Part of the fun of Saturday Night Live is experiencing each week's Sunday through Friday and trying to guess how certain moments will be viewed through SNL’s prism come Saturday night. After this week’s presidential debate lead-up, battle and aftermath, it was clear which moment – Mitt Romney’s promise to fire Sesame Street’s sweet Big Bird – should feature most prominently. During last night’s mostly-successful episode, hosted by Skyfall's Daniel Craig with musical guest Muse, the SNL cast and crew delivered . . . just not when one thought they would.
The opening sketch was set up like the actual debate: two wooden podiums in front of blue walls covered in text from the Constitution, an establishing shot of President Obama and Governor Romney walking across the stage to greet each other and the debate moderator Jim Lehrer, played by SNL alumnus Chris Parnell. Just as he did last Wednesday, Mitt Romney (played by Jason Sudekis) attacked with his baseball-sized eyeballs and his long-winded exaggerations, and President Obama (Jay Pharoah) lulled the audience – and himself – to sleep. The sketch cleverly focused on Obama’s inner-monologue, giving a peek into Obama’s preoccupied mind: he’d forgotten to get an anniversary gift for the First Lady. Funny! But before you knew it, Chris Parnell was shouting "Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!"
Much like the real verbal showdown when viewers were just waiting to hear the President lob Mitt Romney’s "47 Percent" comment back at him, the Big Bird moment never arrived. At least not yet.
When Weekend Update rolled around, and Seth Meyers’ first six jokes – the sharpest writing of the season, so far – centered on the debate, tension built up with the expectation that Big Bird would be mentioned in at least one of them. Not so, and not even in the Update segment, "Winners / Losers," where Seth named Jim Lehrer a loser, Joe Biden a soon-to-be bare-chested oiled-up winner, and people with pre-existing conditions both winners and losers – because Romney may have promised them care, but he was also lying when he said that.
And then it happened: Big Bird showed up as the first guest at the desk. Not just any big bird, or Bill Hader wandering around in some cheap costume – this was the genuine article, with that distinctive Big Bird neck and feathers, and that familiar voice. (Seth Meyers revealed today on Twitter that it really was Carroll Spinney, the Muppeteer who has performed as Big Bird since 1969.) But similar to meeting your hero in real life, sometimes you get let down. Big Bird seemed older and a tad slow, and even acknowledged being up many hours after his bedtime, before finishing by slowly reciting his own political zinger: "You know who loves debates? De fishes."
Some sketches with host Daniel Craig – never known as a silly guy – exceeded expectations, like a hilariously bizarre bit where Craig brings Fred Armisen – playing an over-amorous woman named Regine – to a dinner party as his date.
Craig also played off his James Bond persona in a commercial for a "50 Years of Bond" DVD set, featuring some of the "lesser known" Bond Girls. The ladies of SNL killed as Diane Keaton, Jodie Foster, Lea Michelle, and Molly Ringwald in The Man Who Was a Gun.
And there was the scene featuring the steady Keenan Thompson, the underrated Bobby Moynihan and rookie Tim Robinson as cat-calling construction workers. Craig, playing a new man on the site, tries to fit in with the fellas, but is fired after his catcalls are deemed too pathetic. To wit: "She's like a big bowl of butt soup, with extra nipples. And can I get that with a side of hoo-woo-woo? You can sir; your total comes to five kisses and forty-seven smooches. You can drive up to the next window and collect that sweet, sweet heiney." In a darkly amusing twist, the guys soon find out that it’s not all Craig’s fault: when he was a child, his father was murdered right in front of him by a woman he had innocently cooed at.
But in the end, the big man tonight was not Daniel Craig, nor was it Seth Meyers, Jay Pharoah, or any of the guys in Muse. In fact, it was no man at all. It was a bird, whose presence and a simple hug during the closing credits, meant more than any quick quip ever could.
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