Only a stone-cold* person could’ve hoped for Tracy Morgan to achieve anything less than a triumphant return to Saturday Night Live this week. After all, the SNL vet has been laying low ever since a horrific car accident in June 2014 resulted in a traumatic brain injury and other dire complications. (*Yes, that’s an overt reference to a jam by much-better-than-anticipated musical guest Demi Lovato.)
The good news is Morgan doesn’t appear to have lost any of his self-deprecating goofballery, and better still, several special guests — Curb Your Enthusiam‘s Larry David (as Bernie Sanders!), as well as Morgan’s 30 Rock cohorts Tina Fey, Jack McBrayer, Jane Krakowski and Alec Baldwin — lent their talents to the installment.
The bad news? After last week’s razor-sharp Amy Schumer-fronted episode, this time around a lot of the writing felt globby and unformed, with flashbacks to old Morgan characters (i.e. Brian Fellows) coming off more nostalgic than reinvigorated.
Below, my picks for best-in-show, plus two that make the “worst of” cut.
BEST: TINA FEY ON PLAYBOY
Fey’s scathing takedown of the magazine’s decision to no longer include nude photos in its pages included her observation that Hugh Hefner’s female employees had been robbed of the opportunity to participate in “a fake five-way with a hundred-year-old sex monster.” Fey’s followup rundown of the sexy poses she’ll never get to strike — “the last time I did this this long, a baby came out” — only added to the hilarity.
BEST: “LET’S DANCE”
Morgan’s best moment of the night was playing a bar patron engaged in a standoff with Taran Killam whose “let’s dance” grumble was meant quite literally. “You don’t want to put a rose in my mouth?” Mogran asked, incredulously, before finally guilting his way into a tango in which he didn’t have to lead. The ballet flats were an especially nice touch.
HONORABLE MENTION: DEMI LOVATO
Yowza! The pop chanteuse’s powerful one-two punch of “Confident” and “Stone Cold” turned this non-believer into a likely iTunes downloader.
WORST:THE LOVELIEST KINGDOM
Morgan played a clockmaker upsetting his Medieval town by dropping unfiltered stream-of-consciousness like “Do you cross your legs on the toilet?” — until said honesty inspired their’s. The punchline — Killam’s admission to having sex with an 18-year-old “boy-child” was even more abrupt and less amusing in practice than I’m able to accurately convey in words.
WORST: WILLIE ON WEEKEND UPDATE
Kenan Thompson’s relentlessly sunny sad-sack made a nobody-asked-for-this encore, coughing up tasteless childhood memories about witnessing his father committing sex acts on a carved-out pumpkin and being paid to push fleeing victims of real-life serial-killer Jeffrey Dahmer back into his cannibalistic house of horrors. With punch lines like this, who needs syrup of ipecac in their first-aid kit?