Hall of Fame cast member Kristen Wiig didn't have the strongest hosting turn when she first came back to SNL but, with better writing and some great ideas and performances, tonight was a different story. Here's what happened.
The Cold Open
After a shockwave of an election result, Alec Baldwin took a break from playing Donald Trump last week so everyone could regroup. He returned to lampoon the President-elect, as Kate McKinnon's regretful Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump's senior aids, brought in a series of people who aim to have him make good on his far-fetched campaign promises about "secret plans" regarding terrorism and job creation.
The jokes were smart and strong enough, and then former cast member Jason Sudeikis resurrected his Mitt Romney impression for a quick sight gag about the chilliness between Romney and Trump. Conway's revulsion towards Mike Pence, as played by Beck Bennett, was a nice touch, as she led him into Trump's office. The exchange between the two was hilarious, particularly the Trump line, "I love you Mike; you're the reason I'll never be impeached."
Kristen Wiig returned to the show that launched her career for her second turn as host, and led a highly post-truth-oriented sing-along about the history of American Thanksgiving, complete with Indians and pilgrims breaking bread on Egyptian pyramids with alien-supplied corn. Steve Martin and Will Forte appeared to assist with the funny, catchy song and it all worked well.
A fake ad for a new safe space built for American progressives after Trump's election took more shots at trendy left-isms than anything else. Imagine a world where fashionable pseudo-intellectuals who appropriate cultures while reciting facts and figures to one another in an echo chamber that somehow enables each of them to afford a 1.9 million dollar bachelor apartment in a gentrified neighbourhood. That world is Brooklyn. With a bubble on it.
This is a classic character for Wiig. She plays failed but delusional theatre star Mindy Elyse Grayson, a D-list celebrity who appears on a '60s game show called Secret Word. The premise is that she's terrible on the show and always gives away the secret word to her game partner. They mixed it up by having Cecily Strong play a version of Sophia Loren, who does basically the same thing. Of course, the highlight was when Grayson misread "floral" as "oral." You know where this went.
Anderson Cooper 360 Malfunction
What began as a comical takedown of CNN's endlessly stupid panels of political surrogates mindlessly arguing more on behalf of their candidates/party affiliations than about specific issues segued into a high five to Westworld, and everyone currently obsessed with the creepy, surreal HBO show. The two realms didn't seem that far off actually.
Another faux ad, this remote piece tried to capture the anxiety of being home for the holidays by highlighting the lengths some might go to procrastinate from actually getting home to see their family. Strong was the primary character in this, whiling away hours in a parking lot before sulking in various departments of the store. Sentiment conveyed fine in an otherwise unmemorable bit.
QVC Guest Host Audition Reel
Joyce Childers and Christie Berkie are competing neighbours auditioning for a guest host position on a home shopping network. Played by Strong and Wiig respectively, both women are jealous, hateful, crazed, and Southern. Dramatic and riveting in some ways, it was mostly amusing to watch Wiig keep from breaking, which, surprisingly, she hadn't come close to doing during the episode to this point.
The xx combined a certain stoic stillness with truly goofy, loose choreography of sorts, to put across the dynamic, self-serious arrangement of "On Hold." Clearly having fun, the trio did their best to repress their emotions in a kind of late '80s U2 way. Things were more upbeat and open for "I Dare You,' which was designed as an infectious pop anthem filled with smoky, emotive interplay.
Michael Che came right out and said that since Trump won the election, things haven't been great or good or fine in any way. Discussing Trump's appointment of white supremacist/former Breitbart editor Steve Bannon as his Chief of Staff, Che joked, "Calling Beitbart a news site is like calling the R. Kelly sex tape a rom-com." Che and Colin Jost also suggested Trump's deadbeat cabinet picks are purposefully terrible to make him look better, and also ridiculed him for attempting to split his residences between the White House and NYC's Trump Tower.
Pete Davidson did a desk piece on the resistance to Trump and trashed his home borough of Staten Island, which primarily voted Republican, and Kanye West to great applause. It was a good WU overall.
This was an amusing sketch about giant off-putting parade balloons horrifying a gathering of friends and their kids in a NYC apartment. It was really all on Wiig and Bobby Moynihan, as balloon characters, to accentuate their facial features in as grotesquely odd a way as possible to bring the strange pain to life and they did well.
Whiskers R We
McKinnon and Wiig played older cat ladies showing off a bunch of cute kittens and making weird jokes and puns about them. After Wiig gave McKinnon a hard nipple twist, they barely got through the rest of the piece, cracking each other up while still delivering some amazingly written jokes that got huge laughs. It was all kind of juvenile and fart joke-y but it was undeniably funny.
Sue at Thanksgiving
Wiig reprised Sue, a high-strung, high-pitched woman who is often burdened with keeping secrets but can never, ever do it. Here, she's at a surprise party where a mother would be reunited with her son, who's been serving overseas. Sue is a physical masterpiece by Wiig, just uncontrollably outta hand and clearly getting to Leslie Jones and Vanessa Bayer in the scene, who contain themselves better than Sue but almost lose it.