For the second time this season, Saturday Night Live hosting and musical guest duties merged, this time led by rapper Jack Harlow. Coming off a second album, a world tour, and wrapping work on his first film, a remake of 1992’s White Men Can’t Jump, Jack Harlow, I must confess, is not someone I knew much about. I was fully convinced he would lack the charisma of someone like Megan Thee Stallion, who could be both an engaging host and musical guest. Despite my ignorance and apprehension, Harlow proved to be an affable host charming his way through a slightly self-deprecating monologue. Like all the hosts this season, Harlow proved to be eager and adept at sketch comedy and met all the hosting demands. Also, like the other hosts, he was momentarily betrayed by poor sketch construction.
Comedy is at its best when it has a foot in reality. Juxtaposing the absurd comedy of pitching a Pixar film with the the sobering reality of an AA meeting is the the perfect petri dish for hilarity. The sketch has levels, an instantly relatable premise, and activates audience engagement. The key of its success is that the Pixar pitch is absolutely terrific and should be made into a feature film as soon as possible. Every additional comment adds to the initial joke and Harlows deadpan delivery of “I drank recently, by the way,” before expanding on his screenplay idea was a potent pitch-black punch of dark comedy. Every turn the sketch took felt natural that even an out-of-left-field cameo from Tom Hanks felt absolutely essential.
One of the most disappointing sketches of the night had to be “Bartenders,” because it should have been an easy laugh. Anchored in physical prop comedy, watching two inept bartenders smashing glasses and spilling liquids should have been funnier. It revealed how lazy SNL can be at times. First off, there was no characterization or motivation to the bartenders, aside from a brief expository mention that they had served the group years earlier. Furthermore, the physical and prop comedy needed to be bigger. If you’re going to go broad, you have to go BROAD. There was a disconnect between all the actors on stage and it almost seemed pointless having anyone sitting at the table. Going back to one of SNL’s most physical performers – Chris Farely – all his manic movements were rooted in a character. Seeing “Bartenders” on a night with the return of “Drunk Uncle,” produced a longing for more character comedy in sketches.
It was kind of hard to pick the worst sketch of the night. The most frustrating part was that most of the worst were pointless Halloween sketches. Granted a Halloween sketch is necessary for the SNL before Halloween, but if you can’t come up with funny ones then you don’t need to do that many. “Red Carpet Halloween Show” was dull and “Cell Block 666” felt like a lame attempt to introduce Halloween IPs as well as make more use of Tom Hanks’ appearance with David S. Pumpkins, but it was the “Halloween Wedding” one that was the worst. The premise of a wedding held on Halloween sounds promising, but this sketch reveals it’s one-note joke far too early and never moves beyond the costume or the way they keep pronouncing “Joker.” It’s one of those SNL sketches that you can immediately tell will take way too long to go nowhere, even a cameo of Jeff Probst felt pointless.
Though SNL skews left with its point of view, it’s at its best when making fun of both political parties. Two sketches took on our two-party system to explore the failure of candidate choice. The cold open perfectly mocked the bizarre cult of personality that has taken over the recent Republican senate races. Kenan Thompson and Cecily Strong stood out for their fully realized versions of Herschel Walker and Kari Lake, respectively. Later on the show took on the Democratic party and its lack of personalities and an engaging consensus candidate in the form of a horror film revolving around Biden’s intended second-term run for the White House. It was exact and equal opportunity political comedy.
No surprise here. Cecily Strong has finally made her triumphant return to SNL after a few weeks away on stage in Los Angeles. Appearing in multiple sketches, the episode was a great showcase for Strong. She even made “Red Carpet Halloween Show,” somewhat bearable. Her range really stood out in her chilling performance as Kari Lake, a placid opportunist who enjoys sending salads back, and the unhinged musical weirdo during “AA Meeting.” Those two performances would seem like polar opposites, but both soar with Strong’s unyielding dedication to character, which is sometimes lacking in recent SNL.
- I wonder what the plan was for when Jack Harlow went into the audience. It felt a little awkward and without a punchline.
- I spent most of the first third being annoyed by Ego Nwodim’s absence. I spent the second third thinking she deserved a week off after being in so many sketches. I spent the last third thankful she appeared. They should do The View again.
- So many cameos.
- With the Elon Musk and Ye jokes in “Weekend Update,” I kept thinking they should really start using this kind of material for sketches. They are the perfect blend of pop culture and serious issues colliding, which was once the point of SNL.
- It felt like a missed opportunity not to show what a Yeezy-Pillow Guy collab might look like.