Saturday Night Live
Season 40, Episode 11
Chad White, Rating: Acquired Taste
Cold Open: Special cold opens are usually the best because they go out of the box with their themes. Politics are still front and center in them but with added pizazz. Martin Luther King Jr. visits Pete Davidson who doesn’t seem to know the meaning of MLK Day. The protesting hero is played by Kenan Thompson who has a knack for portraying someone who is nothing like him. Thompson bellows all of his lines and keeps referring to mountains when he hears about bad things that happen in today’s day and age. This is Davidson’s first cold open (I think) and he’s not given much to do here. Jokes did work though so I guess the main goal was accomplished.
Monologue: Kevin is a showman that knows one kind of trick. He came out and essentially did stand up. It’s that simple. I’m not saying that he’s predictable but…actually, yeah. That is what I’m saying. Look, Hart is funny. Everyone knows it. But maybe his type of comedy isn’t meant for SNL. Chris Rock did a stand up monologue and it worked just as well as this one. However, that was translated into his performance for the rest of the night. Key word: performance. Rock is an actor as well as comedian. Hart is just a comedian who also happens to act. He’s got chops but it doesn’t work with this type of show. Another very interesting move by Hart was his choice not to promote his current film, The Wedding Ringer. But we can all see why.
Front Nine: The first stop on the sketchpress is one of the many takes on the Justin Bieber/Calvin Klein commercial. Kate McKinnon does a creepy impression of Biebs as she skates around, leans back and rubs her hands together. Cecily Strong plays the women that McKinnon is into. These pop up throughout the night and vary in both lengths and laughs. “Why’d You Post That” is the first live sketch that stars Hart as the host of a talk show that focuses on asking Instagram users why they posted a pointless picture. Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, and Kyle Mooney are subject to questions. Each person is sent to a dungeon behind the set. Bayer’s exit was flubbed and it made the rest of the sketch somewhat clunkier. This seems more like a Back Nine sketch. “Bushwick, Brooklyn 2015” followed and it was just wonderful. This pretaped sketch focused on Hart, Thompson and Jay Pharaoh as thugs that talk about the finer things in life. In my notes, I wrote “white people things” but that appears to be very racist and intolerant. But really, it’s so odd seeing people talk about something you would never in a hundred years think they’d be talking about. It was sort of like a fat person saying how they used to be so skinny. Next was “Get On Up” in which Hart played James Brown as the rest of the castmates made up his band. Hart asks should they get more funky but everyone disagrees. The next few minutes are filled with continual dancing and sing/ yell talking as the band answers Hart’s pleas. I hate to say it was my favorite sketch of the night but it’s definitely up there. “Soap Opera Reunion” took us into Weekend Update with cast members of an old show reuniting for the first time. Aidy Bryant hosts a show called ‘Nancy’ and the personalities – including McKinnon, Strong, Taran Killam, Sasheer Zamata and Bayer - are brought on stage. Everyone gets this beautifully sweeping music except for Bayer who gets frumpy, clumsy music. Hart plays the music director and isn’t given much to do except hump the air as he dances. The first half of the sketch has promise but that last minute or so just dragged. Hart’s inability to look anywhere else but in front of him killed momentum. For example, his dancing faced opposite the audience so all we were able to see was his side gyrating. That made for an awkward action.
Weekend Update: Characters in Weekend Update can always make up for bad jokes. However, Michael Che and Colin Jost had a great set this time around. Both had big jokes. Both had laugh breaks. This is now one of the highest marked WU’s this season. McKinnon played Mrs. Santini, a woman from Jost’s building that talks about being a good neighbor. She was just as over the top and enjoyable as she always is.
Back Nine: The last few sketches vary in length and laughs. “The Journey” stars Thompson, Zamata, Hart, Killam and Strong in a Game of Thrones-style musical about leaving their land that is being terrorized by a dragon. Hart plays the straight man and tries to force everyone to leave. But his friends keep singing. This was ambitious for the show with a good set and proper set up for songs. Jokes are flat and far between but this is likeable nonetheless. “Kevin’s Son” is just as the title says. Basically, it’s a three minute long Kevin Hart impression by Jay Pharaoh as Leslie Jones introduces Hart to their son. It’s nice to see someone get lampooned right on the same show they’re guesting hosting. Hart was a good sport during it even becoming a caricature of himself. The final sketch of the night was another “Listening Party” with Pharaoh, Jones, Strong, Thompson, Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Davidson and Beck Bennett as Hart’s crew. Hart plays a rapper that raps about everyone’s secrets. Here’s where things fall apart: the jokes just don’t land all of the time. But Hart sold it. His dedication to the situation made things funnier. Bennett having to hide his lipstick and Thompson having to play dead for four minutes are just some of the highlights.