Saturday Night Live – Season 42
There was a time, my friends, when SNL was the center of pop culture, not a legacy institution, a holdover in an increasingly frivolous and disposable and decentralized cultural environment — like today — oh no. I am talking about the glorious early ’90s. Back then, the networks were strong and prestige films centered their Oscar campaigns around the late night circuit. SNL in its prime was a surefire way to brandish one’s chances of winning, say, Best Actor. It was high profile, and a savvy way to ingratiate yourself and poke a little fun.
You don’t see that as often these days. There’s too much of a disconnect between the kinds of movies that connect with mainstream audiences and the movies that win awards. Meanwhile, SNL seems mostly content to chase trends (instead of dictate them). But hey! One other thing happened in the early ’90s: Brendan Gleeson started appearing in movies. For three decades he has been a beloved character actor. This year, he’s reteamed with Colin Farrell (who last hosted SNL way back in 2004, hint hint) and Martin McDonagh in The Banshees of Inisherin, which has awards buzz. This year, Mad-Eye Moody gets to host SNL.
Colin Farrell and host Brendan Gleeson on ‘SNL’
Colin Farrell and host Brendan Gleeson on ‘SNL’
| Credit: NBC
With Gleeson at the helm, SNL continues to redefine itself, seeking to determine just how new and experimental it wants to actually be. Can it push against its own format, and overhaul its voice? Or will last week’s cold open be a half-measure, tonally? (Promos like this suggest perhaps there is some new life afoot this season.)
I recently spoke with former cast member Victoria Jackson. Her first year in the cast was an important moment for the show, similar to now, in which she joined a few holdover cast members and together the two groups forged a new tone for the show — in fact, a second golden age. Victoria reflected: “I think new cast members, just like old cast members, are just trying to get air time. They are trying to write something brilliant that will beat out their castmates’ submissions. It’s competitive. [Last week] new cast member Michael Longfellow stood out with his smart, funny Update appearance. He’s a star.”
Well said! Let’s dive in.
Bowen Yang welcomes America! Everyone is angry and crazy in this country. He’s the host of “So You Think You Won’t Snap!” Ah, another game show format. I was initially intrigued by the stark direct address to the audience but alas, another crutch. I have asked before: in SNL‘s eyes, game shows like this are a relevant genre still. Are they?
Yang tests recovering alcoholic Heidi Gardner about Ukraine and Biden’s age (?). She is driven to a Today Show size glass of wine after being shown a 60 Minutes clip of Biden discussing his mental acuity (?). Strange and gross focus.
Next up: Chloe Fineman is given the opportunity to hit a Frontier Airwaves attendant (Sarah Sherman). Yang – clearly being primed as the next star of the show – toys with her. Kenan Thompson becomes enraged discussing former SNL host Elon Musk. Why did they have that guy host again, if he’s so outrageous? Today he’s a threat, last year he was a boon for ratings I guess.
Devon Walker gets triggered by Kanye West. He burns himself with an iron. I like Walker – he gives off a vague Pete Davidson aura.
Gleeson comes out as explains his accent and long resume: Braveheart, Harry Potter, Joel Coen’s Macbeth. He whips out his mandolin and starts playing a tune by “Banjo Barney” McKenna.
He describes the weird and wonderful people in his life, including his father. That leads him to his costar Colin Farrell. He welcomes a deeply mustached Farrell to the stage – he has had a fun year, appearing in The Batman as Penguin. They finish the monologue together singing a little ditty. This was slightly awkward but charming.
When Farrell last hosted, nearly 18 years ago, it was friggin’ season 30. The show was practically in its infancy. (Shout out the Scissor Sisters.)
The Try Guys
Gleeson is reporting on the Biden White House on CNN when suddenly he’s distracted by the Try Guys scandal. He brings on the “Guys” (Yang, Mikey Day, Andrew Dismukes) to discuss the White Guy Wife Guy Try Guy Ned’s indiscretion. It is very “sad balls,” says Day’s Try Guy. Yang is cracking up his other Try Guys. Gleeson salutes their courage.
This is an amusing riff on mainstream news media’s tendency to get sidetracked, and buried in silly minutia.
New Cast Advice
The new cast members report on the advice they’ve been given at the show. Lorne Michaels has shared thoughtful, sweet tips to most of the newbies but Molly Kearney has been given a specific task: kill Vladimir Putin.
Funny shout outs to old cast members: David Spade, Kristein Wiig, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell. To Kearney, Kelly Ripa and John Kerry are planning a trip for them to enter Russia. Molly has a dynamic Melissa McCarthy/Chris Farley vibe.
Victoria Jackson shares: “I did not like them dissing Kanye in the cold opening; but the four new cast members sketch was very funny.”
Studio employees Gleeson and Gardner bring Marilyn Monroe (Fineman) fan mail letters. Some of them are complimentary, but increasingly many are hostile and misogynistic. “Marilyn you dumb babboon… not a fan.” Funny to see Gleeson play an old woman despite the clear beard.
