â€śIâ€™m not saying you guys donâ€™t work hard, because I know on Saturdays, you do.â€ť
Returning for her second hosting stint, Amy Schumer took the mic for her monologue and coasted on the warm milk vibe of the showâ€™s Motherâ€™s Day cold open. Joking that her recent marriage will rob her of her signature â€śgetting railedâ€ť standup material, Schumer didnâ€™t exactly refute the premise, doing some comparatively tame jokes about being an aging bridesmaid, being an aging bride, and aging. Nothing wrong with those subjects if Schumer had anything interesting to say about them, but she didnâ€™t, really. For contrast, see her tampon and period material (phrasing), which might be standard fare, but which Schumer enlivened with energy and gleeful bluntness. Translating a helpful tampon-sharerâ€™s â€śWhat size?â€ť question as â€śWhatâ€™s the circumference of your vagina hole?â€ť smacked satisfyingly of better Schumer routines past.
In the sketches, as was the case last time she hosted, Schumer gamely but nondescriptly labored to bring something to some indifferently written material. In the annual, adorable, and disposable cast moms cold open, Beck Bennettâ€™s mom joked about SNLâ€™s reliance on game- and talk show sketches. (Thank you, Beckâ€™s mom.) So the episode resolutely wheeled out a predictably dull game show sketch right out of the gate. Schumerâ€™s host of a mom-and-teen Dating Game-type game show was left to gape and stammer at the too-affectionate antics of Mikey Dayâ€™s son and Kate McKinnonâ€™s mother, playing it dutifully straight in a sketch that ran a straight, short line from premise to execution. McKinnon managed, unsurprisingly, to wrong some laughs out of her cult-adjacent mother/lover characterâ€™s glassy-eyed answers (â€śHe is of me.â€ť), but Saturday Night Live too often sets up a â€śperson acting weird/straight man acting shockedâ€ť dynamic that, here, is isnâ€™t elevated by any original touches, leaving the sketch to stumble on in gracelessly deployed outrage.
The same goes for â€śGospel Brunch,â€ť which, despite a few nice side-bits and some solid energy from Kenan, Leslie, and Chris Redd (and a rousing church choir), introduces the premise (â€śSouthern cooking is often very unhealthy!â€ť) and then makes a lot of jokes about how Southern cooking is often very unhealthy. I laughed when Cecily Strongâ€™s visiting atheist chef is immediately broomed offstage by a smilingly apologetic Redd, and at Schumerâ€™s delivery of her secret pecan pie smoothie recipeâ€™s main ingredient (a whole pecan pie), but, again, if the premise is going to essentially be the joke, then the actual jokes stemming off of the premise have to be a lot fresher. (The rule of threes joke, thoughâ€”â€śheart disease, diabetes, sugar footâ€ťâ€”was solid.)
Jost and Che were reliable, if not uproarious, tonight. Maybe it was that mom sensibility, or the fact that Donald Trump had a notable accomplishment to point to this week in the release of three Americans from North Korea, but the Update duo were less sharp than usual. Jost managed to find the Trump-shaped cloud inside the hostage silver lining, joking that at least Trump didnâ€™t ask, â€śI thought they were Americansâ€ť upon meeting the freed Asian-American prisoners. And Che made the â€śitâ€™s quietâ€”too quietâ€ť joke about the week in Trump-world. But thereâ€™s enough material (read: horrible, ignorant, venal, or outright insane shit) emanating from the White House, even on a â€śquietâ€ť week, that this weekâ€™s Update felt a little like a series of missed opportunities.
Heidi Gardner brought back her teen YouTube movie reviewer Bailey, to fine effect. Gardner keeps making room to show off her impressive character skillsâ€”she really is a wonderful actor. And Baileyâ€™s all-too-authentic teen awkwardness, inarticulateness, and angst is, in Gardnerâ€™s performance, specific and immediate. Overreacting to Michael Cheâ€™s solicitous advice at one point, Gardner holds on a tearful beat for just the right amount of time. Like Kyle Mooney with Bruce Chandling, Gardner carves out space on Update to let a fully realized characterization breathe, and her Bailey is just as impressive.
Of all the Motherâ€™s Day coziness this week, Melissa Mccarthyâ€™s surprise turn as Michael Cheâ€™s doting stepmom was the strongestâ€”and warmest. The joke that Cheâ€™s proud stepmother (complete with â€śworldâ€™s proudest stepmomâ€ť sweatshirt) is, well, just so darned proud of her Michael is an opportunity for McCarthy, too, to show off what a fine, underrated actor she is. Like Gardner before her here, McCarthy just slays a crying beat, welling up at a long-ago memory of Cheâ€™s grade school poem. (â€śHorseshoe crabs have very limited life spans, and I know that because of you.â€ť) And itâ€™s both wise and sweet that Che never undercuts the sentimentality of the joke, acting bashful but never contemptuous of his stepmotherâ€™s thoroughly mom-like amusement and wonder at every little thing he does, even though she isnâ€™t up on all that politics stuff. (â€śGo aheadâ€”you were doing a joke about Judy… Judy Rudy… Judy Rudiani.â€ť) And the capperâ€”with McCarthy (having forgotten her cheaters) wheeling her chair right into camera to read the â€śworldâ€™s best stepmomâ€ť joke that Che wrote for her is as mom-loopy as it is genuinely touching.
