CREDIT: Ava Williams/NBC

This post was originally published on News Cult in October 2018.

Love It

New Cellmate – It’s not impossible to make satisfying, even lighthearted, comedy about the most monstrous subject matter. Portraying an imprisoned Bill Cosby as someone who’s lost touch with reality (or is pretending to) and is clinging to his Cliff Huxtable persona is goofy but also weirdly credible. Plus, Seth Meyers’ new cellmate character is so carefully considered in his reaction to this surreal situation that the sketch manages to also be respectful when it could have easily been sordid. That’s a not-insignificant accomplishment.

The South of Mason Screening starts out as weird as you hope these Q&A sketches would be, but then it gets a little prosaic. But man, what a weird beginning…A Frightening Tale combines horror movie tropes and the worst “aspiring filmmaker” excesses in unforgettable fashion.

Keep It

Kanye-Trump Summit – I watched hardly any of the actual Kanye-Trump summit because I just didn’t have the appetite for it. But as far as I can tell, this is the latest example of SNL‘s cold opening being more or less a recreation of the crazy thing that happened this week. There are a few Kanye cuckoo-isms that I imagine the SNL team came up with (like Chicago’s “negative murder rate”) to render this amusing enough. But when this material is going to be covered more in depth later in the show anyway (on Update and in the case of this episode, even in the monologue), why not break the mold in the opener? I mean, you could do even just ask what happened right before or right after the summit.

Seth Meyers’ Monologue is pretty short, but it’s also pretty valuable for reminding of us this sketch from a time when Kanye was somehow both hilarious and self-aware…beta force is a necessary corrective to those suspect testosterone supplements (and right on for calling out the giant black canisters)…If Leslie Jones and Ego Nwodim want to be thirsty, let ’em be Thirsty Cops, I say…Michael and Colin earn my chuckles for that sick RadioShack burn and Che revealing that every container in his apartment “used to be something else”…The Baskin Johns bit is little more than someone nervously saying “Number 1” over and over, but I’ll give it some enthusiasm because it’s Heidi Gardner and she says “Goop my pants”…Really!?! with Colin, Seth, and Michael is a little unwieldy compared to the classic Seth and Amy flavor but still filled with plenty of valid points…Bayou Benny’s Liberal Lagniappe is a little (or a lot) incoherent (though that’s very much the point), so it makes sense to have Seth in there as himself to be confused…The couple coming back from the Cuban Vacation (“Cooba”) are pretty insufferable, but I do enjoy their interpretation of a “rooster competition”…More than half of the Trees music video got cut off during my broadcast. (Was this true for everyone else?) Luckily, it’s 2018, and all the sketches are online the next day. Anyway, Pete Davidson and Chris Redd have some decent back-and-forth in their spit games.

Leave It

Treece Henderson Trio – The “weird band at a low-rent venue” closing sketch is a proud SNL tradition. Even the ones without a strong central thrust usually still have a few disarmingly out-there details, and that is the case with this trio of Kenan, Seth, and Kyle performing at a Marriott, thanks to the electric piccolo and the phrase “panty crickets.” But by keeping the main idea of piccolo player Seth’s medical diagnosis so vague, we are never quite able to jump full-on into the wackiness.

Seth Meyers

On a scale of “Seth Meyers behind a desk” to “Seth Meyers the sketch player,” it is clear that this former longtime Update anchor and current Late Night host is most comfortable talking directly to us, as evident in his monologue and the rendition of “Really!?!” But that doesn’t mean he’s a bad sketch actor! He does some committed character work as a middle-aged testosterone nutjob and a pretentious vacationer, and his performance in A Frightening Tale is so on point. Maybe there’s a bit of a mental block on his part going on, but he’s nonetheless now the kind of guy I’m always happy to see back.

Paul Simon

More musical guests should perform new arrangements of their old hits on SNL. But alas, most of them probably wouldn’t be as masterful as Paul Simon makes them.

Letter Grades:

Kanye-Trump Summit – C+

Seth Meyers’ Monologue – B

South of Mason Screening – B+

beta force – B-

Thirsty Cops – B-

A Frightening Tale (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-

New Cellmate – B+

Paul Simon and yMusic perform “Can’t Run But” – A-

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B-
Baskin Johns – C+
Really!?! – B

Bayou Benny’s Liberal Lagniappe – B-

Paul Simon performs “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – B+

Cuban Vacation – C+

Trees – B-

Treece Henderson Trio – C