As a fanatic of both SCTV (remember ingenious skits like Half Wits?) and the criminally underappreciated Primetime Glick (check out this wet your pants-worthy interview with Steve Martin), the mere thought of former cast member Martin Short hosting Saturday Night Live‘s holiday special made me as excited as a kid with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head.
While I patiently pondered a possible Ed Grimley sighting, the show presented a wholly unexpected (and heart-tugging) cold open: The New York Children’s Chorus performing “Silent Night,” as a tribute to the victims of Friday’s horrific school shooting in Connecticut. It turned out to be a perfect start to an almost perfect episode.
Short’s piano-hopping monologue (highlighted by a – hooray! – brief Grimley moment) included a semi-hilarious, very adult rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful (and apparently, the naughtiest!) Time of the Year” along with drive-by shenanigans with Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, Tina Fey and — holy mistletoe! — a lip-smacking finale with none other than Lorne Michaels!
But without further ado, here are my picks for best and worst sketches (and in a week this strong, let’s go with the three best, shall we?):
Best: Royal Family Doctor
An instant classic! Short’s fabulous Rupert Smythe Pennington waxing poetic about Kate Middleton’s widely celebrated pregnancy had poor, unsuspecting Bill Hader’s royal ob-gyn (and the rest of us) breaking up almost nonstop. Short’s musings on proper treatment of the “royal ahem” (aka The Governess, The King Maker, Her Downton Abbey, to name just a few) showed off Short in all his shining, energized, over-the-top glory. Inevitably, the epic proceedings reached a royal climax of sorts with Fred Armisen’s Queen Elizabeth (“I’m here to get me Judy Dench washed!”) spread-eagled on the examining table.
Best: You’re a Rat Bas*#%, Charlie Brown
Ready for a “new twist on an old classic”? Sign me up, especially when it includes Short’s dead-on Larry David as Linus (“Why don’t you go $%*% yourself, Charlie Brown!”) and Kate McKinnon’s Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie mode as Lucy (“I have Ativan, do you want that…a little Valium…a klonopin?”). As our host summed up so adeptly, it was pretty, pretty, pretty good!
Best: What’s Up With That?
Like the rest of us, Kenan Thompson’s astonished, then giggle-laden, and ultimately cool-as-a-cucumber reaction to Samuel L. Jackson’s F-bomb (“C’mon now, that costs money”) near the skit’s end will garner most of the chatter. But the delicious, dance-tastic cameo by Short’s legendary SCTV character Jackie Rogers Jr., — in a shiny silver suit, no less! — absolutely made my night. Side note: Does anyone rock a red track suit better than Jason Sudeikis?
Worst: Tony Bennett’s Christmas
On an less-than-stellar night, this skit might have been considered a relative highlight, but in the midst of such a strong, fast-paced show, it felt like a relative clunker. A grey-wigged Alec Baldwin trading barbs with Short and Jay Pharaoh’s be-skirted Kanye West featured a few LOLs (such as Baldwin’s shout-out to their suppository sponsor, “It sure is easy to get down in the dumps when you can’t take one.”), but the bathroom humor ran dry in a hurry. On the plus side, was it just me, or did Baldwin actually sorta kinda sound like Tony Bennett?
What did you think of this week’s SNL? How would you rate Short as a host? Did musical guest Paul McCartney (not to mention the children’s choir) light up your holiday season? Did you love “The Girl You Wish You Handn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party” on Weekend Update? What was your favorite sketch? Sound off in the comments! —Mitch Rustad