Now streaming, Blonde is NC-17 and fetishizes Monroe’s pain. This sketch hints at its explicit, borderline sexist take on Monroe. It is a brutal, unrelenting depiction. “Not a fan!” Gardner emphasizes.Monroe has been portrayed many times on SNL: Mary Gross, Teri Garr, Madonna, Charlize Theron, Abby Elliott, and Nasim Pedrad previously took turns playing the iconic starlet.
“The Marilyn Monroe sketch was funny to me,” Jackson adds.
“I’m kidding! I’m funny!” asserts Dismukes’ pompous photographer. Gleeson’s grandfather character enters the studio, and captivates the photographer. “Show me brooding!” Dismukes cries. This sketch gives Gleeson an opportunity to make a series of silly poses as his grandson (Longfellow) looks on his horror.
Colin Farrell shows up again – gratuitous cameo alert! He joins Gleeson in the shoot. “Doubt cute shy boys!” Dismukes calls out the end of Back to the Future, as Gleeson heads for the cover of Tiger Beat.
Please Don’t Destroy’s Tommy
It’s the return of PDD and we aren’t joining them in 8H. This time it is a high school party. The guys are joined by Gleeson, playing a junior. Turns out he is not actually 17 – he’s 67 years old. He slowly explains why his behavior and interactions with them was very consistent for a man his age. I blame Gossip Girl.
“I feel infinite,” they shout in unison, a spoof of the final scene from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. (Great movie by the way.) Cute riff on teen comedies like Never Been Kissed. I sort of miss the behind-the-scenes energy of their SNL office segments.
Willow – first musical performance
“Ladies and gentlemen, Willow!” bellows Gleeson, channeling Patrick Stewart. “Curious/Furious” is the third track off ˂COPINGMECHANISM˃ — it’s got a emo pop punk vibe like the kind of affectations Machine Gun Kelly has adopted. I’m sure Willow is nice, but this reeks of nepotism kid jumping the line.
Back in April, Willow upstaged musical guest Camila Cabello during the Jake Gyllenhaal episode. Back then they performed “Psychofreak“.
Victoria Jackson said she was “anxious to hear [her] sing. She’s adorable on Red Table Talk,” She adds: “I like Willow. She has beauty, talent and a loving, sensitive soul. But, I’m a Carpenter’s/Bread person. I’d like to hear her sing ‘Desperado’ or ‘If.'”
Black Ariel (Ego Nwodim) shows up to discuss the online response to the new live action Little Mermaid. She requests just being known as Ariel, then reveals her rich upbringing. She’s no one’s hero. “I’m dumb too, Colin.” Pretty funny — Nwodim and Yang feel like the breakout stars this season so far.
New SNL cast member Marcello Hernandez comes out to discuss the current MLB playoffs. He’s Latino (with Cuban and Dominican parents), and talks about how explosive and personality-driven players from Latin countries are. “White guys are so boring; they’re always talking about the game!” Pretty funny! So far it seems like the new guys are getting some face time.
Victoria Jackson agrees: “New guy, Marcello Hernandez, on Update, he has the ‘It’ factor. I don’t know baseball, but I couldn’t stop watching him.”
Two ancient tribes have been at war. The two leaders (Day, Gleeson) agree to work together and cut their hands in a blood oath. It “requires but a scratch” – but Gleeson is a novice and has cut deep. “It’s not a cut it’s a gash!” One of those classic spraying sketches.
We all remember Dan Aykroyd’s legendary French Chef bit where, as Julia Child, he sliced a finger and bled to death. More recently James Franco’s character, a gift-wrapper at Bloomingdale’s, sprayed all over the set too. Phil Hartman’s weightlifter pulling his arms off, and of course Massive Headwound Harry are other notable examples.
Willow – second musical performance
Holy heavy metal! The video for “Ur a Stranger,” starring Paris Jackson, just came out. Willow directed the video, which was produced by Paulo Torres with Benjamin Kang and edited by Mitchell Bisschop. This is certainly an attempt at hard rock, I’ll give her that.
A boardroom is pitching taglines for the City of Denver. Janine (Sherman) got her eyes replaced, and forgot to keep her original pair refrigerated. “Today you all put a woman’s body on trial!” This is a tour de force performance by Sherman – can she even see? Nice to see the show pencil in her weird idiosyncratic voice here. It works! Brings an essential energy.
-Thank you to Victoria Jackson for her great thoughts tonight! Check out her show and see her live if she tours near you! (She notes that Molly Kearney “has a lot of confidence.” She’s a fan.)
-I liked tonight’s show! What did you all think? Vote here or weigh in below.
-I hate to say it but Thompson is increasingly seeming out of place amongst the kiddos here. No? Jost and Che ready to bounce too right?
Saturday Night Live – Season 42
Saturday Night Live
The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.