Bill Hader returns to energize Saturday Night Live‘s 40th season with an episode that knocks it out of the park.
After a few episodes of getting their footing back for the year, SNL finally knocked one out of the park with Bill Hader as host. SNL always seems stronger to me when a former cast member hosts, if only because it’s someone who’s been through the show’s process and knows how to get their best work. Bill Hader was a strong utility player during his time on the show, with strong impressions like Vincent Price and Al Pacino, and equally strong original characters. Plus, I’m pretty sure he was their go-to gameshow host for at least 2-3 seasons. It’s been equally exciting to see the praise he’s been getting alongside fellow former cast member Kristin Wiig in The Skeleton Twins, so I came into this episode with high expectations and wasn’t disappointed
This is one of the rare weeks for SNL where it’s really worth watching the whole thing. With that in mind, here’s the rundown of all that went on:
What You Missed:
Kim Jong Un Opener
Bobby Moynihan did some wonderful physical work in this sketch as the ailing Un, and this felt shorter than recent cold opens, which worked in its benefit.
The mere hint of another musical monologue so early in the season had me rolling my eyes, but it was nice to see Kristen Wiig show up (and actually do most of the singing) and Harvey Fierstein was a nice surprise. I would like a Pantene boat.
It wouldn’t be an SNL homecoming without some recurring characters, and Herb Welch is one of my favorites from Bill Hader1. Herb, as usual, is great, and it’s nice to see Pete Davidson in some more sketches.
“I don’t take words from mannequins – I know you’re smooth down there”
The Group Hopper
There are too many goddamn YA-novel-adapted dystopian fiction movies this year, you guys2. SNL gets it.
Fellow WEIO-er Mooch and I had some quality discussion on the books this was based on during the commercial break:
Hollywood Game Night
Sometimes SNL does a sketch simply to get a bunch of celebrity impressions out of its system, and I’m completely fine with that. As anyone who’s watched Hollywood Game Night while on a Delta flight knows, there’s a loose definition of “game” being played, and this sketch captured that completely. Ace work by Kate McKinnon as Jane Lynch, “America’s #2 favorite lesbian” and Cecily Strong as an overpaid Sofia Vergara.
Bill Hader did an interview on Late Night with Seth Myers recently where he talked about a sketch that never made it past table read because it was a joke about 60 Minutes that was a little too specific, and I thought this was going to be a shorter version of that, but then it turned into a completely different thing. Without giving too much away, I’m really enjoying the freshness of viewpoint that’s come from adding Sasheer Zamata, Leslie Jones, and Michael Che in the past year.
Jan Hooks Tribute
I can’t discuss SNL this week without talking about the passing of Jan Hooks. I grew up watching SNL in afternoon-long marathons on Comedy Central during the summer, and there’s a part of my brain that basically has the various 90s era episodes memorized. When I think of Jan, I think of the diner sketch and the Sweeney Sisters, but she’s an amazing performer who always gave her characters 110% and did amazing work supporting her fellow castmates – this week’s SNL Vintage seemed like one chosen to celebrate her legacy on the show, featuring what I’d consider is one of her best performances, the diner sketch.
The sketch they chose to memorialize her during the episode, “Love is a Dream”, has been making the rounds on the internet in the wake of her death, and it really shows her dramatic range, not just her comedic talents. It took me a few watches, but the work she does with her face is a masterclass in conveying what’s really going on.
Hozier: “Take Me To Church”/”Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene”
I’m putting both musical performances together here. Despite some apparent airplay/coverage from NPR (where I get some of my musical recommendations from), I had no experience with Hozier. And with his first song, I thought I understood why. “Take Me to Church” sounded like something someone who doesn’t quite understand my musical taste would recommend to me. I was ready to write him off, but then the second song, “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” managed to do effortlessly what “Church” was clearly trying to do in the first place. I’m at least going to check out the album, but it may be hit and miss for me.
As always, bullet points for Weekend Update:
- Not even Ebola would go to LGA. That is just a fact.
- Pete Davidson keeps getting the Brooks Wheelan treatment, where news stories are just a setup to one of his stand-up bits, but I’ll continue to allow it for now because he’s got talent
- I knew we would see Stefon as soon as Bill Hader’s turn as host was announced. It’s just a given.
- My favorite parts of the clubs Stefon mentioned this time: “That TV channel at the hotel that’s, like, about the hotel”, “if you are some DUMB FOLKS, looking to get MURDERED”, “a lackluster realtor named Anthony who’s late to every showing”3
- Congratulations to Stefon and Seth Myers on their upcoming bundle of joy. May their baby shower have EVERYTHING.
I absolutely loved this character Bill created for a one-off sketch in his last season, so it was nice to see him return, complete with a puppet ‘Nam flashback, even if the results weren’t quite as great as last time. The little details of the sketch (Bobby’s unfinished puppet, Cecily’s “this is the one thing I do each week for me”) are what worked best for me.
My love for Good Neighbor’s comic sensibility has already been documented multiple times. I loved the bro unable to process his feelings about art. Also, Matt Newall got Vicodin, and anyone can get in on that, so this has been Health Minute.
I love when SNL does adult twists on things from childhood, so I was fully on board with this 12:55 sketch. Also: where was Aidy all episode?
What You Didn’t Miss:
- There’s a web-exlcusive sketch from dress rehearsal featuring a gossipy coal miner that you should watch because it’s Bill Hader.
Next Time on SNL: Jim Carrey returns as host 10/25, with Iggy Azalea as musical guest.