The thing I enjoyed most was McCarthy and Cheâ€™s silly-sweet doubles act, but, since that wasnâ€™t a sketch proper, Iâ€™m going with â€śThe Day You Were Bornâ€ť for the best of the night. I mean, a filmed piece might be stretching â€śsketchâ€ť as well, but, honestly, there werenâ€™t many live sketches to consider. The joke here is a standard oneâ€”the rosy breakfast-in-bed tales of childbirth Schumer shares with her young son contrast with the table-pooping, recrimination-shouting realityâ€”but the bit is shot exceptionally well, and Schumer and husband Mikey Dayâ€™s smash cut delivery room panic is edited into the piece just as expertly. It was one of the few moments where Schumer got to cut loose tonight (â€śYouâ€™re not a man!!â€ť), something the episode could have used more of.
Same goes for the ten-to-one graduation film. (Thanks to A.V. Club colleague Joe Blevins for reminding me that this one is at least a spiritual sequel to the â€śSt. Josephâ€™s Christmas Mass Spectacularâ€ť film from 2014, so, technically, this belongs both in the recurring sketch and Ten-To-Oneland slots.) The joke of a mundane event being announced in â€śSunday! Sunday! Sunday!â€ť monster truck rally style is just a funny concept, with Beck Bennettâ€™s announcer highlighting how the appearance of the one pregnant student hits the parentsâ€™ section â€ślike an atomic bomb.â€ť Cute, although the use of a filmed piece at the end of the show suggests a timing issue somewhere along the way left things running short.
Short and thin is how the show felt, although that has a lot to do with how forgettable most of the sketches were. The childrenâ€™s theater production of Rent was another bit that never went much beyond the premise, although Dayâ€™s director explaining that his â€śAIDS into diabetesâ€ť bowdlerization was undertaken with a simple â€śfind and replace in Microsoft Wordâ€ť trick worked. Schumer got to act a bit as the conservative, Southern-accented child actor whose crabby self-righteousness presages exactly what sheâ€™ll sound like when sheâ€™s voting the straight Republican ticket in 40 years. (â€śShe only speaks Spanish, and I only speak white.â€ť)
The Handmaidâ€™s Tale/Sex And The City mashup, too, makes its point without making any truly clever or funny jokes out of the concept. The oppressed brood-wives all making Gilead-specific catty comments (until the cattle prod comes out) could have had more bite, and even the review blurb jokes (always a funny drop-in gag) arenâ€™t anything special. Plus, SNL has done The Handmaidâ€™s Tale much better and smarter elsewhere.
Bailey, high school graduation (spiritual sequel), Sheila Sauvage.
Moms making Trump jokes in place of Alec Baldwin making Trump jokes? Call it a wash. Still, Saturday Night Live can take a week largely off of politics any time they want, but the resulting show has to be a lot funnier.
Kacey Musgraves did her first song under a rhinestone saddle chandelier and wearing 1970s-vintage striped slacks, a deliberate throwback vibe that underscored the country starâ€™s knowing incorporation of her influences. I liked the second song, â€śSlow Burnâ€ť better, with Musgravesâ€™ oft-noted Dolly Parton twang and lyrical snap emerging winningly. Our own Marah Eakin is the person to read for a full appreciation of Musgravesâ€™ alt-country, though.
Itâ€™s not just that Luke Nullâ€™s mom was on hand for the cold open that keeps me from bestowing another LVNRFPTP to the guy. I mean, he didnâ€™t get on the show in any notable way, but his response to momâ€™s complaint about all the Trump jokes (â€śMom, Iâ€™m so new here, please donâ€™t do this to me.â€ť) was genuinely funny. Same consideration goes for Melissa VillaseĂ±or. Happy Motherâ€™s Day!
Despite a subpar Update, Iâ€™ll give the top spot to Michael Che. His work opposite both Gardner and McCarthy was nimble and more heartfelt than weâ€™re used to seeing, and it looked good on him.
Oh, Sheila. Or, (not quite) anagrammatically, â€śHole-ass vag.â€ť Nobody needs to sell the world on Kate McKinnonâ€™s gift for creatively lived-in scuzziness at this point, but tossing another Sheila at the end of the show suggests a serious lack of ambition. Here McKinnonâ€™s Sauvage and visiting barfly Schumer do the usual nose-holding dance of barely interested seduction, ordering a â€śMonistat 7 and 7″ and squirting each otherâ€™s tongues with hand sanitizer before sloppily slapping tonsils. But thereâ€™s nowhere to go with this bit beyond admittedly crowd-pleasing gameness (not to say gaminess).