Happy Sunday evening. Deep SNL Thoughts is a touch late today, but I had to spend the morning trying to get a bunch of menacing boxes and a weirdo UPS driver out of my front yard …
This was a solid episode of Saturday Night Live. Kenan Thompson has fully embraced his role as SNL’s elder statesman and really seems to be having fun with the current cast. I’ve been trying to figure out what happened with Woody Harrelson’s monologue, though, as it seems like he may have gone off book to string in his antivax joke?
Trump Train Visit
Let’s get to the cold open first. It’s been awhile since SNL opened an episode with Donald Trump, but — wow — is it different when it’s James Austin Johnson portraying him instead of Alec Baldwin.
While Baldwin’s version of Trump was just Baldwin yelling things that Trump actually said, Johnson is an artist when it comes to playing the twice-impeached president. His voice is perfect. His non sequiturs are authentic. He’s by far the best Trump that SNL has had — and is probably the best Trump mimic period.
So what happened here? There was clearly a plan for Harrelson’s monologue. The crew knew to cut to his agent in the audience. They had a graphic ready for that joke.
But was Harrelson’s meandering attempt to insinuate that the Covid vaccine was a conspiracy to keep people in their homes unless they paid for a new drug every year actually planned?
I want to say no. But then again, this is the same show that let Dave Chappelle make thinly veiled antisemitic jokes during his monologue a few episodes ago.
There’s a scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall where Kristen Bell’s character deconstructs Russell Brand’s character’s tattoos. “That is Buddhist, that is Nordic, that is Hindu, that's just gibberish,” Bell’s Sarah Marshall tells Brand’s rockstar character. “They are completely conflicting ideologies, and that does not make you a citizen of the world, it makes you full of shit!” That’s Harrelson. He thinks his mix of philosophies is profound but really he’s just on stage babbling.
Also kind of weird to see the magic of the Five-Timers Club wear off. Have too many people reached this milestone in recent years for SNL to still make it an event?
Harrelson did get his jacket during goodbyes, with Scarlett Johansson showing up to present him with it.
Once again, I make my own rules when it comes to crowning a sketch of the week, so we’re going with two this week.
Thompson has been on fire the past few episodes. His physical performance in this sketch — passing out as an amusement park ride shoots him in the air over and over again — made me laugh so much. Thompson is a treasure.
“I feel like you wrote this,” Caitlin said to me as we watched the Cologuard sketch.
I’ve made enough jokes about pooping in a box and putting it into the mail over the years to be asked by her to stop making those jokes. SNL gets me on this one.
“I’m just smiling because I love my job” is a hilarious line from a box that’s about to have human poop in it.
Ego Nwodim has also been killing it the past few episodes. Harrelson took a backseat in this sketch to Nwodim and Thompson as prison guards who can’t help but offer several doses of reality to the couple chatting in front of them.
Please Don’t Destroy: The Stakeout
A Please Don’t Destroy sketch this early in the show? It seems like SNL usually stuffs them later in an episode (or puts them online as a cut sketch).
I love these guys, but I still haven’t managed to learn their names. I now know, though, who Ben is. But it’s only because his two friends have a secret family together and have been holding auditions to replace him.
This one almost made the cut for a sketch of the week. Such a simple concept, but executed in a very funny way.
It’s been a long time since Stephen Colbert ushered in the era of Boaty McBoatface, but seeing a submarine named Mr. Dingleberry’s Goochballon ASDFJKL: 6969 is never not funny.
Bill Walton on LeBron James and the Lakers
Folks, I don’t know enough about Bill Walton to fully weigh in on this segment, but Johnson sold the character.
Gina Bianchi on the Joys of Motherhood
Heidi Gardner is also having a great season. Gina Bianchi joins a growing roster of characters she’s brought to the Weekend Update desk. I do worry about Gina’s attachment to her son …
Actors often make sacrifices for their craft. Growing a beard. Dyeing their hair brown. Gaining 450 pounds in six months.
This sketch managed to poke fun at the idea of The Whale without mocking obesity itself. It’s unfortunate that Harrelson’s actor character now has “triabetes” after eating gristle loaf — it’s what they feed sick elephants — for a movie that’ll never see the light of day.
Where was Bowen Yang this episode? (And Sarah Sherman?) I hope Yang recovers from his horrific ACL injury …
- Scarlett Johansson (“Goodbyes”)
Travis Kelce hosts SNL on March 4 with Kelsea Ballerini the musical guest.