After last week’s laughs-free, Donald Trump-hosted catastrophe, even a boiled parsnip probably would’ve sounded like an upgrade in the Saturday Night Live emcee department.
Thankfully, Elizabeth Banks’ time in Studio 8H ultimately provedfar superior to the Republican presidential candidate’s turgid tenure, though I still wish she’d been given more to do in the pre-“Weekend Update” portion of the telecast… or that EP Lorne Michaels shaken up the order of sketches to move some of her stronger contributions to the front of the installment.
Banks nevertheless showed real range — nailing characters as diverse as a dramatic high-school boy, a harried Uber passenger and an actress in a TV crime procedural — in an above-average outing. Let’s recount the best and worst moments:
BEST: WALK-ON GUEST STAR
Bobby Moynihan played a middle-school administrator excited about winning a charity-auction role in a crime procedural called The Bureau — that is, until Banks and Jay Pharoah’s FBI agents got on camera and busted his fictional character for sniffing teenagers’ one-piece bathing suits and exhibiting “pervert eyes.” A slight, silly premise upgraded by the actors’ goofy enthusiasm.
BEST: UBER FOR JEN
Cast-member-turned-writer Mike O’Brien popped up in this taped sketch about a woman whose Uber driver fails to heed instructions — instead dragging her along on errands such as buying lunch at a drive-thru and visiting his local bank for a mortgage. I may be a bad person for LOL-ing at O’Brien killing a pedestrian and then leaving him in an alley — all because he turned around to answer a question about Clueless Vs. Mean Girls — but I’m confident I’m not alone.
HONORABLE MENTION: “FIRST GOT HORNY 2U”
SNL‘s ladies — in this case, Banks, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Vanessa Bayer — joined forces as girl group Infinity Plus Five to extoll the virtues of their girlhood crushes. With lyrics like, “I got up on the couch/ And I knocked my first one out,” it wasn’t tasteful, but it sure was amusing.
WORST: STANDUP COMIC BRUCE CHANDLING
Mind you, I almost never laugh at anything when Kyle Mooney is central to the action, but the return of his clueless standup-comic character went from lame to grotesque when the big payoff turned out to be the fact that Chandling learned he was accidentally committing statutory rape against a teenage “girlfriend.”
WORST: THE ADVENTURES OF YOUNG BEN CARSON
Pharoah nailed Carson’s glassy-eyed belief in himself, but you need more than a facial expression to get true gut laughs, no? The sluggish pacing and tepid punchlines undercut Pharoah’s efforts, but hopefully we’ll get to see this impression put to better use as the season progresses.