Larry David, the King of Cringe, returned to host Saturday Night Live for a second time, but without the timeliness of his spot-on Bernie Sanders impression, the episode was a largely unfocused jumble of sketches that rarely cohered into anything of note. Fortunately, the filmed pieces held up, and “Weekend Update” had strong desk bits.
In particular, the cold open has become a weekly mishmash of Trump-related material in which half the jokes aren’t even jokes, just references to things he’s done since the last episode. This week, Alec Baldwin’s Trump snuck into Paul Manafort’s office, then took him to the shower to avoid recordings. Kate McKinnon’s Jeff Sessions has become more creature than man — a failed Island of Dr. Moreau experiment, maybe — and without a satirical point, it just felt mean.
The one saving grace of the cold open was the inflatable Donald doll (brother of the movie Airplane!‘s pilot?) that Trump sent in his place to Asia. The doppelgänger’s silence rekindled the fires of his marriage and repaired relationships overseas:“Who knew that, just by keeping your mouth shut, you could seem so presidential!”
On the other hand, Aidy Bryant as Sarah Sanders as Demi Lovato is an excellent use of Bryant’s gift for physical comedy, and David’s guest turn on Kyle Mooney’s recurring ’80s multi-cam sitcom was a fun bit of fluff to close out the show.
Best Sketch of the Night
There’s nothing particularly relevant about this sketch, so it may or may not find its way to your Facebook feed as SNL‘s next viral hit, but it’s funny, it’s well-produced, and Chris Redd’s “Wah wah” is the perfect encapsulation of the game they’re playing.
Hey, Guys, Remember Celebrity Jeopardy?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with a sketch whose sole purpose appears to be cramming the maximum number of impressions onto the stage at one time (this must have been for some sort of Guinness World Records thing, right? Or were they just making sure the entire cast met the minimum screen time requirement to qualify for SAG insurance?). But “The Price is Right Celebrity Edition” was a painful reminder of the days when you could power Atlanta with just the comic wattage of Sean Connery and Alex Trebek.
Of course, in this political climate, there may simply have been no other way to shoehorn David’s Bernie Sanders into the show. Does it makes sense? About as much sense as Kate McKinnon’s Tilda Swinton, whose spaciness finds its perfect foil in Leslie Jones here. If Lorne is looking for a new movie, McKinnon and Jones in a buddy anything would be magical.
Best Sketch That’s Not About Harvey Weinstein (but Is Really About Harvey Weinstein)
There are a lot of men recently who are trotting out excuses about how “it was a different time” when they committed their assorted abuses. David plays an ad man whose past comes back to haunt him. Even if you find the sketch too PC for your tastes, David gets to do what he does best: squirm uncomfortably.
Best Update in a While
While the jokes themselves continue to be snarky asides with the occasional actual punchline, this week had three solid desk pieces. Heidi Gardener’s Angel, Every Boxer’s Girlfriend From Every Movie About Boxing Ever, is a fine example of the rule that the longer a name is, the funnier the character is.
Leslie Jones takes liberties with a game José Altuve of the Houston Astros to hilarious effect.
And Mikey Day and Alex Moffat’s Donald Jr. and Eric have evolved from a recurring topical bit into pure comic slapstick; Jr.’s fragile blowhard coupled with Eric’s dopiness is more Of Mice and Men than a commentary on the Trump sons, and it’s only become funnier as a result.
Best Use of a Musical Guest
While Miley Cyrus may not be Justin Timberlake, she’s still one of the best when it comes to musical performers in sketches. She’s fantastic in “The Baby Steps” and did a fine turn as the head of the Drama Club in “Fresh Takes.”
Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on NBC.
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