Donald Trump Christmas Cold Open
Another Trump Cold Open? Pretty expected at this point. Anyone else think they’re just doing Trump off the top to make sure Donald always sees it at home? Taking aim at Trump’s cabinet picks this week, all the pieces are here. McKinnon is still great, Baldwin still doing a good job, Santa Putin was here too! A cameo from John Goodman was a welcome surprise but he didn’t really do much. Lines about something black and crude being Kanye and adding the word “unpresidented” to our vocabulary were the highlights. Still a funny bit but as I’ve said before, we’re getting tired of this already, four years of it … oh boy.
Casey Affleck Christmas Monologue
Casey Affleck was an odd choice to cap off the 2016 year at SNL and he says as much in his monologue. From his stiff delivery and some forced appearances from Baldwin and Goodman, this monologue was pretty flat. Kudos on Casey calling out Oceans 12 for being pretty terrible, but otherwise this was an unmemorable opening for the actor. Kenan’s black Santa saying he’s Jewish was the funniest bit and Alec lost it on hearing the line.
A Dunkin Donuts commercial was the next up to bat. Taking place in Boston, the cliché crude Boston personas come out of the woodwork to be in “da movie.” Pretty genius in it’s simplicity, this commercial hits all the classic Boston clichés, loud obnoxious and violent. One note but in the best way possible.
A Microsoft tech expo sketch featured returning alum Fred Armisen … oh Fred what are you doing in this thing? Very much in the same vein as last year’s Honda Robotics sketch, another press event for a new robotic helper where things go a little awry. Focused on the fact that their robots are gay, and then shaming Casey Affleck’s character for questioning why they’re gay. I like the focus on over sensitivity to anyone questioning anything deemed even a little un-PC, but aside from the audience reactions this sketch felt like it started tasteless and just got worse. The robots display their sexuality through the basest most cliché gay stereotypes. This just felt like a lame sketch from the nineties rather than something modern.
“Christmas 2016” was a fun nod to Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”. Focusing on the last Christmas under Obama. and possibly ever, this fun throwback style video featured DMC himself albeit in a very small role while Chance the Rapper and Kenan took center stage. Not so much hysterically funny, this was just a clever and well made piece with some witty social commentary. Very enjoyable through and through.
Unfortunately, throwback seems to be the name of the game tonight. A Yale Santa encounter group looks oddly similar to the “Close Encounter” sketch from last year. Much like last time we have three subjects, two with very traditional accounts of their interactions, then Kate McKinnon has some over-the-top and often sexual account of what happened to her. This bit was reasonably funny the first time, and it still holds some crude charm, but the laughs were definitely lighter this time around and the framing device worked far better with aliens than it does with Santa Claus.
“Weekend Update” seems to have been infected with the same mediocrity bug plaguing the show this week. Aside from the standard solid jokes from Jost and Che, highlight lines being a Patriots joke and Globetrotters reference, this segment just felt a bit deflated. Armisen and Bayer as Putin’s BFF’s is not only another rehash of a bit, it’s of one that wasn’t very funny to begin with. The saving grace was a riff of cut jokes from the year the boys plowed through at the end. Some really solid stuff and hard to say why they got cut other than for time.
New York Now
“New York Now,” a morning show interviewing the cast of a slapsticky Nativity scene may just be one of the unfunniest things I’ve seen on SNL in a long time (though the night isn’t over yet, stay tuned). When Kyle Mooney as a jackass reporter is one of the less annoying things in a sketch, you know you’re in trouble. A wasted Chance the Rapper cameo and totally unfunny gags just sank this piece. The silence in the studio was all but deafening. Just not funny in any way.
What came next had to be my favorite part of the whole evening. Reenacting Love Actually’s famous sign scene, taking the role from The Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln was Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton. Pleading with an elector not to vote for Trump, this sketch was a pitch perfect reproduction of the iconic scene. It had that flavor of a reference just old enough to be an odd reference to make today, while being iconic enough most people will still get it. Sweet, cute, not terribly funny but worthy of a few chuckles, this was just a very well done sketch.
Mrs. Claus & the Elves
Did this week’s Santa and the Elves sketch seem familiar to anyone? Is it because it is almost identical to the Shoemaker and Elves sketch from last year? What is with this episode and nearly every single sketch being a follow-up or a repurposing of an old idea? Also it should be said that just like here, every time they merely remade an old sketch this week it flopped terribly. As one note this year as it was last, but without the humor of the shock on hearing elves request S&M punishment for not doing their jobs. They use a Hershey Kiss as a butt plug … Merry Christmas everyone! That one note just got played over and over. The elves are horny and kinky, we get it. You know what they aren’t? Funny, that’s what.
An attempted hook up at a Brooklyn Bar that ends in a fight was, umm, what’s the word for it? Stupid? Yeah let’s go with stupid. The only thing faker than Kyle Mooney in this sketch is the cheap plastic knife he uses. Basically leaning on stupid fake accents and little else, this bit devolved into everyone just saying the same idiotic lines that I guess are supposed to be cliché Brooklyn people? I honestly don’t know. It felt like Travolta’s Welcome Back Kotter character had a lot of hookups in that neighborhood thirty years ago. Just not funny. Oh and a camera got into one of the shots. Sloppy production work there SNL.
Chance the Rapper
Chance the Rapper is an up and coming artist and it is easy to see why. Performing his singles “Finish Line/ Drown” with the help of fellow artist Noname and “Same Drugs” with the help of a full string section and himself on piano. The first song had an odd audio mix that I will blame on the studio crew. Chance’s vocals were barely audible for the bulk of the performance, mixed down so low the backup singers were drowning him out. Oh and did anyone else think he looked like Christmas Super Mario? Those overalls and hat combo just screamed “it’s a-me, Mario!” The second performance was his strong suit. The piano playing was lovely and the string section beautiful. Also one of his backup singers was fantastic, almost outshining him. I thought the jazzy sound and positive message in his music was a welcome change from most of what you hear in the rap game today.
Overall, a pathetic end to the year and a poor Christmas episode for Saturday Night Live. Where they usually break out everything to end the year big, here, aside from a small handful of funny material, was almost wholly ripped off pieces and rehashes of barely funny old sketches. Casey Affleck barely made any impression and when he did it was as a cliché Bostonite. The crew at SNL was on autopilot mode this week and they need to come back much stronger than this when the winter break is over. SNL will return on January 14.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments below!
See Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea.