The way this presidential campaign has been going, do we even need Saturday Night Live to parody it anymore?
It’s been a crazy week of political bombshells — hey, seen any good Donald Trump videos lately? — and the SNL writers had to be licking their chops at the thought of tearing into all the scandals. Plus, this week’s host was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who gave us all a U.S. history lesson in the Broadway sensation Hamilton, so he’s used to dealing with very extreme political situations. (At least we haven’t seen a pistol duel to the death… yet.)
In his monologue, Miranda poked fun at how timely his musical has become in light of the current campaign nuttiness. He joked that Hamilton is about two ruthless New York politicians fighting tooth-and-nail for control of the country: “You know… escapism.” He took a musical trip through SNL‘s backstage with backup dancers in tow — and even got to sing “never gonna be President now” to a picture of Donald Trump.
This week’s episode took advantage of Miranda’s musical chops, with him singing and/or rapping in nearly every sketch. But did the writing rise to the occasion? Let’s take a look at the best and worst of this week’s SNL:
BEST: VP DEBATE COLD OPEN
The cold open gave us a head-fake by starting out with this week’s snooze of a VP debate. But the sketch quickly cut to Alec Baldwin’s Trump in front of that familiar cityscape, bellowing, “Are you not entertained?” He did his best to “app-la-gize” for his crude behavior, saying he was just “a young, childish 59-year-old man” when the video was recorded. He also promised this nation’s women: “If you give me a chance, I promise I can do a whole lot more than just grab it.” (Ew.) But the highlight, as always, was Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton, grooving to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate” and chugging Champagne. She had a message for all the female voters who still supporting Trump: “My babies… ya brain broke.”
BEST: DENISE AND DOREEN
Weekend Update got a visit from two old friends: former anchors Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon, who donned fleece vests and pink turtlenecks to play Denise and Doreen, a pair of undecided Philadelphia voters. (Fey: “I’m torn… from a scooter accident.”) Fey’s thick Philly accent was absolutely on point, and she got a chance to slip in a meta joke at Fallon’s expense, making fun of his character for secretly liking Trump and “messing up his hair.” But they didn’t seem to like Hillary much, either — especially the fact that she never got revenge on any of the women Bill cheated with: “At the very least, you gotta cut off the ponytail.”
BEST: STRANGER THINGS
For fans of Netflix’s supernatural ’80s drama, this sketch answered one of Season 1’s burning questions: “Where is that black kid’s family?” A fake sneak peek at Season 2 had Leslie Jones and Kenan Thompson playing Lucas’s mom and dad, with Mrs. Sinclair scolding the boy: “I told you not to hang out with these little white kids.” When Lucas whined about the Upside Down, she had a stinging response: “People who look like us already live in the Upside Down.” And once again, McKinnon stole the show as an intense, Eggo-devouring Eleven.
BEST: CRUCIBLE CAST PARTY
The raunchy music video “(Do It on My) Twin Bed” is one of the best things SNL has done in years, so it was great to see Aidy Bryant and company go back to that well again. After a successful high school production of “The Crucible” — “we didn’t mess up at all” — the cast is excited for “the horniest event of the year”: the cast party! The hormonal young actresses were determined to “rip it up until 11:45,” seducing hot dudes with the choreography from Chicago and taking a guy into the closet to… watch a DVD of their play. Miranda even got a chance to add a rap bridge; too bad his mom had to come in and ruin the party.
WORST: CAMPFIRE SINGALONG
It’s a little alarming that this was the first sketch after the monologue; it felt like one of those weak 12:45 am sketches that no one laughs at. Cecily Strong and Miranda played a cute couple sitting around a campfire and harmonizing together on “Blowin’ in the Wind.” Unfortunately, they were joined by Kyle Mooney and Vanessa Bayer playing a couple of unwelcome guests who insisted on singing a horribly off-key a capella version of “Footloose.” Over and over again. It was supposed to be funny annoying; it was just annoying.
WORST: THE MUSIC MAN
Did we mention that this episode bent over backwards to give Miranda a chance to sing? They staged a production of the classic musical The Music Man — but forgot to add any jokes. Miranda played a man from Wells Fargo who came to give everyone in town a bank account… or three. The Wells Fargo scandal is certainly a worthy target of satire, but this attempt felt half-baked and under-rehearsed. It’s sad when the sketch’s biggest punchline is a kid’s heavy lisp.
What were your favorite sketches of the night? And what missed the mark? Hit the comments and make your picks.