Published Oct 14, 2018Seth Meyers returned to his old comedy writing stomping grounds for a less-than-well-conceived array of sketches, while Paul Simon sent some old songs soaring. Here's everything that happened on Saturday Night Live this week.
The cold open
C-SPAN covers the Oval Office meeting between Donald Trump, Kanye West and Jim Brown, played respectively by Alec Baldwin, Chris Redd and Kenan Thompson. As Ye rants and raves, we hear Trump and Brown's thoughts, as they attempt to process whatever it is that's happening. This bit certainly captured the painful aspects of this meeting but most of the laughs were generated by Thompson for his smart lines and physical flourishes.
In a somewhat muted and short monologue, a nervous, emotional Seth Meyers reflected on the job he held for 12 years at SNL. Normally the return of a beloved cast member would prompt others from their era to cameo during the monologue and up the nostalgia jolt, but Meyers, who is close with many of his hall-of-fame castmates, elicited no such affection here. Instead, he went down memory lane solo, begrudgingly showing off a photo of himself in a 2004 sketch with Donald Trump. He told us a bit about Kanye West once doing a self-aware sketch he subsequently learned nothing from that helped Meyers learn all he needed to know about the artist.
He ended things on a whimsical note about how much working at the show meant to him, which was a strangely earnest (and unfunny) thing to do for one of contemporary late night's sharpest and most sarcastic hosts.
South of Mason
The show presented their own take on the plague that is the audience question segment of any publicly attended showbiz panel. Kenan Thompson played the host of an IFC show who's moderating a film screening for an Oscar-bait film, whose director is played by Meyers. Thompson solicited questions from the audience and characters played by Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Beck Bennett, Heidi Gardner, Kyle Mooney, Cecily Strong and Leslie Jones, who each pepper the stage with strange statements and queries, each making things awkward for the panellists and funny for us.
A commercial parody, Meyers played a middle-aged husband who has lost his mojo and takes a stimulant to improve his energy and sexual performance. It works but it also turns him into a' roided-out dude going through a surreal midlife crisis and driving everyone else around him nuts. His wife, played by Aidy Bryant, has had enough of his Walter White transformation and secretly slips him an antidote called Beta Force, which brings him back to normal. Aside from an all-in performance by Meyers (who as the one-time head writer and Weekend Update anchor, barely ever appeared in any sketches at all), this was forgettable.
Written by new cast member Ego Nwodim, who also co-starred in this with Leslie Jones, "Thirsty Cops" was funny. They played cops who pulled over a suspected drunk driver (Meyers), and proceed to ogle and sexually harass him to the sextreme. Things have already gotten out of hand when fellow officer Kate McKinnon shows up and also flirts with the suspect; this was all well-scripted and acted, and made for a sketch that has the simplicity and legs to recur.
A Frightening Tale
In this remote, a group of friends gathered around a campfire urge a character, played by Meyers, to tell a scary story, which he begrudgingly does. Turns out his frightening tale is about enduring conversations with a pretentious, aspiring film director, played by Kyle Mooney. A strangely snobby reflection of how members of generation X view millennials and their vocational prospects that was mildly amusing.
Bill Cosby in Jail
Meyers played a new inmate in a prison who soon discovers that his mate in a super spacious cell is disgraced comedian Bill Cosby, who was masterfully played by Kenan Thompson. He chose to play Cosby addled with dementia, obliviously trapped in his likeable Cliff Huxtable persona, and he and Meyers did everything they could to keep from breaking in this funny sketch.
Strong in voice and commanding the stage, 77-year-old Paul Simon may be retiring from touring, but his passion for musical creativity doesn't seem to have abated in any way. On his new album, In the Blue Light, he has rearranged some of his classic songs and his SNL stop, which may well be the last one he makes after being part of the show from virtually its inception, was truly inspired. Blending classical music elements, yMusic backed Simon on a cool version of "Can't Run But" from 1990's The Rhythm of the Saints and later they and a larger group helped him reimagine the Simon & Garfunkel classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Though Art Garfunkel sang its best-known version, Simon has long reclaimed his composition, but this iteration, with a new musical vibe, was particularly poignant.
Michael Che and Colin Jost stormed into Update with jokes about the devastating climate change news issued this week, Taylor Swift's slide into political influence, and Melania Trump's outfits on her recent trip abroad. Featured player Heidi Gardner continues to assert her presence on the show, inventing compelling, disturbing characters. Here, she played Baskin Johns, a Goop spokesperson on the show to promote the brand, who mentally crumbles early, after Che suggests her boss, Gwyneth Paltrow, might be tuning in. Gardner often plays some version of a young, insecure woman and really dives deep into their pain for some arresting yet somehow very funny stuff.
After a few more great jokes, Jost and Che invited Meyers out for a version of the old Update staple, "Really!?!" The best part of this otherwise just okay analysis of the Trump/Kanye meeting was Che staying he's negotiated four n-words into his SNL contract, and that this story required him to say one.
Bayou Benny's Liberal Lagniappe
This was a strange, nonsensical thing imagining what a left-leaning political talk show in the deep American south might look and sound like. Beck Bennett played the host and spoke in a kind of creole, welcoming his panellists, Taylor Swift (Heidi Gardner), an alligator, a chili pepper (played by Kate McKinnon), and Meyers, as himself. The joke was that such a show might even exist in a typically conservative part of the States and then the show pushed this absurd premise to the hilt with a surreal production of such a thing, which included Alex Moffatt dressed as a biscuit in a MAGA hat.
Maybe sparked by a bit about insufferable travellers from Meyers' standup, he and Heidi Gardner play a dumb, pretentious couple late for a restaurant gathering with friends. They proceed to highlight their recent trip to Cuba, which they insist on pronouncing "Coo Ba," and drive their friends crazy with how ill-informed and obliviously douche-baggy they are. This was well-written and performed by all involved. Gardner in particular seems poised for Kristen Wiig levels of airtime and they're well-deserved.
Due to a technical issue, this remote rap video starring Pete Davidson and Chris Redd aired mid-stream. The gist of what seemed like a funny idea was that two rappers try to write an ecologically conscious song about the importance of trees to highlight their limited comprehension of our inevitable environmental collapse. The "Al Gore" chant/hook was a nice touch.
Kenan Thompson's bizarre lounge singer, Treese returned, joined by bandmates played by Meyers, as an infectious flautist, and Kyle Mooney, as a more sensible sideman. As usual, there's some behind-the-scenes drama that Treese mentions into his mic, this time involving some kind of contagion that his roommate, Meyers, may or may not have. This was a laugh, and a release valve for the cast involved, who chuckled through it.