Saturday Night Live Season 40 Finale with Louis C.K., Rihanna
Louis C.K. is back for number three! When he first hosted Saturday Night Live way back in 2012, I remember being really excited. This was guy who was riding a wave of unprecedented popularity off his extremely hilarious television show. Surely, if anyone could deliver a quality episode, it was a comedic genius like Louis C.K. Yet for one reason or another, I left that episode with a feeling of disappointment. It just wasn’t as funny as I expected it to be. His second gig in 2014 was definitely better, but still had room for improvement. I’m hoping that this third appearance will finally be one that we can look at and say, “This is where C.K. really crushed it.” This is also the Season Finale which usually is a very strong episode.
Rihanna’s here too with her fifth musical appearance. I don’t really know what anyone can say about her at this point. It’s Rihanna. You know what you’ll get.
I think it’s safe to say that Kate McKinnon is locked into playing Hillary Clinton for as long Clinton stays in the Presidential race, with Darrell Hammond occasionally stopping by. Not only is her impression very unique, it’s a surefire hit no matter which Cold Open you have. Take last night’s “Summertime.” It starts off unassuming with the whole cast (minus Colin Jost and Michael Che) singing about how summer is here. Fitting, obviously, since this is the Season Finale. But then out of nowhere McKinnon comes in and just hijacks the entire sketch with her hilariously wild eyed and immensely dedicated Clinton. I can’t wait to have this for another season. Also, that moment where everyone sang “Live from New York!” was sweet because it might be the last time for a few cast members.
Louis C.K.’s monologue was naturally what C.K. does best: stand-up. His willingness to cover a wide array of topics and to shock the audience is what made the monologue one of the best parts of the night. Perhaps that’s why this is his third show since 2012. He is always reliable at crushing his monologue, and it gets people really revved up for the night. My favorite moment, and the one that proves how great C.K. is at his job, was when he tried to understand why child molesters still exist. The crowd was appalled, but C.K. just barreled through it with laughs all around. A weak comedian would quickly shy off the topic. Not this master.
Weekend Update is on here mainly because it might be our last time seeing Jost and Che as a team. That’s a good thing no matter how you look at it. Despite a few moments of quality, these two just haven’t worked together. Hopefully, hopefully, Lorne Michaels uses the off season as a means to really evaluate what he wants. As for last night’s Update, it was a fairly humorous endeavor. The best part was easily Bobby Moynihan’s Riblet who once again stole the show from Che. He also saved us from another bit with Jost and Che working together, which honestly looked like a sign that even the writers know they don’t mesh. Taran Killam effortlessly played Tom Brady too as he skirted around any real answers to the ball deflating scandal. While Pete Davidson’s Resident Young Person wasn’t a home run, he’s still an absolute delight on screen.
Even though they were quick and unfortunately didn’t amount to much, I loved the occasional “Lumberjack” bits. SNL needs more small moments like this.
“The Shoemaker & The Elves” was a bit of SNL weirdness that should have gone on as a 10-to-1 sketch. I mean, I don’t know how else you can describe elves wanting to get punished by a shoemaker. Unfortunately the segment wasn’t particularly funny. Credit goes to C.K. for willingly going through it and not breaking at the prospect of spanking Kenan Thompson. The one moment where I actually laughed was when C.K. swore that he won’t “go to the restroom on them.” This sketch had one of the laziest SNL endings though with the audience being asked to poll on whether or not they want the shoemaker to stay faithful or violate the elves. If this was referenced later, that would be one thing, but it wasn’t, so now it just reeks of a lazy exit.
It’s appalling to me that someone on the SNL writing staff thought it would be a good idea to bring back the double date segment from Dwayne Johnson’s show. You don’t need years of comedic knowledge to know that this concept worked before because Johnson is a freight train of charisma. Anyone can also tell that the exact opposite of Johnson is C.K. SNL however decided to give this a go again anyway with “Cabana” and it was horrid. Newsflash: not every skit needs to happen more than once. It also doesn’t help that it was almost the exact same material. I can’t believe this got passed dress. Please, for all that is good in the world, just leave this as Johnson’s thing. He’s going to come back for a fifth show. We all know that.
This is easily my favorite SNL outing for Louis C.K. The man really looked energized throughout the night and was more than willing to appear in whatever sketch was thrown at him. Sure, he brought his trademark awkwardness in more than once. That’s basically what “Shoemaker” was throughout. Yet he also went high energy, like in the Sprint segment “This Is How I Talk.” C.K.’s ability to adapt a sassy person and just run with it was amazing. The same can be said about the “Police Lineup” bit. No matter how you slice it, this guy was one of the better parts of the night. Rihanna was pretty great too, using a lot of imagery to make her music that much better to watch.
Unfortunately the rest of the show was pretty underwhelming. This is what we get as a Season 40 finale? Perhaps everyone was still tuckered out from that monumental special. It’s telling that the best parts of the night were the first two segments, one of which was C.K. doing standup. I’d say the big culprit was the usual enemy: poor writing. A lot of segments last night only went as far as making people chuckle and that’s it. “Lumberjack” could have gone further. “Shoemaker” needed an ending. “Cabana” just shouldn’t have happened. “This Is How I Talk” was essentially the same thing over and over. If I didn’t know this was the finale before hand, I would have chalked it up to just another episode.
Featured Player Breakdown:
It’s a guarantee that SNL will cut some featured members this summer. Here’s my brief breakdown on who I think will stay and go.
Beck Bennett – Kept and promoted: Bennett made a much bigger splash his first year, but his second outing was nothing to shrug off. He’s clearly a reliable performer and already has a semi-popular recurring character. He’ll stick around, likely getting the bump to full time.
Michael Che – Cut: Poor Che. He came in with lots of potential and will leave barely scratching the surface. He had a few moments of genius but overall was marred with his tendency to flub at least once a week. Update is clearly why they brought him in too. Since he can’t do that, there’s no reason for him to stay.
Pete Davidson – Kept as featured player: Davidson’s a really funny guy and has definitely made his mark as the youngest person on staff. He has plenty of room to grow too, and there’s no better place than SNL.
Leslie Jones – Cut and sent back as a writer: Promoted to a featured player back in October, Jones never found the success she had as an Update guest. Her very noticeable bombs during segments that she lead, including last night’s “This Is How I Talk,” is proof that she needs to stay in the writer’s room with occasional appearances.
Colin Jost – Kept and promoted, but not for the right reasons: Jost isn’t a great Update host. We know that. He is, however, a head writer, and that’s usually who does Update. We’re also stuck with him until we find someone better. I can’t imagine Lorne is particularly happy that Update is being lead by featured players now too.
Kyle Mooney – Kept as a featured player: Even though Mooney and Bennett came as a team, the latter has made more of a mark than the former. Mooney has something special going though with those weird, cheaply done bits. If anything, those will be his ticket to a permanent status.
Sasheer Zamata – Kept and promoted: She kind of has to be right? The result of a public outcry for no black female cast members, Zamata has yet to find a truly defining character. She’s a great performer though and deserves to make her mark with this show. Plus, with Jones likely getting moved off the cast, Michaels is probably very wary to cut another African American female. I know that’s the absolute wrong reason to keep someone on, but you’d be foolish to think it wasn’t on their minds.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. 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.