Amy Adams is, without a doubt, one of Hollywood’s most reliable actresses. It doesn’t matter if she’s doing a comedy, drama, or a musical. She just nails her role every time. The reason she’s here is for the film Big Eyes which has already netted her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a comedy or musical. I don’t remember her first hosting stint back in 2008 so I can’t make a comparison, but my own experience watching Adams makes me confident that she will do a great job. Saturday Night Live might actually be able to deliver three strong episodes in a row. With her is One Direction who have now been on SNL for three consecutive years. I’m absolutely not a “One Directioner” so my interest in seeing them perform is fairly minimal.
Okay, screw executive order and CIA torture jokes. Last night’s Cold Open is easily my favorite of the season. That’s what happens when you bring Mike Myers back for one of his extremely rare appearances. Bringing him on to give Kim Jong-un advice as Dr. Evil was a stroke of genius. The comparison works very well too. Dr. Evil was the original comical bad guy long before people started mocking Jong-un (though he really is a horrible, horrible dictator). Of course, Myers couldn’t go by without delivering his classics jokes. “One million dollars!”, the pinky placement on the lip, and the goofy laugh all came back. He even took a moment to slam the Love Guru, claiming that this bomb is the real way to kill a movie. It was all great. Before this started, Taran Killam was crushing his impression of Sam Smith. Bring that back please.
Seeing as this was the always popular Christmas episode, most of the night had something to do with the holiday. One of the better holiday themed skits was easily “Asian American Doll.” This had nothing to do with current events and instead focused on the oversensitivity of consumers. We can all look at the Asian American doll and laugh at how she comes with a barren house, no discernable country, or even a name, but if certain vocal people get their way, that’s what we’d get. Taking this worst case scenario approach where a doll is made out of fear was hilarious, with Cecily Strong’s defeated narrator as the perfect comedic vehicle. I lost it the moment one girl suggested a chef’s hat and dog accessory push the stereotype that Asian countries eat dogs, causing Strong to flip out while Vanessa Bayer fled the room. It’s tough to top that.
Kate McKinnon once again stole the show. It didn’t matter if she was leading a skit or had one line, she consistently shined brightest. Both “Tenderfield Christmas Card” and “A Very Cuban Christmas” are defining examples of this. Neither skit was particularly great (Cuban Christmas was awful), but McKinnon made them memorable. Even though her turn as Diana Nyad in the latter was great, it was her brief time as Susie the sociopath that was met with gut busting laughter. Watching McKinnon slither in the background with terrifying fluidity as her family danced, all the while delivering her signature crazy eyes, was a moment I can’t forget. As for the bits she actually lead, both “Singing Sisters” and the return of Whiskers R We worked simply because McKinnon was on stage. She’s that good.
Last night’s Weekend Update was another marginal improvement. Michael Che and Colin Jost, despite having zero chemistry and frequently poor delivery, are doing a serviceable job of keeping this classic segment afloat. Yet once again The Update is at the bottom, and this time its because of a pair of guests: Garth and Kat. I love Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig a lot, but their surprise return to the desk just killed the entire sketch. Seriously, it was bad. Both Wiig and Armisen couldn’t stop laughing at their own words and the entire bit quickly imploded into an incoherent mess. This is a shame too because Kenan Thompson’s Willie was funny with his relentless optimism, and Bobby Moynihan’s awkwardly timed Kim Jong-un made me laugh. Garth and Kat was just that comedy bomb that destroyed everything.
“Office Christmas Party” was another miss for musical sketches, continuing a trend that began with last week’s “Sump’n Claus.” The premise itself was funny with Jay Pharoah and Pete Davidson as two angels turning a boring office party into a massive rager. Yet the actual execution was lacking. There were a few gags that made me laugh, like Aidy Bryant jumping on a tree and a random goat, but most of the performance revolved around basic wild party antics with a “twist.” It wasn’t just a random person going crazy. It was the woman from HR! Comedy right?! No, not really. Sorry SNL, you missed the mark two weeks in a row now.
The worst skit of the night is definitely “A Very Cuban Christmas.” This sketch didn’t need to exist. It was clearly a vain attempt by the writers to make remarks about the Cuban policy shift with a Christmas angle. What we got was a bunch of cast members doing awful impersonations, like Kyle Mooney as Tony Montana, and the writers really reaching to get those Cuban references. It’s Bobby Moynihan as Jorge Garcia! Davidson as Elián González! Thompson as Cuba Gooding Jr.? This is when McKinnon killed it as Diana Nyad, but even that was stretching the theme. Then we got Armisen as Raúl Castro and Pharoah as Barack Obama, two performances that were nothing special.
As expected, Amy Adams was a great sport throughout the night. She was given a lot to do and was a suitable addition to any sketch. In character, her best performance definitely came in Whiskers R We with McKinnon. She was that extra bit of crazy that accented the insanity coming from her co-lead, and really helped bringing the jokes home. Out of character, I loved her monologue, even if it quickly devolved into the Kristen Wiig show. This was where Adams showcased her versatility by absolutely dominating a musical number and keeping it together when Wiig went a little wild. It surprises me that this is only Adams’ second hosting gig, but I can see her getting many more.
The rest of the show was fairly strong, though not as strong as last week’s. Not every sketch hit the mark and those that did failed to make a massive impact. “Christmas Serial,” a parody of the hit podcast Serial, was the perfect recreation but failed in the humor department. The aforementioned “Office Christmas Party” was clever but lacking in laughs. Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed the reappearance of “Girlfriends Talk Show” for the first time in a while, but that’s still on the bottom of my recurring segment list. It’s tough to feel for certain cast members too as they were overtaken by special guests. I forgive Myers because his appearances are as rare as they come, but Wiig and Armisen come back fairly often. They shouldn’t be taking airtime away from other cast members by this point. I’m okay with their occasional visit, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of the up-and-comers. It’s not like they don’t have successful careers already.
SNL is now on hiatus until January 17th when Kevin Hart returns with a to be determined musical guest. See you then!
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television and every Saturday afternoon you can read his retro video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.