Idris Elba charms on the ever-rare consistent episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Idris Elba & Khalid
March 9, 2019

I KNOW THIS IS LATE AND I AM SORRY. I was on a plane when this episode originally aired, and while I guess I could have watched it on YouTube sometime last week I did not because of reasons. (I didn’t want to.) But I’m here now and am happy to report that last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Idris Elba, was a remarkably solid and consistent episode in an otherwise fairly sloppy season.

Idris Elba seemed genuinely thrilled to be hosting, the sketches were (for the most part) clever and none of them dragged on past their welcome, and did I mention the part where Idris Elba was the host? Because honestly, Idris Elba could just stand there being handsome for 90 minutes and it would still be a better episode of Saturday Night Live than the one Halsey hosted.

OOOOH, BURN, EPISODE OF SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOSTED BY HALSEY.

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‘Saturday Night Live’: John Mulaney’s Second Chance Theater

Saturday Night Live
John Mulaney &
March 2, 2019

When former Saturday Night Live cast members appear on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Meyers will sometimes do a bit called “Second Chance Theater” in which sketches that the cast members pitched but never made it on air are finally performed. That is what John Mulaney’s hosting gigs for SNL have become: Second Chance Theater for sketches he and his writing partners wrote a decade ago, but never made it on air. And the thing is, it must be deeply gratifying for Mulaney and his fellow writers because as it turns out, these rejected sketches? Far better than most of the crap they put in any given episode.

Last year the rejected sketches were “Diner Lobster” and “Sitcom Reboot,” this year, the rejected sketch involves a toilet. Yes, a toilet, and it is hilarious. Mulaney needs to come back once a season, each time with a rejected sketch — or, better yet, let’s just have him host every week and let him do whatever the hell he wants.

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‘Saturday Night Live’ owes Don Cheadle a better episode

Saturday Night Live
Don Cheadle & Gary Clarke Jr.
February 16, 2019

Look, this was a perfectly fine episode of Saturday Night Live. Let me be clear: that’s not meant as a compliment. With a talent like Don Cheadle hosting, this should have been a very good episode at the least. Cheadle is a funny actor, he’s charming, and game — what more could they ask for? Sadly, the material felt obvious and a bit lazy, as if the writers weren’t really trying. It’s a shame because Cheadle did the most he could with some really flat material and he was easily the best thing about the entire night.

Which leads me to ask: how the hell is this the first time Don Cheadle has hosted Saturday Night Live? Cheadle has been in the business since the 80s, well-known since his BRILLIANT 1997 performance in Boogie Nights, and outright famous since he was nominated for a God damned Academy Award in 2004 for Hotel Rwanda. And he’s just now getting around to hosting long after Lance Armstrong, Paris Hilton, Adam Levine, Michael Phelps, and Ronda Rousey have had their turns? That’s some bullshit right there.

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Halsey, whoever she is, hosts a TERRIBLE ‘Saturday Night Live’ (but that’s not her fault)

Saturday Night Live
Halsey
February 9, 2019

So, this episode of Saturday Night Live, it was not good. With the exception of three sketches I will get to in a moment, last night’s SNL was really not good. The host, Halsey, is very pretty and a decent little actress for someone who is ~checks notes~ a singer? Of popular music? Guess I’ll have to take your word for it. But this episode was bad and Halsey was let down by some straight-up terrible writing. Like, maybe this was the worst episode of the season terrible, and that’s REALLY SAYING SOMETHING, YOU GUYS.

