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This episode of Saturday Night Live had everything: a solid first-time host in Bill Hader, a completely random celebrity drop-in and yes, even a (pretty much mandatory) appearance by Stefon. But was this episode a winner, or did it merely deserve a pity high-five? Read on to find out.
The cold open riffed on questions about Kim Jong-un‘s health, with Bobby Moynihan showing off some impressive dance moves. The bit never became uproarious, but a joke about Space Jam — which, in this case, played off the supreme leader’s well-known love of the NBA — is never a bad thing.
Hader’s monologue joked about his supposedly raspy singing voice, which felt a bit like an inside joke. (He has a deep singing voice?) Still, it provided an opportunity for a sax-playing Kristen Wiig to pop by. Hader and Wiig are great together, especially with Hader calling back to her “don’t make me sing” routine. It was a little strange to see Harvey Fierstein show up at the end, but it gave Hader a chance to show off his impression of the stage legend, so we just went with it. Perhaps the best part about the monologue was the Twins reference, but we also just really love that movie. (Seriously, what’s the hold up on Twins 2, Universal?)
Hader’s first recurring character was veteran reporter Herb Welch, who was on the scene at an abstinence rally. The best line was Herb, after calling his anchor a mannequin, shouting: “I know you’re smooth down there.”
The show parodied the recent spate of YA book-based films like The Maze Runner and Divergent with The Group Hopper, as the trailer’s hero learns of the dangers of Category Day. It’s nice to see newcomer Pete Davidson have more time to shine than he did last week, although by far the sketch’s highlight was Hader wearing colorful makeup and clothes a la The Hunger Games‘ Effie. Also amusing was an ad encouraging viewers to help those in need for just 39 cents a day.
Hollywood Game Night is certainly a program that’s rife for parody, and SNL did a solid job pointing out its wackiness, even if the bit felt too familiar to the classic Celebrity Jeopardy sketches. Still, we could listen to Taran Killam‘s Christoph Waltz impression all day long. The show also included a sweet homage to former castmember Jan Hooks, who died this week.
Weekend Update featured a reasonably funny Davidson routine about wearing gold chains despite his “problem with wind.” But by far the highlight of Update — and the night — was Hader as club-promoting Stefon. First, he humorously referred to co-hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che as Mitt and Barack, and then he used the name of former MTV Sports host Dan Cortese more times than Cortese’s name has been used cumulatively by anyone since 1997.
Other standout quips from Stefon included the club offering “that TV channel at the hotel that’s, like, about the hotel,” the Portuguese version of George Costanza and the “doorman who always high-fives the children of divorce,” the latter of which resulted in an especially lengthy laughter break by Hader. A Seth Meyers appearance to announce their pregnancy would have been icing on the cake, but this segment was still a delight.
Following that up was Hader as his grizzled puppetry student, which is always enjoyable. “My favorite game is not Russian roulette,” Hader’s puppeteer said, trying to branch out. “Inside SoCal” had its moments, as a bro’s head nearly exploded while he tried putting art into words, and the Cat in the Hat sketch was surprisingly sentimental. All in all, Hader’s return, though not quite at Jimmy Fallon-level heights in terms of returning castmembers as hosts, was a success.
Three Best Sketches of the Night
2. Hollywood Game Night, mostly for Killam as Waltz
3. Hader’s monologue
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