The Best of SNL Season 42

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So I’ve got the essential categories covered here. You can also head on over to NewsCult for my in-depth analysis of the best sketches. Enjoy!

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SNL Review May 6, 2017: Chris Pine/LCD Soundsystem

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in May 2017.

Love It

Song for Peace – Here we have a patently brilliant formula for sketch comedy excellence: I have no idea what is going on, and I do not care. I can tell you what is literally happening: Beck Bennett’s European rapper bemoans the sorry state of the world and his own pornography addiction, while Kyle Mooney provides the minimalist hype and a well-coiffed Chris Pine throws down the chorus. Bennett does an amusing Slavic accent – actual Eastern Europeans can attest to the accuracy or lack thereof, but there can be no doubt about the hilarity – and the digression into mainly focusing on porn (which is softcore, because weird details prompt chuckles) add up to an unforgettable combination.

Auto Shop – The most obvious (and most outdated and backwards) potential joke behind a group of mechanics watching RuPaul’s Drag Race would be that they accidentally stumbled upon it, thinking it was drag motor racing. There is a bit of a feint towards them being embarrassed by how this might reflect on their masculinity, but ultimately they love it too much to care to hide. This sketch is less about comedy and more about the unbridled joy of fandom. It’s infectious. And with the (accurate) appraisal of current contestant Trinity Taylor, it clearly comes from a place of love and knowledge.

Chris Pine’s Monologue song teaches us how to distinguish between all the Chris’s (he’s the one who’s not a Marvel hero, while Evans is the one who hasn’t hosted SNL yet), which isn’t that notable an observation, but the fun is in the details…Kid Actor Alert! I really wanted to see them tease out Where in the World is Kellyanne Conway?, but sometimes when you’ve got a real sharp zinger, you just get in and get out…The SWAT Lookout team wonders when they stopped allowing themselves to have fun, and I have to agree with that sentiment…An HR Meeting that devolves into a “Boy is Mine” contest? Totally up Aidy and Vanessa’s aisle…The House Seattle (the SECOND Beck/Kyle joint in the FIRST HALF of the episode) is basically The Real World by way of Dogville (Do they only do these when Chris’s stop by?)…Michael and Colin go right after the nasty American Healthcare Act, inspiring gasps and groans, and they have the staredown game to throw it right back at the crowd…As meteorologist Dawn Lazarus, Vanessa Bayer’s Fred Armisen influence is showing, as she sprays out a barrage of nervous, loopy wordplay…When a Star Trek sketch revolves around Spock’s Queens-bred goombah half-brother, we know we have gone to the goofy point of no return (also: kudos for letting longtime production designer Akira Yoshimura reprise his role as Sulu)…There was a distinct lack of Cecily Strong in this episode, until the Game Night, where she debuted her gorgeous curls and bewitching black dress and sang the Frasier (or Frazier) theme song, and all was right with the world.

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SNL Review April 15, 2017: Jimmy Fallon/Harry Styles

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in April 2017.

Love It

Turtle Shirt – Like Bad Idea Jeans, Three-Legged Jeans, and Mom Jeans before it, SNL has debuted a new piece of attire we never knew we needed. This time, it isn’t just a fashion statement, it’s also supremely functional! The Turtle Shirt is perfect for those moments when you need to warp reality.

Jimmy Fallon says “Take Me Back” to Cecily Strong, and the reason why she won’t is a perfectly timely and disturbing twist…While Michael and Colin’s political chops have matured, I think they’re at their best when they’re at their goofiest, so it’s a bonus when their focus on the government is as fierce as it is here…Bruce Chandling does not remember “what it feels like it to be kissed,” but thanks to him, now we know not to kiss the wrong type of chocolate…The Basketball Film Shoot is simply a fantastic example of background physical comedy.

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SNL Review April 8, 2017: Louis CK/The Chainsmokers

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in April 2017.

Love It

Sectional Couches – This is what classic sketches are made of. What at first appears to be a simple infomercial parody morphs into so much more as an intricate, multilayered story emerges: elephants gathered for an important reason, Barb from Racine, the fact that the couches are all made on Earth, and then that twist – brava!

