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Deep SNL Thoughts: It’s a ‘Blue Christmas’ as Cecily Strong says goodbye
Austin Butler hosts, Strong wraps up her ‘SNL’ career, Trump pitches his NFT cards and, um, what’s up with that pervert lurking in the window?
Hello, new Popculturology readers! Welcome to this week’s edition of Deep SNL Thoughts. It’s impossible to talk about this weekend’s episode without beginning with the surprise departure of Cecily Strong.
Saturday Night Live revealed that this episode would be Strong’s finale show just hours before it aired. It was nice that the show gave us a heads-up that Strong was done, since these SNL departures are too often a mystery.
Along with Kenan Thompson, Strong was one of two castmembers left on the show from its pre-Alec Baldwin/Donald Trump days. When she returned a few episodes ago after being away while performing a one-woman show, it was clear that she was an energy from a different era of SNL. I’m not sure why Strong isn’t finishing out the season, but she couldn’t have asked for a better send off.
Speaking of Thompson, there are now (by my count) 36 SNL castmembers who either started during the same season or later than he did who are no longer with the show. Wikipedia lists SNL as having 163 total castmembers, which means just shy of a quarter of the show’s entire historical cast has come and gone while Thompson is on the cast.
This week’s SNL kicked off with James Austin Johnson as Trump. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a Trump cold open, but this one was light years different than the old Baldwin ones.
Johnson’s Trump is absurd, taking the ridiculous of Trump NFT cards and spinning it even further into randomness.
Johnson’s Trump remarking that Trump cards are not the same as Pokémon was a fun Easter egg for anyone who caught one of the original Trump videos Johnson did before joining SNL.
Strong reprised her portrayal of Kimberly Guilfoyle at the end of the cold open, kicking off a series of farewell moments.
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I haven’t seen Elvis yet, so I can’t weigh in on the debate over Austin Butler changing his voice after playing Elvis Presley, but i can ask if he stole Garrett Hedlund’s voice.
“My mom, like all moms, is a huge Gollum fan,” Butler mentioned after breaking out a killer Gollum impression and before choking up while honoring his mom, who passed away in 2014.
A RadioShack bit as the sketch of the week? When it’s secretly a farewell sketch for Strong that closes the episode and her eleven seasons on SNL, absolutely.
With Thompson, er, Mr. Frank Lasagna as the sketch’s MC, we’re introduced to Casual Elvis. (They couldn’t afford the costume for Butler.)
The cast singing “Blue Christmas” to Strong — that’s the kind of farewell sketch longtime castmembers deserve. I know some of them don’t want the big goodbye, but it’s weird when these people we’ve spent so much time with just vanish. (That said, I wasn’t a big fan of the massive send off Kristen Wiig got during her final episode. There’s a limit, folks.)
I thought Colin Jost seemed upset saying goodbye to Strong, but Bowen Yang fighting back sobs was crushing. The duo of Strong and Yang has been so much fun the past few seasons.
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The Phrase That Pays
Lots of Heidi Gardner this week, bouncing back from a low-key episode for her last week. I enjoyed her character in this sketch, a woman so sure that guessing “X” was the right strategy for a game show that could be boiled down to “Wheel of Fortune but with no wheel.”
A Christmas Epiphany
This one would’ve been my sketch of the week if it wasn’t for the RadioShack sketch being Strong’s farewell. Once again, Gardner was great in this sketch (“How can I relax when there’s a pervert lurking in our window?”), and Butler’s voice (Elvis influenced or not) worked perfectly for an It’s a Wonderful Life type guy.
This has nothing to do with SNL, but the tone of this sketch reminded me why the Twilight Zone reboot should’ve been in black and white.
“Yuck. It’s perfect,” sums up Marzipan pretty well. Michael Longfellow has become one of my favorite new SNL castmembers.
I also can’t be the only one who hears “marzipan” and immediately thinks of Homestar Runner, right?
You knew there would be an Elvis-themed sketch with Butler hosting this episode, but did you expect it to feature Sarah Sherman playing Jewish Elvis with Butler in old woman drag?
Unlike the toilet in the carpeted bathroom, this sketch was not a zizzaster.
Krampus on Kidnapping Naughty Children
“My culture is not your costume,” while a serious line in some cases, is a great punchline when used in the right moment. (I recently used it on a friend who I discovered isn’t actually bald, but just shaves his head.)
Yang is a pro, playing through his Krampus Horn falling off.
Colin’s Great Aunt Pat on Holiday Etiquette
When this Weekend Update segment began, I was ready to dismiss it as a filler bit. Then Gardner found an excuse to kiss Jost. And an excuse to kiss Mikey Day. And make Day kiss Jost. And then kiss Jost again herself.
But it was not an excuse to kiss and fondle movie stars. “You boys aren’t movie stars, you’re TV Muppets,” Colin’s Great Aunt Pat reminded Jost and Day.
Wild that the Christmas show last year was canceled because too many castmembers got covid, and now we’re doing this bit.
Cathy Anne Says Goodbye for Now
To be honest with you, I’ve never really been a fan of Strong’s Cathy Anne character. I think she has far better recurring Weekend Update characters, but it’s her final show and I’ll go along with how she wanted to say goodbye.
I appreciated a moment of recognition for Strong’s time at the Update alongside Jost, which was left out of the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special in 2015. Strong even honored Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon, her two castmates that started alongside her but left after last season, during this appearance.
White elephant exchanges are fun. But they’re dumb. You get something you really want and someone rips it away from you. Someone always brings crap.
“That’s mean as hell,” Butler’s character quipped after losing the ashtray of his dreams.
Yeah, you’re right. (And Santa Claus is your dad?)
Jennifer Coolidge Is Impressed by Christmas Stuff
This sketch has two purposes: Capitalizing on the Jennifer Coolidge moment and letting Chloe Fineman show off another amazing impression.
Please Don’t Destroy (Plirts)
“I feel like I’m wearing a phone case.”
Guys, I don’t know if the Plirt is going to catch on. The burning might be an issue.
No announcement yet of who will host SNL when the show returns in January 2023.
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