Wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow. If last week’s Saturday Night Live with Woody Harrelson was what Season 40 looks like when it’s on fire (which, yes, spoiler alert, it was, and it totally did), this week’s Cameron Diaz episode is what the show looks like when it’s coming as close to perfection as an episode of SNL can. Hyperbole? Nah. Subjective to taste? Sure. Dependent on an affinity for/longstanding appreciation Diaz? Nope. Just like Woody did, Cameron showed up, made herself a temporary, inexpendable part of the cast, and killed.
This episode had SNL‘s writers and performers hitting more home runs and making more triple plays, more consistently, than they have all season. We’re only seven weeks in. But this was the funniest episode of Season 40, the best-written, and it featured the best sketch (a digital short, to be accurate) that’s maybe been on TV in 2014. This is an impossible weekend to pick three “best” sketches — here are the three you seriously, actually, must see. Then go watch the entire episode sometime, when you can. Or rewatch with everyone you care about. They need it. They’ll love it. Happy Thanksgiving!
“Back Home Ballers”
An SNL premise can be flat-out unfunny and go on forever (it’s just a hazard in the sketch comedy biz, always and forever — not your fault, Lorne Michaels!), or a premise can be funny and just go a little too long (or a lot too long). But then there are the ones that slay, the “water cooler moments,” the Lonely Island–style stuff of viral video eternity.
“Back Home Ballers” is all that. It’s the shit. It’s about privileged, live-at-home-into-their-20s badasses who think they’re on an edgy VH1 reality show when they’re really just lost, confused, and just not that cool in the end. They’re flashy and they can rap. As the kiddies and the Kanyes say, they’ve “got the swag sauce,” they’re “drippin’ swagu.” But they’re just so not.
Also: watch Leslie Jones. She takes “Back Home Ballers” from a 10 to an 11. Or a 19. Turn up … for Jones. The all-time SNL legends get single-name monikers after they pay their dues and/or make their talent blindingly obvious and addictive to watch. Farley. Ferrell. Belushi. Poehler. Fey. Rudolph. And every single female cast member is gunning, hard, for the one-name treatment, and many will get it. McKinnon. Bayer. Sasheer. Aidy. Leslie. Strong (who wasn’t super-present tonight; maybe she’s getting ready to host the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2015 — she just got the gig this past week). Diaz, for the moment, too. This was, in a way, feminism night.
Diaz is on SNL to promote Annie, a remake that either looks phenomenal and fun or unnecessary and dumb, depending where you’re sitting. (Or, if you’re sitting in the middle of the room, it just looks interesting, and it’ll be fine, or good.) Diaz played Ms. Hannigan, a role that doesn’t look like it was terribly reinvented or needed reinventing.
Therefore Diaz is the semi-rare host who can poke fun at her own brand-new movie in a genuinely edgy way. Everything about this sketch works on principle. Then Jay Pharoah shows up with an unreal Jamie Foxx impression. Then Leslie Jones comes in as “black Annie,” but a million miles away from Quvenzhané Wallis’s new interpretation, because duh.
Leslie Jones suddenly looks like one of SNL‘s brightest stars. She’s almost arrived, and almost instantly. This is only her fourth episode. The speed at which she’s coming into her own is mindblowing. Plus, it’s always delightful to hear the choruses of “Hard Knock Life” and “The Sun Will Come Out.” Thanks, Jay Z. Thanks, composer Charles Strouse.
“Office Boss with Cameron Diaz”
It wasn’t just that this night was great and good. It’s that it was fun. Infectious fun. The kind that makes everyone in the room laugh equally hard. You can send Beck Bennett a thank you card for the five minutes that were “Office Boss.” The concept is deviously simple: Bennett is an exorbitantly wealthy CEO, and a manchild. To the point where his body is that of a baby. His wife, Cameron Diaz, is willing to turn a blind eye to the fact that her irritating, emotionally unavailable husband … is a real-life adult infant, a sad-but-somehow-true case of Benjamin Button–ism. He’s lovable, he’s rich, he’s handsome, but what Baby Boss needs is his mommy. Beck Bennett reached for the physical comedy grail tonight, and he touched it.
(And, real quick, the night’s one must-not-see: for a sketch involving a Steve Irwin/Jane Goodall–parody, Kenan had to use a caged monkey for laughs in front of a giant-scary-noisy crowd, while Diaz looked terrified as a ring-tailed lemur crawled on her head. Cringeworthy. But hey, we all make mistakes, and no evening of SNL has ever, ever been perfect.)