Just a few days ago, an awful, incomprehensible tragedy took place in Newtown, Connecticut, when a disturbed gunman stole the lives of 20 innocent children and six heroic elementary school employees. The nation learned of the news almost immediately via each and every social network, and television stations subsequently devoted all of Friday and Saturday to coverage of the heartbreaking situation.
There’s never an easy way for Americans who are hurting – even those who may not be directly affected – to segue into watching or performing on less-critical material, whether that’s SportsCenter or The Daily Show. David Letterman gently and perfectly held our hands after September 11th, and Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels famously asked then-NYC mayor Rudy Guiliani for permission to be funny. Guiliani responded, “Why start now?”
Last night’s episode of SNL opened without introduction on the smiling faces of The New York Children’s Chorus singing a stunning, beautiful rendition of “Silent Night.” Regardless of whether the performance was written as a last-minute salute to the youngsters lost on Friday, or a pre-planned bit meant to bring cheer to the show’s Christmas episode, the tone was pitch perfect.
The show that followed, with host Martin Short and musical guest Paul McCartney, would rate as top-notch on any Saturday, but the fact that it came together in the shadow of such horrific events makes it all the more extraordinary.
Martin Short, an SNL cast member for the show’s tenth season, refreshingly took to last night’s monologue with no apparent movie or play or TV show to promote. He was back in Studio 8H to have fun, and have fun he did, dancing around the stage, hallways, and dressing areas. Accompanied on piano by Paul Schaeffer and radiating with Christmas spirit, Short sang about “the most amorous time of the year,” and kissed everyone in sight, from Kristin Wiig to Jimmy Fallon to Tom Hanks to Tina Fey, and finally to Lorne Michaels. “It’s the randiest, dandiest, naughtiest, steamiest, dreamiest time of the year,” he belted.
The energy continued in the first true sketch of the night, The Tony Bennett Show, with a Christmas-themed take on an old favorite starring frequent host Alec Baldwin. Baldwin was beyond brilliant with Bennett’s cadence, his squint, and the Vegas-style zingers he threw around. It’s hard to decide who does a better Tony Bennett impression: Baldwin or Bennett himself. Or in this case, Short, who played Tony’s brother Jerry, a sort of mini-me version of the old crooner.
The most genius sketch of the night took place in the office of Kate Middleton’s OBGYN, played by Bill Hader. Martin Short, playing a representative of the Royal Family, pays a visit to Hader, so that he may pass on instructions on how to deal with the Royal Duchess’ ladyparts. If her ladybits were wearing a hat, the doctor must tip his. And using the word “vagina,” is absolutely unacceptable. It’s appropriate to refer to it as “M’Lady,” or “the Governess.” Or “the King-maker.” “Her Downton Abbey.” “The Chunnel.” “Dame Judy Dench.” Or “Thomas’ English Muffin.” Brilliant (in both the Queen’s English and American English)!
Other highlights included Keenan Thompson’s “What Up With That? Christmas Spectacular,” where guest Samuel L. Jackson (as himself), got so frustrated with being interrupted, that he cursed on air one and a half times; a commercial for the stage adaptation of “You’re a Rat Bastard, Charlie Brown,” starring Al Pacino, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edie Falco, Larry David, and many more; and stops by the Weekend Update desk by Seth Meyers’ podiatrist’s son, and recent Bar Mitzvah, Jacob (Vanessa Bayer), as well as Cecily Strong’s amazing “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party,” who once again spits pure ignorance at Seth Meyers in between checking for texts and insisting that origami is Spanish for “goose.”
And lastly, under the guise of auditions for a community Christmas pageant, Caleb (Martin Short) and Monty (Paul McCartney) are an uncomfortable musical duo vying for some local fame. Caleb, the sole singer, freaks out over Monty’s inability to hit his triangle on cue, and leaves in a huff. Luckily for us all, that means Monty finally gets a chance to sing, and soon enough, Monty has transformed into Paul McCartney, who invites The New York Children’s Chorus back to the stage to help him wrap up the episode with his classic “Wonderful Christmastime.”
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