Visit with Santa Cold Open
No Trump or other political figures this week, instead the Cold Open featured a Macy’s Santa taking on a whole group of very politically savvy children. Each kid came up and asked Santa questions about Al Franken, Roy Moore and Matt Lauer among other things, shocking Kenan Thompson’s Santa in the process, and getting a little guidance from his elf helper. Not all of the kids delivered their lines perfectly, forcing Thompson and Kate McKinnon to improvise a bit, but for a Cold Open this one was awesomely brilliant.
James Franco Audience Questions Monologue
Franco makes his fourth appearance hosting SNL — promoting his new film The Disaster Artist — but you don’t get a jacket or anything special, just a chance to answer questions from the audience. This bit has been done before but usually with the show’s cast members playing audience members. This time it was unknown people … except for a very familiar face: Seth Rogen, who just happened to get tickets through the ticket lottery. And then his plus one, Jonah Hill, finally showed up, and James spotted another familiar face in the audience, someone who resented Franco hosting the show again. It was a pretty funny bit to get things rolling.
Sexual Harassment Charlie
Two company employees, Doug and Charlie, are fired for complaints of sexual harassment and are asked to apologize before they take their leave. Doug (Franco) is an exec everyone is happy to see go but the other, Charlie (Thompson) the security guard, is loved by everyone, even though the things he’s said are much more egregious than anything Doug said. But that’s just Charlie. Another funny one for the night.
Remember the classic Julia Child “Save the liver” sketch featuring Dan Aykroyd from way back when? This sketch takes that concept a whole lot further when Franco’s department store gift wrapper suffers what should be just a minor paper cut. And then it only gets worse, more outrageous and funnier as no one is able to keep a straight face (and did Leslie Jones know she was going to be the recipient of a mouthful of fake blood?).
The first pre-taped bit of the night is a modern twist on A Christmas Carol with Beck Bennett as Scrudge, the roommate of Kyle Mooney’s character. Scrudge is a miserable old man — although no one is exactly sure how old he really is — who brings down a holiday party and learns a life lesson from the guy on the roof of the building (Franco). Or does he? For what is probably a Bennett / Mooney sketch, this is one of their better ones — if not the best.
A spelling bee goes completely off the rails when the moderator introduces words that seem to hit a little too close to home for him, including “berate” and “chagrin”. There’s also a question as to whether one of the TV hosts can actually spell. Franco was perfect with his deadpan use of the words in sentences and giving the definitions, and while they do a dress rehearsal prior to the broadcast show, one has to wonder if they perhaps changed the last word before air and sprung it on Franco.
Colin Jost and Michael Che were back on track this week as far as their delivery and timing, with some of Jost’s jokes getting a chuckle from Che, but they still didn’t seem to have as much interaction between them as usual. The segment was strong with topics ranging from Jerusalem to Roy Moore to Pizza Hut, and Che’s neighbor who screams at him from the doorstep, Cathy Anne, returned (from the dead, twice) and it was actually a solid piece. While the episode’s running throughline seemed to be about sexual harassment, Che went on assignment this week undercover as Gretchen, a liberal white woman … without the aid of any special makeup. And it worked, to a point.
Okay, so here’s that point after “Weekend Update” where the show usually starts going off the rails, and this was one of those bizarre sketches featuring Pete Davidson as a guy on trial for murder. The argument is that he couldn’t have done it because he had ordered two pieces of ‘za at the time. But the prosecutor made the argument that ‘za is lasagna, not pizza because lasagna is “luh-za-ña” while pizza is “peet-suh.” The whole bit was an excuse to give Franco a crazy tongue-twister trying to delineate between the two abbreviations. Not the best of the night, but again Franco and Kenan Thompson as the judge did break up a bit.
A woman spots a homeless man from inside a coffee shop and decides to give the man some coffee and food. Then she begins to really feel generous by taking him shopping and even helping him find a job. But … he may not be who she thinks he is. This bit helped the show get back on its tracks.
Franco is home for the holidays when his odd cousin Pretty Mandy shows up and wonders if he needs some help since she’s heard his latest film is a “disaster” (yes, they plugged the heck out of his movie). He insisted he was fine, but her comments about the new movie and The Interview were pretty funny. And, yes, brother Dave shows up for a cameo. They should have put this sketch after “Weekend Update” and moved “Za” to the WTF spot at the end of the show.
Speaking of WTF moments, that’s about all I can say about SZA’s performances. She has a terrific voice, but I really could not understand a word she was saying. In the first song, “The Weekend”, I could make out the days of the week but at one point it sounded like she said “lick my bowls”. For the second song, “Love Galore”, she wore an ugly yellow outfit that was in danger of revealing her lady bits, and again most of the lyric were indecipherable. I thought I heard “skirt down” at one point but not much else. And was that Kyle Mooney playing the bass? Nice voice, but not my cup of tea.
SNL has been on a roll after a few rough patches to start the season, and Franco did a good job hosting even if he did crack up just a bit too much. And the episode was full of holiday cheer, not something you see until the official holiday show that closes out the year … which is next week with host Kevin Hart. Hopefully they can close out 2017 with a bang.
Saturday Night Live airs live in every time zone coast-to-coast Saturdays starting at 11:30 PM Eastern time on NBC. On December 16, Kevin Hart hosts with musical guest Foo Fighters.
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