At the Soda Shoppe, Louis C.K. plays a fascinatingly creepy soda jerk, and Cecily Strong plays a satisfyingly sneaky budding dominatrix…Cecilia Giminez is back to praise the Cristiano Ronaldo bust, most notably because he looks like he has a fish in his mouth…The ending is a bit on the nose, but Ernie’s Birthday demonstrates that Louis C.K. and Bobby Moynihan are adept at making the best out of an uncomfortable situation…The moral of the Tenement Museum sketch: when in doubt, go full Borat.

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SNL Review March 11, 2017: Scarlett Johansson/Lorde

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in March 2017.

Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

Ace and Jake – The “Day Without a Woman” protest happened earlier this week, and – just as the people demanded – Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett have written a female-centric sketch in response! The joke here is obvious – the guys fight institutional sexism by passionately listing every example of it but neglect to actually give the women a chance to speak. These two are miracle workers, somehow making thoughtlessness totally adorable.

That canine actor in the Dog Translation sketch is not having that helmet on his head; the fact that he is also a Trump supporter is also kind of funny…The Olive Garden Commercial shoot has it all: fake orgasms, casual racism, and Kenan Thompson sticking his face flat in a bowl of pasta!

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SNL Review March 4, 2017: Octavia Spencer/Father John Misty

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Octavia Spencer" Episode 1719 -- Pictured: (l-r) Mikey Day, Aidy Bryant, Octavia Spencer, and Kenan Thompson during the "Spencer's Gifts" sketch on March 4, 2017 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Octavia Spencer” Episode 1719 — Pictured: (l-r) Mikey Day, Aidy Bryant, Octavia Spencer, and Kenan Thompson during the “Spencer’s Gifts” sketch on March 4, 2017 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in March 2017.

Love It

Jeff Sessions Gump – Has Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III ever struck you as the sort of fellow you might encounter at a bus stop in the Deep South? During his confirmation hearings for attorney general, he has not really been charming any of us the same way that Forrest Gump did 20 years ago, but this is still somehow one of those connections that seems so obvious in retrospect. He’s a “sneaky little liar” who works with a woman who “ain’t got not legs” – how delightful!

Have you ever thought the names of drugs sounded like inner city children? Better get in on that class-action suit this Merck Hearing is sure to prompt! … Kate McKinnon spends most of the episode hanging around the set in Kellyanne Conway’s now infamous leg-tuck pose.

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SNL Review February 11, 2017: Alec Baldwin/Ed Sheeran

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Alec Baldwin" Episode 1718 -- Pictured: (l-r) Sasheer Zamata and Alex Moffat during the "Russell Stover" sketch on February 10, 2017 -- (Photo by: Caroline De Quesada/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Alec Baldwin” Episode 1718 — Pictured: (l-r) Sasheer Zamata and Alex Moffat during the “Russell Stover” sketch on February 10, 2017 — (Photo by: Caroline De Quesada/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in February 2017.

Love It

Russell Stover Black History Month Heart Shaped Box – Great comedy often arises from the plans of the well-meaning going awry. Offering their black girlfriends a peanut butter-filled George Washington Carver or a Malcolm X fiery with cayenne, the white boyfriends look so eager to please, so intent on getting it right. But it is plain to see that they fail on two levels: romantically and racially. But as insensitive as this particular candy box is, wouldn’t we all want to live in a utopia in which the chocolate version of any historical figure has no unsavory implications?

The pitch meeting for a Cheeto’s ad stretches the social activism of commercials as far as it can go…Jake and Kellyanne are locked in a Fatal Attraction-style tête–à–tête, and may I say, with just a stern look, Beck Bennett is killing his impression of the CNN anchor…Trump takes his case to The People’s Court, which makes me go: hey, remember when Jon Lovitz played the Devil on a People’s Court sketch back in the day? That’s somehow both more and less believable than this…Leslie Wants to Play Trump, and I want to see as many of these dreamy, personal, behind-the-scenes short films as possible.

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SNL Review February 4, 2017: Kristen Stewart/Alessia Cara

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Kristen Stewart" Episode 1717 -- Pictured: (l-r) Host Kristen Stewart, Vanessa Bayer during the "Totinos" sketch on January 31, 2017 -- (Photo by: Rosalind O'Connor/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Kristen Stewart” Episode 1717 — Pictured: (l-r) Host Kristen Stewart, Vanessa Bayer during the “Totinos” sketch on January 31, 2017 — (Photo by: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in February 2017.

Love It

Meet Cute – In this filmed piece, Kristen Stewart and Pete Davidson have the titular encounter at a coffee shop, and the unlikelihood of an immediate development into a relationship is examined, poked, and prodded. It is not really the case that in most cinematic meet-cutes someone fails to give out enough relevant information, but it is true that they are just too fast to truly be meaningful. So we should all relate to Pete’s struggle on a spiritual (not literal) level. Oh, and his confusion over how to spell Manhattan (it’s 2 T’s, not 2 D’s) is a marvelous detail.

When Robert Mugabe earns the big applause, as in the Oval Office Phone Calls cold open, you know you’ve got something … let’s call it “special.”

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SNL Review January 21, 2017: Aziz Ansari/Big Sean

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Aziz Ansari" Episode 1716 -- Pictured: Aziz Ansari as Dave during the "Five Stars" sketch on January 21st, 2017 -- (Photo by: Caroline De Quesada/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Aziz Ansari” Episode 1716 — Pictured: Aziz Ansari as Dave during the “Five Stars” sketch on January 21st, 2017 — (Photo by: Caroline De Quesada/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in January 2017.

Love It

Peppy Ronnie’s Pizza Party – This scene about a late-night arrest at a Chuck E. Cheese-style pizzeria is similar to last season’s “Space Pants,” insofar as a kitschy performance threatens to derail a criminal situation. This does not quite reach the stellar heights of Jonathan Comets, as the Peppy Ronnie’s crew is a lower-stakes distraction. But animatronic bands are hilarious enough on their own, and reactions from Kenan Thompson provide just the right sort of flavoring.

Aziz Ansari is a seasoned stand-up, which pretty much always guarantees a solid Monologue; I appreciate his advocacy for news reports of brown people eating nachos and changing scary-sounding Islam music to something Benny Hill-style… Bobby Moynihan’s Ganz, of Broderick & Ganz, is a kidney-less personal injury lawyer whose incompetence knows no bounds or predictability…The police Interrogation of a man who only kind of liked La La Land wins special recognition for clever comic exaggeration…Michael and Colin are on fire, post-Inauguration…Leslie Jones is more on topic than usual (despite Che’s hilarious “that was about Hidden Figures?” comment) as she examines where else African-American accomplishments are hidden and points out that the Predator is from space…Five Stars is an understated take on five-star culture, perhaps a response to a hysterical (though pointed) Black Mirror episode.

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SNL Review January 14, 2017: Felicity Jones/Sturgill Simpson

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SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Felicity Jones" Episode 1715 -- Pictured: (l-r) Felicity Jones, Beck Bennett, and Kyle Mooney during the Movie Interview sketch on January 14th, 2017 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Felicity Jones” Episode 1715 — Pictured: (l-r) Felicity Jones, Beck Bennett, and Kyle Mooney during the Movie Interview sketch on January 14th, 2017 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in January 2017.

Love It

Fandango All Access – I believe we have had other examples of trenchant boob-based humor in the past, but never before has this type of material been performed with the idiosyncratic conviction of a Beck Bennett/Kyle Mooney joint. One caveat to my praise, though: I feel like they are holding back on us a bit. If the sketch were just scenes from Hot Robot 3: Journey to Boob Mountain, instead of a discussion about it, I think this could reach the raucous, surreal heights of this crew’s sitcom parodies. As it is, the steely commitment to the patent ridiculousness from everyone in this sketch is still plainly stunning.

Beck Bennett’s turn as a pop sensation feels like a half-baked idea. Or maybe it was fully thought out, and the concept is that it is meant to seem half-baked? Either way, he’s adorable.

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