Let’s face it: April has been a pretty cruel month for Saturday Night Live fans. Aside from a killer sketch about space pants, there have been few memorable moments or big laughs. The fact that an episode hosted by Julia Louis-Dreyfus continued this streak almost defies reasoning. An SNL alum and one of the most celebrated comic actresses of the past twenty years, Louis-Dreyfus seemed like the perfect way to end this subpar month on a high note.
There is only one more three-week block to go before SNL is off for the summer. Let’s hope they end strong, starting with Brie Larson on May 7. For now, let’s try and find three sketches that people will be discussing this week.
It’s slim pickings this week, and while a trifling sketch like this usually wouldn’t make the cut, sometimes Pete Davidson acting like he has four brain cells does the trick.
It helps that Louis-Dreyfus, surprisingly uncomfortable onstage, feels more at home in this pre-taped segment. Her overt protestations combine nicely with Davidson’s blasé attitude. Every time he said, “OK!,” I laughed a little more. Reacting to news that their affair will ruin her life with “My bad!” was a nice break in the overall (intentional) monotony of his responses. Was this something people will remember in a month? Doubtful. But Davidson’s energy is so unique that he’s going to be a major piece of the overall SNL puzzle for as long as he wants to be on the show.
Brooklyn Democratic Debate Cold Open
There are sketches people will talk about all week due to pure hilarity. Other times, surprises cameos and/or nostalgia will drive discussions. (A third, far less frequent option, combines both.) This cold open fits clearly into Category Two, with an appearance by Larry David as Bernie Sanders coupled with Julia Louis-Dreyfus reprising her role of Elaine Benes from Seinfeld more important than the actual content of the sketch.
To be fair, there were a few funny jokes during the political parts of this sketch, especially the amusing image of Hillary Clinton giving Sanders a noogie. But really, this was a sketch driven by meta humor about Seinfeld, both in terms of characterization and phrasing. (“A big bank break-up!” is exactly the type of alliterative catchphrase that David would have written for George Costanza.) The audience understood the game, and yet was still oddly unreceptive to it. Moreover, it seemed really strange for Wolf Blitzer to go to Elaine twice, suggesting that second time was probably designed for another core member of the Seinfeld cast. Still, every outlet will tout this sketch during the upcoming two-week SNL hiatus, so it’s important to include here.
Weekend Update: Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal on Kobe Bryant’s Retirement
Let’s be honest: This was the third show in a row that was less than stellar. And this isn’t just some highbrow analysis. You could feel the audiences this month looking for any excuse to laugh, and yet still staying relatively silent. So bless Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharaoh for coming out during “Update” and shaking this week’s crowd from its stupor. The pure release of laughter these two inspired? Infectious.
It helps that these two actors have had a few years to hone this routine down, with Thompson’s Charles Barkley the constantly put-upon straight man to Pharoah’s sweet-but-dim Shaq. If for no other reason than Thompson repeatedly saying the made-up number “twive,” this would probably make the cut. But it’s also a prime example of something that’s in short supply lately: The cast actually appearing to have fun during a sketch. It’s not the type of fun that’s exclusionary (such as the Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz trying to crack each other up at the expense of the sketch during their tenure), but is rather participatory, which allows the audience to share in the joy.