See Highlights From Alec Baldwin's Solid 17th Hosting Of Saturday Night Live
Spicer returns, and topicality is a gift for the show this week.
Alec Baldwin hosting SNL every season is one of those things we can always count on, unlike our own sanity or the state of the nation in 2017. So it was comforting to know he'd be back, even on top of all of his appearances on the show as Donald Trump this season. And, alas, as some people hoped or feared, it was not a whole night of Trump sketches, but all the recent political craziness definitely gave the night a lot more fuel to work with and if the jokes land harder than usual of late, it may be that everybody's paying a lot more attention to the news.
As usual, Baldwin was pretty rock solid, even doing an expert job of covering up a flubbed line in the "Drill Sergeant" sketch that was otherwise an easy layup for the actor. But it speaks to how strong the writing is this week that a perfectly good sketch about people trying to avoid products associated with Trump that could have easily aired on the show ("Boycott") was instead ported out exclusively to Snapchat. Even "Weekend Update," awful last week, had a little more spring in its step, including a winning Elizabeth Warren take from Kate McKinnon. Let's take a look at what else made it to air.
Best Sketch Of The Night
The smart play when you do a sketch that's an instant sensation is to just let it stand as a marvel and come back to it in a few weeks with an even sharper, carefully considered take. That's not what typically happens on SNL: when it hits a nerve, it usually goes back for more nerve the next week. This time, though, the sketch that made national news and apparently unnerved a presidential administration was too hot a topic not to come back to, and thank goodness Melissa McCarthy consistently delivers the goods, this time using dolls to explain extreme vetting (poor Moana!) and upping the ante with a leaf blower in Cecily Strong's face and up her dress. Maybe it wasn't as much of a revelation as last week's Spicer sketch, but boy is it still super-funny.
In the Spicer sketch, it's mentioned that Trump is going to take his travel ban case to The People's Court and, lo and behold, it happens about an hour into the show. For anyone worried about there not being a Baldwin-as-Trump sketch by the midway point, this was probably a nice balm, although it's one of those sketches that's more truthful and obligatory than actually laugh-out-loud funny. The 9th Circuit judges are just there to be props and the ending really fizzles. But hey! Alec Baldwin! As Trump! Again!
Darkest Turn For Kellyanne
I've complained this season that SNL can't seem to get a handle on how to make Kellyanne Conway, cartoon liar in human form, into a source of comedy, despite heroic efforts by Kate McKinnon. First the portrayal was too sympathetic, painting her as trapped in Trumplandia, then more oblivious, and then it did a weird dance number with her. Tonight, all that frustration leads to just outright making her a fame-hungry psychopath who fixates on Jake Tapper, breaking into his home and going all Fatal Attraction. No bunnies are boiled, but she's super-menacing and sexually charged and...it's just really ugly. An ugly portrayal that really stops being funny once you realize it's playing out Fatal Attraction almost beat for beat. Also, isn't CNN the network that gave Conway a platform for so long and continues to do so? Why does Jake Tapper get to be the long-suffering victim? I wasn't the only one who felt the sketch hit a sour note.
SNL just gave a gift to the White House with this sexist, unfunny Kellyanne Conway skit.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) February 12, 2017
Casting Kellyanne Conway as Glenn Close was a miscalculation on SNL's part. Will be interpreted as unfair and mean to a wife and mother.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) February 12, 2017
I can't disagree with that, and while the ending tries to twist it with an unstoppable Terminator twist, it's truly a bummer of a sketch, dark and uncharacteristically tone deaf for a show that, "Weekend Update" aside, tends to be savvier than this.
Best Valentine's Day Sketch
This might have been the funniest sketch of the night outside of the Spicer sketch. For clueless white boyfriends dating women of color, Russell Stover's box of Black History Month chocolates, featuring the faces of 28 African-American heroes (and Bill Clinton in white chocolate!) is fantastic.
Most Tracy Morgan
Speaking of sketches about people of color, this off-kilter take on Beyoncé's pregnancy announcement gives Sasheer Zamata something to do, but then pulls focus on her to let guest Tracy Morgan and Kenan Thompson goof around for three or four minutes as babies inside her womb. Not very funny, and pretty much an excuse to let Alec Baldwin deliver some winky jokes about Tracy Morgan; this one just kind of lays there.
Trumpiest Sketch Of The Night
"Leslie Wants To Play Trump" is another beautifully shot, semi-dramatic behind-the-scenes filmed sketch, the kind I think work really nicely to break up the flow of the show and to give performers who are dynamite when filmed ahead of time (such as Jones) a better spotlight than, say, shoehorning them into "Weekend Update." Leslie's yearning to play Trump is a funny angle for this week's show, and her freakout in Lorne Michaels's office is truly funny, even as it comments on the show's tendency to make Jones into a screaming-black-woman stereotype. I like that these sketches don't have to end on a huge punchline and that there's continuity (Jones is still dating Kyle Mooney in this faux universe).
Latest Take On The Super Bowl
If you're like me, you'd have assumed a Trump sketch was coming when you saw the giant Cheetos logo, but instead it's a commentary on how earnest, political ads dominated this year's Super Bowl. It's a good take, even if it goes a little long for what it's trying to say (and for how late it feels; has it only been a week since the Super Bowl?).
The joke here is that Baldwin, hosting for the 17th time, is super-old and that gigantic pink sweater-wearing Pete Davidson is so young, he wasn't even around when Baldwin first hosted the show in 1990. It's not the cleverest or funniest monologue and this is Davidson at his most smug and face-punch-inviting, but a put-upon Alec Baldwin is always pretty funny and he rolls with it like a seasoned pro (with a wider face than in 1990, obvs).
My reaction while watching the show was this:
Lorne: "And then we close with a short fart sketch." Alec: "PERFECT." #SNL
— Omar L. Gallaga (@omarg) February 12, 2017
That's quite a curveball, to throw a short fart joke as your closer for a very politically charged show, but hey, I don't mind a decent-to-good fart joke and this one's not too bad.