How Did Kristen Stewart On Saturday Night Live Become One For The Ages?
A volcanic Melissa McCarthy sketch and a winning K-Stew made for a great overall show.
A week off and two weeks worth of bonkers, Twilight Zone political news gave SNL the fuel this week to not only come back strong, but to create an episode with some absolute home runs, including one that could already go in the Hall of Fame.
And for those (like me) who worried that Kristen Stewart might somehow be a charisma vacuum in much the same way as Casey Affleck, those fears were soon put to rest. The former Twlight star has come a long way and she had a very good appearance, even if her naturalistic delivery didn't quite work in every sketch she was in. But it was a best-case scenario for an SNL host. Someone who had no opinion of her whatsoever (me) now has a very positive impression of her, based on a great Donald Trump Twitter callout in the monologue and how tickled she seemed to be on the show. Let's take a look at what else made for a strong showing.
Best Sketch Of The Night
Easily, it's Melissa McCarthy's epic takedown of White House press secretary Sean Spicer, a performance so cathartic and on-point that it instantly feels more honest and human than anything that's come out of Spicer's mouth in his first two weeks on the job. Few comic actors as lovable as McCarthy can pull off a performance so mean-spirited and aggressive (Peter Capaldi and the entire cast of Veep come to mind), but nail it she does, whether she's berating the press, shoving her carry-along podium in people's faces, or explaining the facts to a roomful of idiots (her word, not mine, don't turn this around on me, that's your word!) using props, my favorite of which was "de-turd." This may be the single best sketch on SNL since Tom Hanks and "Black Jeopardy" and that's not to take anything away from Alec Baldwin's ongoing portrayal of Donald Trump. McCarthy is on fire and we can only warm ourselves in the face of such incredible heat.
Most Needed Return Of Trump
No surprise that Alec Baldwin would return as Donald Trump for the cold open, but it was still a pleasure have him back. There was a mountain of stuff to choose to focus on. The show went for probably the easiest target: the president's catastrophic diplomatic phone calls to other countries. It turned into a kind of Bart Simpson prank routine, but what saves it is Kate McKinnon's wide-eyed surprise as Angela Merkel and Kenan Thompson's throwdown as Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe. My only quibble is that Steve Bannon portrayed as the Grim Reaper still feels like it's not sharp or funny enough to justify itself. As Richard Lawson points out:
Watching SNL. Steve Bannon should not be a skeleton in a cloak. He should be a crusty white tumor in soiled sweatpants.
— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) February 5, 2017
Nevertheless, that Zimbabwe bit was something we really needed.
Most Welcome Return
This year's Super Bowl commercial parody is a return to pizza rolls with Vanessa Bayer's "Totinos." It turns into an erotic French film with Kristen Stewart and it's absolutely brilliant. If we get a new Totinos commercial every year that Bayer stays on SNL, I'll be a happy camper.
Here's last year's for comparison:
Well-edited and constructed, this mock government welcome video for incoming immigrants to the U.S., which has been clumsily re-edited by someone from the Department of Homeland Security, does a lot in under two and a half minutes and even includes a tag at the end updating the status of the Trump travel ban. Nice work on this one.
Most Direct Trump Callout
Even more than the cold open, the monologue, in which Kristen Stewart reminds everyone that the president at one time Tweeted about her romantic troubles with Robert Pattinson eleven times! For reals!
Everyone knows I am right that Robert Pattinson should dump Kristen Stewart. In a couple of years, he will thank me. Be smart, Robert.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2012
Stewart also wins points for "If you didn't like me then, you're really probably not going to like me now because I'm hosting SNL and I'm like sooo gay, dude." That it turns into a bit about Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant trying to show they're cool enough to hang with Stewart doesn't detract too much from what came before, which was really strong.
"Weekend Update" was once again one of the weakest parts of the episode; this week's was rife with botched punchlines and bad transitions. The YouTube versions of "Update" (of which there are two overlapping videos) seem carefully edited around where it went off the rails, but if you watch it in full, it's pretty painful. It really feels like "Update" is in serious need of a revamp (or, dare we wish, a new set of hosts?) and that's putting it kindly.
Not Bad Late-Slot Sketch
This wasn't a great sketch by any stretch, but it shows what I liked about Stewart on SNL: even for the last bit of the night, she completely committed to the premise as a pissed-off version of Charlie from Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, annoyed that his bed-ridden relatives can actually walk and dance around (except for one grandma who actually does have polio!).
Just in time for Valentine's Day, "Meet Cute" is about a date that goes awry when Pete Davidson fails to get the deets at a coffee shop. It wasn't the funniest sketch of the night but it was well put together.