That said, it’s interesting to note that, like I said, there were three good sketches, and that they were all very pointed takes on race issues: “Them Trumps”; the sketch on the appropriate uses of blackface; and the tribute to black performers on SNL were all funny, sharp, and took no prisoners. Considering that it’s been quite the week for race news between Virginia and Liam Neeson and it being Black History Month, I suspect SNL didn’t have much choice but to include so many racially-based sketches. I don’t know how many black writers SNL currently has on its staff, but it can’t hurt that SNL has its first black head writer EVER with Michael Che, and as a result not only were these sketches written, but they were really good. Similarly, it’s not a coincidence that when one of the head writers was a woman a head writer a couple of seasons ago, the female-based sketches that made it on air were really funny and trenchant and for me, a female viewer, very relatable. And what I’m saying is HIRE ANOTHER FEMALE HEAD WRITER, SNL. AND MAYBE SOME MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR AND LADY WRITERS.

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James McAvoy and his many accents are welcome back to ‘Saturday Night Live’ anytime

Saturday Night Live
James McAvoy & Meek Mill
January 26, 2019

James McAvoy is one of those actors who so seamlessly disappears into his roles that it can sometimes be hard to remember what, exactly, he has actually been in. And in fact, I had to go over to IMDB to look up his credits and confirm that he had been in The Chronicles of Narnia and wasn’t just doing an impersonation of someone else doing Mr. Tumnus in one of last night’s sketches. And though he’s best known for serious roles like Atonement, Split and the young Dr. Xavier in the X-Men movies, it turns out McAvoy has quite the comic timing and presence and was a complete natural as host of Saturday Night Live. I expect he will be back.

But here’s a question I have after last night’s episode: did the writers have some sort of challenge amongst themselves to see how many different accents they could make McAvoy do? By my count there were roughly 8 different accents McAvoy was asked to pull off: generic American, over-the-top Scottish, German, Philadelphian, British, Southern, urban/rap, and bad fake Southern. That’s a lot! That’s more than they ask other hosts to do! Was it some sort of game to see how many different accents they could come up with and that he could pull off? Or did he just decide to add accents to certain characters for flair? These are the sorts of things that wake me up at 4:17 in the morning, I’m not even kidding.

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Rachel Brosnahan hosts a solidly B episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Rachel Brosnahan & Greta Van Fleek
January 19, 2019

Saturday Night Live is back after its long winter break and while last night’s episode wasn’t terrible, let’s just say that it felt like some writers and performers don’t quite seem like they have entirely mentally have returned from vacation? It is not that the episode was lazy, per se — there were a couple of sketches that I think really hit it out of the park, including one that revels in its immaturity, and a surprise visit from the delightful John Mulaney — it’s just that the bad sketches weren’t bad as much as they were half-assed.

As for Brosnahan’s performance, I honestly had forgotten she was the host through much of the episode. That’s not meant to be a knock on her, she fit in well enough that I found myself reminding myself that she was the host and not a “featured player.” (Not a star, mind you, but a featured player.) (OK, maybe that was a dig.)

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Matt Damon delivers a Christmas miracle: a good ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Matt Damon and Miley Cyrus & Mark Ronson
December 15, 2018

How is it that this is only the second time Matt Damon has hosted Saturday Night Live? I mean, I’m sure it’s just a matter of his busy schedule: he is a movie star with four kids, it’s not like he has a lot of free time to spend hanging out on a sketch comedy series. But that said, Damon seemed to really be in his element last night. It was already evident from his surprise appearance as Brett Kavanaugh earlier this season that Damon is a natural comedian who seems to thrive under the pressure of a live audience. But last night just cemented the fact that his performance as Kavanaugh wasn’t a fluke. He genuinely seemed to be having as much if not more fun on the SNL stage as the cast, and he was a genuine professional the entire time. Matt Damon gave a Melissa McCarthy-level performance as host.

Additionally, the writing this week was so much stronger than it has been all season. From what I’ve read, hosts are invited to make sketch suggestions, and I suspect that played a large role in why this week’s sketches were just better than they have been in recent weeks. I’m guessing Damon, who is also a writer, came armed with some ideas, rather than just agreeing to whatever nonsense the writers gave him. Whatever the magic was, here’s to hoping SNL also recognized it and bring Damon back sooner rather than later.

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