Saturday Night Live: Kumail Nanjiani & P!nk

October 14, 2017

BY Vish KhannaPublished Oct 15, 2017

A game Kumail Nanjiani couldn't thrive during a weakly written week at Saturday Night Live, while P!nk put forth a modest bid at reclaiming her role as a pop queen. Here's everything that happened on SNL this week.
The Cold Open Alec Baldwin's Donald Trump holds a rally in Pennsylvania, saying and mispronouncing stupid things. At one point, he calls his VP, Mike Pence (played by Beck Bennett), and orders him to leave a Pacers game when one of the players kneels during the anthem, and checks in a few more times, ordering him to leave various events. Other than a decent "the pot calling the kettle Mexican" joke and some ribbing of Trump's deficient intellect, this was another cold reminder of how the show has played a role in underestimating Trump by normalizing him. The Baldwin stuff just feels well past done.
The Monologue  Kumail Nanjiani seemed understandably nervous for his monologue, but rallied quickly for one of the funniest opening sets by a standup on SNL in some time. Using his online experiences and encounters after the recent success of his film, The Big Sick, Nanjiani delivered some stunningly sharp and funny jokes about Islamophobia and racism that have to be seen to be appreciated. Even for a seasoned club comic like Nanjiani, this was impressive.
Bank Breakers
A funny, awkward game show sketch in which Paul (Nanjiani) is a gloating, competitive contestant who discovers that his opponent Gretchen (Cecily Strong) is both virtuous and going through some dire stuff. As the game goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that Paul can't help but seem like a jerk by defeating Gretchen, and the way this incrementally manifests itself is really funny.
Kellywise Recalling a remote from last year, Kate McKinnon's haunting Kellyanne Conway is so desperate for airtime on CNN, she comes across as grotesque and horrific. Last time, this bit was framed as an homage to Fatal Attraction, but this chilling version capitalized on the success of the horror film, It. Alex Moffatt's Anderson Cooper is tempted by McKinnon's Kellywise, and good lord is McKinnon a wonder in this frightening performance.
Halloween cake
Yikes. A real dud of a set piece in which Beck Bennett's Greg calls his staff during their office Halloween party to warn them that he's contracted a disease that they might have also been exposed to from eating any of the cake he made them. No idea why Greg had to be on a phone for this, and it was unfunny and poorly structured.
Women's Round Table
SNL waded into the Harvey Weinstein controversy by making fun of it. While the world is processing accounts of harassment by women who encountered the disgraceful man — accounts which now include multiple allegations of rape — SNL haplessly and toothlessly tried to joke about it. This was centred around a panel discussion bit about sexual harassment featuring Leslie Jones as Viola Davis, Cecily Strong as Marion Cotillard, and Kate McKinnon's oblivious ancient actress character, Debette Goldfry, who tends to counter contemporary actresses' discussions of mistreatment by recalling how horrible things "used to be."
In the past, this sketch has been over-the-top, with Goldfry casually discussing sexual favours she's given to famous directors, as though such things are just a matter of course that women should be expected to "tough out." They didn't try such jokes here, as the scandal is still too raw, but they still made light of it. The best jokes that landed here were just silly, incidental things McKinnon said. Compared to say Samantha Bee's rightfully enraged treatment of the same subject earlier in the week, SNL seemed as out of touch as Debette Goldfry.
On something of a comeback campaign, P!nk utilized her giant voice to first sing something that seems destined to be on someone's wedding playlist. "What About Us" was big-hearted and emotional, a building, mid-temp, anthemic pop thing aiming straight for stirring up our feelings. It felt so obvious that it was less moving than well-designed radio fare. Oddly for the show, which normally features ballads during the second performance after a more lively single in the first half hour, P!nk and her band were far more energetic on "Beautiful Trauma," and, again, plainly presenting their bid for an earworm that didn't quite make it in.
Weekend Update  An uneven, strangely short WU did include some good Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump jokes, but Michael Che scored particularly well with an "all holidays matter" barb. The only guest desk correspondent was Cecily Strong as Ivana Trump, who recently made news for referring to herself as "the First Lady." That's all they had here and Strong couldn't generate any laughs with this lightly written, mostly physical thing.
Chatsworth House
Something's up with the writing this week. This was set up as an awkward customer service sketch with Nanjiani playing a pushy, upselling hotel clerk, frustrating a guy who's just trying to check in. For some reason, we get a fair amount of backstory about the guy who's tired from a trip back from North Korea, which was facilitated by the U.S. government. Why is this important? It's not. It's just more clutter in a scene that doesn't pay off.
Granny's Gonorrhoea 
An okay premise, Kate McKinnon plays a senior citizen in a retirement home who gets a visit from her grandkids. Nanjiani plays her doctor, who eventually reveals that she has gonorrhoea, likely resulting from the massive amounts of sex she's been having with almost everyone in the building. While her grandkids are shocked, grandma shoots sly looks at the camera, while Nanjiani does a good job of being so matter-of-fact about the bizarre info he's conveying.
Pakistani Call Centre
A melancholy doc-like remote, Nanjiani plays a Pakistani call centre employee who, in fielding concerns from shoppers, befriends Melania Trump. Played sympathetically by Cecily Strong, Trump reveals her innermost thoughts and feelings to a stranger on the phone who, the story implies, is more emotionally available to her than her husband. Nothing overtly funny here and there's also the conflict of this show trying to make Melania an endearing figure to us with no justification for why.

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