NewsCult’s Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.
Ted Cruz Rally – This little filmed piece is my pick for best of the episode, primarily by dint of some impressively squishy sound design. The plop of confetti, the thud of a bounceless basketball, the distortion of an unruly microphone: all are delightful auditory punchlines. Beck’s take on Ted Cruz is fairly unique (is the senator’s nose really that pointy?), but his string of bad luck as a live performer definitely captures his noted lack of charisma.
Dance Battle – It is quite the delightful surprise when the crew made up of Awkwafina, Kenan, and Leslie starts breaking it down to the tune of The Price is Right theme. Alas, it takes away any surprise from the rest of the sketch, as we know for sure that their remaining routines will also be set to game show music. But I cannot complain too much when the soundtrack is this charmingly familiar. Plus, the Family Feud wrong answer buzzer is ideal punctuation.
The Brett Kavanaugh Post-Game is an interesting enough concept to tackle the big news of the moment, but why does just about every political cold open need to be part of some news broadcast?…Awkwafina’s Monologue is pretty short and uneventful, save for her shoutout to first female Asian SNL host Lucy Liu (what an opportunity it would have been for Lucy to suddenly make a surprise appearance!)…The Presidential Alert commercial is just as crazy as, well, life in America currently is. Ergo, the jokes about a cheap phone company actually hit harder, in light of their unexpectedness…Michael and Colin are adequate enough, with the most notable Update moment coming in the form of a few audience members audibly booing Brett Kavanaugh…Eric and Donald Trump, Jr. have some more invective and nonsense to spew, particularly their new zinger of “Saturday Night Liberals”…So You’re Willing to Date a Magician gets a decent amount of mileage out of lampooning a certain profession’s stereotypes…The Pumpkin Patch benefits greatly from Beck and Kyle’s commitment to guilelessness…The New York Film Festival Women’s Roundtable (or Actress Roundtable, depending on if you go by the title card or the dialogue) is another chance for Kate to shine as Debette Goldry. You know the drill at this point, although her experience doing yellowface is a new, fairly hard-hitting reveal.
Baby Shower – Here’s a sketch that is quite messy in execution that I feel could have been quite uproarious if it were more focused. Is the main joke that Awkwafina’s dog walker is an interloper, or that Cecily’s lonely friend of the expectant mom is shallow and superficial? There’s some fine character work, but also too many joke approaches coming from too many different angles.
The Hidden Tales of Egypt is here to remind us that Cleopatra had interesting hair.
On a scale of Lucy Liu to Awkwafina, it is clear that there haven’t been too many Asian SNL hosts. But regardless of ethnicity, Awkwafina brings an offbeat comedic presence that is unprecedented in the entire annals of guests at 30 Rock. Unfortunately that doesn’t quite translate in her first SNL hosting gig, though she is plenty dedicated. Weirdly, she also appears to be the victim of multiple directing and sound mixing miscues.
On a scale of music from artists I have heard of but have never really heard, Travis Scott holds my attention well enough. His stage design is decently mesmerizing, and he has acuity with laying out his words over a groove. Other than that, all I have to say is, did I hear him correctly when he said “just a goose”?
I’ll be around next week to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from Seth Meyers and Paul Simon!