Two weeks ago we unfortunately had the worst episode of the 40th season of “Saturday Night Live” so far, which was even more disappointing since it involved the return of veteran cast member Chris Rock. However, in a surprising turn, Woody Harrelson hosted the show for the first time since 1992 (this was his second time hosting), and it resulted in the best show of the season to date, helped along by some other special guests from The Hunger Games franchise. So let’s get to all the good stuff!
The Dudleys – There are so many things being skewered in this sketch, from the fact that CBS makes terrible sitcoms with stupid family stereotypes and jokes, to how people complain about shows and try to mold them into what they want them to be as opposed to just letting writers create the show they set out to. And then there’s the lampooning of networks always addressing popular complaints by saying they’ve heard them “loud and clear” and also where certain complaints come from, mainly those who still send paper letters to networks addressing things they don’t like. This was perfect.
Match’d – What’s simultaneously hilarious and sad about this sketch is that the way these young people are portrayed isn’t far off from how they actually appear on real MTV shows. But what really made this sketch was the halfway twist that the host of the show was also the father of the woman who was super horny and looking for a new guy. It was a great comedic twist and definitely took the sketch to the next level.
Last Call – This episode needed more Kate McKinnon, but thankfully they saved some of her great work for the last sketch of the night, this weird, barfly recurring character ready to go home with anyone at the end of the night. I absolutely love this recurring sketch simply because of all the weird compliments and flirting, all leading to awkward kissing. So gross and hilarious.
Football Halftime Speech – From Kenan Thompson’s incoherent, brain-damaged football player character to Woody Harrelson’s graceful tackle, complete with Jay Pharoah’s confused expression throughout, this was just solid.
Old New York – Honestly, I’m not sure how well this sketch would have worked if Woody Harrelson wasn’t this nostalgic character longing for a time when getting crack in New York City was easy. He fumbled a couple lines and seemed to lose his New York dialect from time to time, but it was so endearing, and resulted in Bobby Moynihan cracking during the sketch, which he rarely does.
New Marijuana Policy – This wasn’t laugh out loud funny until Kenan Thompson nodded approvingly to Pete Davidson’s stoner character, but this recorded sketch just went for it and looked great. The premise was funnier than the extended execution of it, but there was a Funyuns flag and a “Rugrats” reference, so I was mostly satisfied.
A Drink at the White House – Finally, a cold open that wasn’t absolute garbage. And what really elevated it for me was the fact that it wasn’t serious at all. They took these two real politicians and just put them into a scenario where they were actually caricatures having fun with each other. It almost felt like the political sketches we all loved when Dana Carvey was George H. W. Bush or Darrell Hammond was Bill Clinton. It wasn’t super funny, but it was far better than any of the other political sketches and cold opens we’ve seen this year.
Young Tarts and Old Farts – Normally, I’m pretty amused by theses sketches showcasing celebrity impressions, but this one just didn’t land for me. Most of the musician portrayals felt phoned in and forced with only Kenan Thompson and Beck Bennett making me laugh throughout. This has been done far better previously, and if they’re going to repeat again, the writers need to make sure it’s worth it. This sketch isn’t officially available online due to song rights, but you can find it if you look hard enough.
Campfire Song – Also one of the best sketches of the night, this one started out a little rough, but took a couple interesting and wacky turns to make it absolutely delightful. Really, you just need to watch it for yourself. Plus, that apple song is almost as catchy as the theme song for “Too Many Cooks” (which you need to see right now if you haven’t yet).
The best joke of Weekend Update goes to Colin Jost for his crack about pedophiles, but things started off strong with Michael Che’s commentary on the infamous Paper Magazine cover photo of Kim Kardashian’s ass, especially when it resulted in a carry over joke into the next story from Jost. These two are working super smoothly now, and that’s good to see.
Leslie Jones on Crazy Bitches – There’s something inherently funny about Leslie Jones yelling and also aggressively flirting with Colin Jost. While the material of her appearance this time wasn’t the best, it was still pretty amusing.
Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson – Taran Killam returns as Matthew McConaughey along with the real Woody Harrelson to talk about the next season of “True Detective,” even though they’re not in the second season. As you expect, Killam’s McConaughey is again overly existential and abstract, but it’s done so well that it doesn’t really matter if it’s an easy target.
Who would have thought that Woody Harrelson hosting the show after 22 years away that he would have resulted in one of the best episodes of the season so far? Harrelson was up for anything, from singing more than once, to joking about his days when he was really into cocaine and still continues to smoke a lot of weed. Plus, the appearance of Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, and Jennifer Lawrence made his song about 1989 that much better, and also showed why it’s great that this show is still live, because little mistakes can result in even more hilarity.
You know what, Woody Harrelson is the MVP this episode. To return to “SNL” after more than two decades and mesh with the cast so extraordinarily is very impressive, not to mention the fact that he made several of the sketches that much funnier. It’s not easy to keep up with a live sketch comedy show, especially with a cast already comfortable with each other, and Harrelson pulled it off magnificently, especially for someone who doesn’t make a lot of comedies anymore.
The Final Word
Undoubtedly this is the best episode of the season so far, and it’s a shame that the ratings were so high for the Chris Rock hosted episode that ended up being a disaster. This is the kind of episode that casual viewers of the show need to see so they understand that “SNL” is still relevant and can pump out a great episode. It’s instances like this that make me happy to tune in for every single new episode.
Come back next week for my review of the Thanksgiving episode after Cameron Diaz hosts the show on November 22nd.
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