Saturday Night Live: Cumbernotterrible

Saturday Night Live
Benedict Cumberbatch & Arcade Fire
May 8, 2022

Benedict Cumberbatch first hosted Saturday Night Live on the last episode before the 2016 election. I do not hold this against him, and I blame him for nothing. That said, he should be happy that … other events overshadowed that episode, and most people have little to no memory of the appearance. Because honestly, through no fault of his own, it was not great, to say the least.

On this, his second time on the Studio 8H stage, Cumberbatch, who is a brilliantly talented actor with a natural sense of humor, had much better material to work with. It wasn’t all perfect, heaven knows. But thanks to current events which have many of us laughing through ABSOLUTE RAGING FURY, the material he was given was at times inspired.

True fact: Justice Samuel Alito partially based his decision to overturn women’s fundamental right to bodily autonomy on “a 13th-century treatise from English jurist Henry de Bracton, and then on a 17th-century legal treatise from noted English jurist Sir Edward Coke, and two additional treatises by Sir Matthew Hale, another 17th-century English barrister and jurist.” Another fun fact: Sir Matthew Hale argued that marital rape isn’t a thing and convicted women of being witches! So, yeah, 21st-century women are a little pissed about this.

This is to say that the cold open imagines the people who came up with an anti-abortion argument back in 1235, the joke being they are LIVING IN THE 13TH CENTURY. OF COURSE WE’RE NOT GOING TO USE THEIR UNEDUCATED, MAGICAL-THINKING LOGIC TO GOVERN OUR LIVES TODAY.

Anyway, I’m going to go back to screaming in a pillow now, bye.

Grade: A-

Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a funny enough monologue in which he shares a nice Mother’s Day message, mocks his awkwardness on a red carpet, and for being best known for being Dr. Strange. But the joke that everyone will be talking about is how he was nominated for an Oscar but was “beat by Will Smith.” Factually correct!

Grade: B+

In a revisit of a sketch that played well last season on Regina King’s episode, Aidy Bryant receives a bunch of Michael’s plaques with cutesy sayings on them for Mother’s Day. Except some of them suggest that she day drinks, doesn’t have sex with her husband, and drives her children to therapy. I loved it the first time. On Mother’s Day Eve, it feels a little brittle.

Grade: B

In this sketch, a pair of focus group members tasting Blue Bunny ice cream wax nostalgic and downright poetic. Basically, they describe the ice cream like they were writing a Bluebell ad:

Now, I looked up who wrote this bit on Reddit, and it’s attributed to Will Stephen alone. But I can’t believe that Dismukes, as a kid who grew up in Texas watching Bluebell ads, didn’t have a hand in this:

Grade: B

The actual Mother’s Day tribute in the episode is a digital clip that explores parental hypocrisy. It’s perfect and no I do not relate to this at all shut up hey what’s over there? ~runs away~

Grade: A+

A 1950s chain gang in Alabama sings about their woes except for Benedict Cumberbatch who sings about all the favors, sexual and otherwise, that he is getting for snitching to the warden. I don’t know where this is coming from, but also no.

Grade: C+

“Weekend Update” is full of abortion jokes this week, obviously, and they’re funny, even as we’re laughing through the terror/pain/outrage. That said, the joke that might have made me laugh the hardest was a very dumb joke about cave drawings in Alabama. They could have gone a lot of ways with it, but sometimes the simplest is the best.

Grade: A

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, that gender traitor, stops by the Desk to wonder what the big deal is? Women should just “do their nine” and then dump the babies for lesbians to adopt (until they take that away, too). The joke here, for those of you who have never carried a baby, is that “doing their nine” is a huge physical and emotional task for any person, no matter how well-supported, financially stable, and prepared you are. Pretending that pregnancy is no biggie that anyone can do is malicious and insulting; take it from someone who has been there twice.

Grade: A+

Cecily Strong and Cumberbatch are a couple in Downtown Abbey-esque England who, upon hearing the bad news that her brother is off to the war, proceed to faint all over the place, breaking things and spilling shit everywhere. Physical comedy at its… best? Okayest?

Grade: B+

My husband insists that if you repeat a bad joke enough times it becomes funny. This seems to be the theory behind this Kohler toilet ad spoof, which, you might not remember, is a call back to the first time Cumberbatch hosted. I’m not sure it worked for me, but I suspect some people enjoyed it. 

Grade: C

In this bit, Bowen Yang and Benedict Cumberbatch are a New Wave band from 1983 who fill in for the Chuck E. Cheese animatronics who happen to be on the fritz that night. This is one of those sketches that people who are into Yang’s musical nonsense will love. I am not one of those people.

Grade: C+

In another breaking-the-fourth-wall sketch that has become popular in recent years, Chloe Fineman explains that she’s the understudy for the rest of the cast. It’s an excuse for her to show off her spot-on impersonations of each of the female cast members — except Ego Nwodim, Punkie Johnson, and a deliberately bad Heidi Gardner. Elizabeth Olsen also makes a cameo to remind us that the multiverse is real. Genuine A+ job here and a perfect way to end the night.

Grade: A+

Of course, that’s not exactly how the episode ended — instead of the typical goodnights, the episode signed off with another song from Arcade Fire, while cast members wore this 1973 T-shirt, benefitting The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH). I know what I’ll be treating myself to this Mother’s Day.

Final Grade: B.

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

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