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December 19, 2016
By Ellen O’Brien, Glenbard West
Host Casey Affleck is known for his terribly sad movies (Manchester by the Sea, anyone?), so I was thrilled to see him in a platform where he could be funny again. And funny he was! With excellent performances from him, the “Saturday Night Live” cast, and a few guests, this was a holly jolly Christmas episode – not to mention, one of the best of the season.
What’s a Christmas episode without a visit from our president-elect’s squad? This “Cold Open” featured Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump, Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway, Cecily Strong’s Melania Trump, Beck Bennett’s Vladimir Putin, and John Goodman’s Rex Tillerson. Let me catch my breath. This sketch poked fun at Trump in unprecedented ways, especially through his alleged friendship with Putin, who brought an Elf on the Shelf to spy on him. “SNL” isn’t messing around anymore; it’s loud and clear with its political messages, and I’m not complaining.
I have a huge crush on Affleck, so he can do no wrong in my eyes. Regardless, he nailed his monologue. He was really natural and personable in his delivery, questioning why he was chosen to host the Christmas episode of “SNL”. It was also fun to watch whenever music started up and he still refused to sing. Cameos from Baldwin and Goodman were laughable, as was the one from Kenan Thompson’s Black Santa. And let the record show that I’m a fan of Affleck’s sort of polished lumberjack look.
Whenever advertisements include real customers, they never showcase ones like Affleck’s Donny, a crude, impolite, and aggressive Dunkin’ Donuts lover. This fake commercial, an “SNL” staple, was a delight. It was surprisingly entertaining to watch Donny harass the employees and torment his fellow customers. This served as a reminder that not everyone who enters a store is as jolly as those we see in commercials – Donny was living proof of that.
First off, Fred Armisen! The show’s alum made an appearance as one of the presenters at a tech conference, and while he wasn’t the star of the sketch, it was still great to see him return. He, alongside McKinnon, showed off their new robot, who they designed to be gay. Affleck’s character was quite perplexed about this, understandably, since it was a robot made solely to get work done. With every question Affleck poses about the robot’s sexuality, the presenters get more and more defensive, reflecting how politically correct everything is in 2016. I was happy to see that this sketch was both funny and purposeful.
The title of this music video is the best pun I’ve heard in a while, which is fitting for the best sketch I’ve seen in a while. Thompson and musical guest Chance the Rapper (!!!) teamed up to celebrate the last Christmas with Obama as president, and it was perfection. They announced every freedom they’d take advantage of before Trump comes along – from gay marriage, to legal weed, to Obamacare. Casey Affleck played Jesus, which is something I never thought I’d say, and Leslie Jones was featured in the song, too. At its core, this music video was almost tragic, as the impending doom of Trump draws near, but I’ve chosen to focus on its surface – it was hilarious.
McKinnon reprised her role as Ms. Rafferty, the unlucky, cigarette-smoking woman who seems to have the worst of every experience, in this sketch. This time, her two friends, played by Strong and Affleck, saw Santa Claus and traveled to the North Pole with him for one magical night. Meanwhile, Ms. Rafferty was taken by Santa’s assistant, Crinklemouse, for a rather unfortunate time. This was the first instance I’ve seen a Ms. Rafferty sketch without somebody in it breaking, but that didn’t mean it was any less funny. In fact, one may call it a knee-slapper.
As I am every time, I was impressed with “Update” for taking otherwise horrible issues (cough, Russian hacking, cough, electoral college, cough) and making them…funny. That takes talent. The Trump jokes were on point, but, in my opinion, lasted a little too long; it would’ve been nice to hear about, well, anything else for once. Armisen made another appearance with Vanessa Bayer, as Putin’s best friends from home. As always, the two gossiped about Putin in low, low voices, but still put on the impression that they adored him. “Update” concluded with co-anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che reviving jokes that got cut earlier in the year, which was an awesome idea. However, I didn’t think it went on long enough – I’d like to see more!
Now, I’m not terribly familiar with the movie “Love, Actually”, but I know enough to appreciate this spoof of it. In this bit, McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton visited the home of an elector, and not just any elector; an elector who supported Trump. In the style of the film, Hillary professed her wish for the elector’s vote through a series of messages on poster boards. So heartfelt. This was, dare I say, a brilliant idea, especially since I’ve been missing McKinnon’s depiction of the almost-president lately.
“NEW YORK NOW”
This was almost funny. In this sketch, a news anchor interviewed the creators of and actors in a play about the birth of Jesus, with a more comedic take. But this merely consisted of puns and movie quotes, briefly redeemed by Chance the Rapper in a three wise men costume. Still, even my favorite rapper wasn’t enough to revive a sketch that fell a little flat.
“MRS. CLAUS AND THE ELVES”
I hate that I laughed at this sketch. In my defense, I think it was purely out of being uncomfortable at the trio of weirdly promiscuous elves wishing to be “punished”. Their words, not mine. The only thing that made this worth watching was Affleck’s ridiculous elf voice, which was equal parts funny and cringe-inducing.
Basically, this consisted of a bar fight over a woman between two very shy and very reluctant men. But it just wasn’t any good. Enough said? Enough said.
“Saturday Night Live”
10:30 p.m., Saturday, NBC
4 out of 4 stars
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