inspired by all the goofy Halloween costumes local broadcasters were forced to wear last week, this is a satisfyingly silly sketch.

Grade: A-

The Please Don’t Destroy kids are back with this sketch in which one of the guys regrets breaking up with his girlfriend, but every time he or his friends try to call her to make up, they end up cursing her out. It feels weirdly and needlessly cruel, even though she gets her revenge in the end.

Grade: B-

Cut for time is this Kyle Mooney “Weekend Update” bit in which he, a guy named Brandon, is excited by the thinly-veiled “Fuck Joe Biden” chant, “Let’s Go, Brandon.”

Final Grade: A-.

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

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