Austin Butler hosts a goodbye party for Cecily Strong on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Austin Butler & Lizzo
December 17, 2022

For all of my fellow olds out there; Austin Butler is the kid who played Elvis in that recent Baz Luhrman movie, but he got his start in Nickelodeon shows in the early 2000s. This is why if you remember watching Eddie Murphy on SNL when he was originally a cast member, you probably have no idea who this kid is. But that’s OK — all you need to know is that he’s handsome, he has a certain charisma, and he does bear something of a resemblance to Elvis.

But how was he as a host of Saturday Night Live? The answer is: fine. He seemed a little nervous early in the night, which is pretty typical for first-time hosts with little live performance experience. But he was very loose and natural in a digital sketch, and later in the night, he was clearly enjoying himself in a bit where, ironically enough, he played an enthusiastic Elvis fan.

As for the episode itself, it was a perfectly middling outing that was overshadowed by the news that after 11 seasons, this would be Cecily Strong’s last episode. The show says goodbye to her twice, which is only fitting as she joins Fred Armisen and Al Franken as the fourth longest-running cast members. Strong has left her mark on the show and will be missed.

One day the Trump syndicate will stop coming up with schemes sketch ideas for Saturday Night Live, but today is not that day, friends. SNL begins the episode with James Austin Johson’s Trump hawking his new comically bad NFTs, and it’s exactly what you think it is. This will vary depending on your tolerance of yet another Trump sketch.

Grade: B

Austin Butler’s monologue touches on his role as Elvis (mainly to help give the audience context for who the hell he is) and then becomes a loving tribute to his mother. It’s not exactly funny, but it seems very sincere.

Grade: B

It’s a game show spoof: “The Phrase That Pays,” which one of the characters helpfully describes as being Wheel of Fortune without the wheel. To the frustration of the other contestants, Butler’s character is able to guess increasingly complicated phrases off of only one letter. It feels very generic — a sketch that was written for any host. I am unsure what it is doing so early in the night.

Grade: B-

In “A Christmas Epiphany,” a pretaped piece, Butler plays a George Bailey type who comes to regret the decisions in his life after looking in on a family enjoying a Christmas dinner together. I don’t want to give away the punchline because it’s a genuinely funny twist. The sketch gets a little lost towards the end, but when Butler’s guardian angel shows up, it finds its stride again. Worth your time.

Grade: A

A bunch of creepy British children extolls the virtues of non-candy, marzipan. The joke here seems to be that marzipan is gross and no children would really enjoy it? I don’t know. I don’t know anything.

Grade: B-

Sarah Sherman plays a Jewish Elvis, the hit of the old folks home, while Butler, as an old woman, is his biggest fan. Interesting fact about this sketch (which I learned on the intertubes so it may or may not be true): it was originally set for the Miles Teller episode earlier in the season. I don’t know if they intentionally held it back for Austin Butler, but it worked out as a fitting tribute to his breakout role.

Grade: B

“Weekend Update” has plenty of material to work with once again: Donald Trump’s NFTs, Marjorie Taylor Greene, the FTX dork, and the U.S-Africa Business Summit. It’s fine

Grade: B+

Krampus stops by the “Weekend Update” desk to talk about eating children and being queer, and Bowen Yang manages to handle an unexpected wardrobe malfunction like the professional he is.

Grade: A

Colin Jost’s drunk and handsy Great Aunt Pat also stops by to sexually harass Jost and Mikey Day. I demand more Great Aunt Pat.

Grade: A

And finally, Cecily Strong’s Cathy Anne stops by to say goodbye. Cathy Anne explains that she’s off to jail, but it’s really the first of Cecily Strong’s two emotional goodbyes to the show.

Grade: A-

In this bit, Butler plays a guy who does not understand how white elephant parties work and becomes VERY upset when his gift is yoinked by another guest. It’s not terrible but ~shrug~

Grade: B-

Chloë Fineman breaks out a killer Jennifer Coolidge who describes her feelings about various Christmas items.

Coolidg herself was delighted:

Grade: A

The Please Don’t Destroy boys pitch a product to Austin Butler: “Plirts” — plastic shirts that wine can’t stain. Look, not all Please Don’t Destroy sketches are going to land with your middle-aged guide to SNL.

Grade: B-

Finally, the cast and Austin Butler pay tribute to a crying Cecily Strong with a rendition of “Blue Christmas.”

A few notes about this sketch:

1. Oh shit, Austin Butler can really sing like Elvis? I assumed they dubbed him in Elvis, but now I’m questioning everything.

2. Why did they frame this as a regular sketch? The set-up is that Cecily is a Radio Shack employee whose fellow employees have hired an Elvis impersonator to serenade her on her last day, but then it’s just Butler and the cast singing to her? I just don’t understand why we started pretending that it was a real sketch. I had entertained the idea that it was a surprise to her, but this had clearly been rehearsed. Also, keep your eye on Colin Jost when he comes out to sing, he seems genuinely very emotional, and it’s clear he and Kenan love her very much.

3. Cecily Strong has been nothing but terrific in her 11 years on the show. She’s so talented and funny and lovely and brave. I’m happy the show had her for as long as it did, and I know she’s going to continue to have a great career.

Grade: B just in terms of it as a “sketch”; A+ as a tribute to Cecily.







Final Grade: B+. Extra points awarded as a tribute to Cecily.

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

One thought on “Austin Butler hosts a goodbye party for Cecily Strong on ‘Saturday Night Live’

  1. I think the show will definitely miss Cecily. For me – the White Elephant sketch hit way too close to home as almost the exact same thing happened at a WE party last year. Dude lost his mind when the gift he picked got stolen. Super awkward in the moment but we still laugh about it today

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