Published Jan 28, 2018Will Ferrell made a triumphant return to the show that made him a star, while Chris Stapleton brought out a special guest in an attempt to make his performances more memorable. Here's everything that happened on Saturday Night Live this week.
The cold open
Will Ferrell brought back his George W. Bush for a televised address. Rather than romanticize his old gig, W, cleverly, was made to remind viewers that, in spite of how good Trump makes his legacy look, he was in fact, a historically bad president. But it really was a trip down ridiculous memory lane, with Ferrell's W misspeaking and reeling off some of his greatest gaffes, culminating in Leslie Jones appearing as Condoleezza Rice to sing a version of the nostalgic "Those Were the Days," the All in the Family theme song. Some strange era-crossing, but an enjoyable open.
Ferrell seemed to be doing a sly, meta bit about how excited he was to make his "debut" on the show, but it turned out, he just severely injured his head backstage before making his way out to perform his monologue. Blood dripping from his forehead and pooling at the back his head, Ferrell proceeded to sing a nonsensical, disoriented song both onstage and in the audience. Ferrell willed this to be funny.
A silly, amusing bit where four U.S. jet fighters scrambled above the Korean Peninsula get to know each other over their comms. While most of them have adopted macho monikers like Viper, Ferrell's pilot goes by Clown Penis and his stoic, serious demeanour and bizarro trip through the sky is funny.
The House Sonoma
A Kyle Mooney/Beck Bennett remote, this fake reality show emphasizes all of the awkwardness of unnecessary TV roommate drama, as a movie night goes awry. Ferrell knows how to play to Mooney and Bennett's stilted aesthetic (likely truly appreciating it) and revels in the oddness of the interplay, even roping in Tracy Morgan for a cameo.
Ferrell and Kate McKinnon take that viral video of a senior citizen couple unable to nail the catchphrase in the ad they're starring in and just make it longer. Nothing about their verbal gobbledygook was much funnier than the original and, clearly, not absurd enough to cause the actors to break character, which this seemed customized to do.
A flight crew welcomes back a member after his sabbatical, but quickly discover he's changed. Aidy Bryant and Chris Redd play cheery attendants happy to joke and rap their way through their passenger announcements, and Ferrell seems to share their enthusiasm. As it turns out, he's had a rather eye-opening holiday from work and can't stop himself from telling passengers that death is final, which Ferrell does with relish.
Next for Men
A questionable way of addressing #metoo and #timesup, this ad promoted a deodorant specifically for men sweating out when they'll be found for being sexual harassers and professionally ostracized as a result. Yeah. Not a good look.
Joined by Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton and his band jammed out a cliché-ridden blues-rocker that had all the finesse of a practice room warm-up. The song, "Midnight Train to Memphis," contains about as rote a Southern rock lyrical image as can be.
When they returned with "Hard Livin'," little about their homage to outlaw country unions had much power, as they adopted more lyrical drinkin' fightin' stereotypes, sang without distinction or comprehensibility, replete with musical moves that though more sophisticated than what they showed off earlier, still felt predictable. The attempt was clear but they just weren't doing these traditions much good.
Colin Jost and Michael Che ridiculed the government shutdown negotiations with some hit-and-miss jokes. Jost baffled the audience with a Stevie Wonder performing a bris punch line while Che went on a strange run about Stephen Miller's physical appearance. They also each ridiculed Trump for trying to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, which worked out better. Farrell appeared for an extended desk piece as Jacob Silj, who suffers from voice immodulation syndrome, which causes him to yell everything he says in a loud monotone. Farrell was amazing here and the writing matched his performance. Heidi Gardner played teen film critic Bailey Gismert, who appeared to assess the Oscar race, but instead curled up into a raw ball of emotion and disturbing teen angst. This was dark and another exhibition of Gardner's deep range as a character actor.
BBQ Get Together
The first truly unhinged sketch of the night, Cecily Strong and Ferrell played Hollywood reality show scum who return home to meet with their normal friends. Strong and Ferrell are plastic surgery disasters with pretentious things to say, but really lose themselves when their camera crew shows up to capture them berating their friends. Every cast member found Strong and Ferrell's physical performances overwhelming, cracking up, which made this more intense and endearing.
Aziz Ansari Discussion Dinner
This was rather brilliant. Seizing upon the disjointed and divisive dialogue about the now infamous babe.net piece about Aziz Ansari's sleazy behaviour during a date, this restaurant sketch made hay with the social land mines people walk through when trying to discuss and rationalize the situation and, in its extremes, it made some very funny points about where we're at in assessing social boundaries.
Crate and Cracker Barrel
A boutique business lunch gets embarrassing for the owner, played by Farrell. He tries to tell a funny anecdote about visiting a restaurant but confuses the American chain, Cracker Barrel, with the furniture store, Crate and Barrel, which his colleagues ridicule him for. Unfortunately, he's far too sensitive for such a slight and proceeds to react to every subsequent correction in more and more extreme ways, which is outlandish and amusing.
Chucky Lee Byrd
As #metoo and #timesup foster revaluations of long-accepted male behaviour, SNL turned its gaze upon the earliest days of rock'n'roll via a faux infomercial for a music collection by a fictional artist named Chucky Lee Byrd. Did we not take songs about teenage girls by Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis seriously enough? Aren't they all rather disturbing, given their respective histories with young women? This sketch homes in on this perfectly, with Ferrell playing the sleazy Byrd, overtly eroticizing girls in black-and-white clips, while in the contemporary ad, McKinnon plays an increasingly horrified salesperson who is finally giving the disturbing content of Byrd's material the attention it deserves.