SNL Season 41, Episode 9 – Adam Driver, Chris Stapleton
Saturday Night Live ended 2015 on a pretty strong note with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and musical guest Bruce Springsteen. I can readily admit when they announced Adam Driver, and Chris Stapleton would kick off the new year, I was not overly excited. Driver was excellent in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (yes, some will disagree with that sentiment), and he’s one of the better parts of Girls — but could he really pull off sketch comedy? It’s not for everyone, and Driver’s humor usually airs towards the dark, and R-rated and not exactly SNL friendly. As for Stapleton, I had zero idea who this artist even was.
The Opening Sketch:
Saturday Night Live has really done a bang-up job skewering both the Republican and Democratic debates. They kicked off the new year with a terrific parody of the recent of Republican debates. Beck Bennett stole the entire sketch as Jeb Buh — he perfectly portrays the Florida governor as a simple, gullible, big goofy kid. His interaction with Darrell Hammond’s oily portrayal of Donald Trump could easily be a sketch itself. In fact, they really need to get these two together for an extended scene. Jay Pharaoh also did an excellent job as Ben Carson just amping up the creep factor on him. SNL can really keep milking these debates for the next year and they’ll never get tired.
The Cold Open:
Adam Driver’s cold open was pretty weak. The cutaway to his actual Marine Corps photo and his quip about the USMC recruiting 12-year-olds was the highlight. The Star Wars stuff with Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan was a little too expected. Sure, there were a couple of laughs, but everything fell flat. Driver didn’t really get a chance to show off his personality here at all, and that made me worry. Were they trying to hide Driver? Was this going to be a host that really isn’t all that funny so they’re going to fill rely on the cast to make the material work and overshadow the host?
The Musical Performance:
As stated before, I had never heard of Chris Stapleton before. After his performance on the show, I now know him, and am fan of his. Stapleton ripped the stage up with two songs that sounded like Lynyrd Skynyrd reborn. He has this amazing whiskey soaked voice that is just perfect. His music is high-energy, and it really just kicks ass. And frankly, isn’t that what’s been missing from country music — pure kick-ass sentimentality?
My fears about Adam Driver’s performance were assuaged as soon as they rolled into the “Undercover Boss: Star Killer Base” sketch. Driver was absolutely amazing. He was able to channel the dark, petulant awkwardness of Kylo Ren and make it extremely funny. Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan really complemented Driver nicely. Driver and Cecily Strong had great chemistry throughout the show, particularly in their Aladdin and “America’s Funniest Cats” segments. The “AFC” segment really shouldn’t have been that funny but Driver was able to play a great straight man to the sublimely absurd Strong, and Kate McKinnon. In fact, on paper, most of tonight’s sketches shouldn’t have worked. The material wasn’t exactly the show’s best, but it was actually it was Driver that elevated the material. He was able to channel that weirdness about him and make it hilarious. So, much like he did with Kylo Ren, he surprised the hell out of me, and proved that he can really be a force to be reckoned with.
Rating: 8 out of 10