It comes as no surprise that the strongest episode of Saturday Night Live this season was the first one hosted by Bill Hader. His co-star on The Skeleton Twins, Kristen Wiig, also stopped by. (At times, it felt like they were co-hosting the episode and – to be honest – I could have done with a lot less Wiig.)
Highlights include the return of Stefon on Weekend Update, a tribute to former SNL cast member Jan Hooks, and two musical performances by Irish singer Hozier.
You may have heard the news about North Korea’s baby-faced dictator Kim Jong-Un coming down with a bout of gout. (And he’s reportedly missing.) The sketch, which featured Bobby Moynihan as Kim Jong-Un, poked fun at the dictator’s God complex. It was a weak start to an otherwise great episode and only served to highlight the lack of Asian people on Saturday Night Live. Rating: D
Jokes about Hader being from Oklahoma and working for Iron Chef. Of course, Kristen Wiig showed up. We all saw that coming. Tony award winner Harvey Fierstein also showed up because Hader’s singing voice is apparently just like Fierstein’s. I was not a huge fan of the singing. Rating: C+
Herb Welch: Virginity Pledge
One of Hader’s funniest and strongest characters – Herb Welch – was sent to a high school to interview students about taking a virginity pledge. The sketch was fantastic, Hader showing why he’s the best. It also the marked the return of Pete Davidson, who was noticeably absent in last week’s episode. To make up for it, tonight’s episode featured a lot of Davidson. (The guy is okay, I just don’t see what all the hype is about.) Rating: A
The Group Hopper Trailer
Pete Davidson was the main cast member in this digital short. From a “casual fan of The Giver” and “adapted from the comments section of a Hunger Games trailer,” The Group Hopper trailer combines all of the tropes you see in movies adapted from YA dystopian novels like The Maze Runner, Divergent, and The Hunger Games. Featured players Sasheer Zamata, Beck Bennett, and Kyle Mooney also appear. Bill Hader dressed as a combination of Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games and Maleficent from the live-action movie adaptation was absolutely priceless. Rating: A-
Hollywood Game Night Parody
This was basically an excuse for SNL’s cast members to pull out some of their best celebrity impressions. Kate McKinnon showed up as “America’s second favorite lesbian” Jane Lynch, the actual host of this actual game show where a bunch of celebrities get drunk and try to guess which brand of chocolate bar they’re looking at.
All of the impressions were pretty spot-on. On one side, we have Cecily Strong as Sofia Vergara, Taran Killam as Christoph Waltz, and Jay Pharoah as Morgan Freeman. (My favorites were Cecily and Taran.) The other side had Beck Bennett as Nick Offerman (which received a lot of studio applause), Bill Hader as Al Pacino, and Kristen Wiig (yeah, she’s back) as Kathie Lee Gifford delivering some brutal Hoda Kotb jokes.
(Vanessa Bayer and Aidy Bryant were the non-celebrity contestants.) Rating: B+
Charles Daniel 39 cents commercial
Featuring Leslie Jones! Hader plays Charles Daniels who asks viewers to donate just 39 cents to help an impoverished village. The residents, played by Jay Pharoah, Kenan Thompson, Sasheer Zamata, and Leslie Jones, ask for more – like the price of an Arizona Iced Tea which is 99 cents. But Daniels thinks 39 cents is all they need and they should be grateful. The villagers ask him if he even knows what country he’s in and he responds with “Africa,” which elicits groans of dismay all around. Rating: B
Jan Hooks Tribute
This week, SNL lost one of their own – Jan Hooks was on the show from 1986 to 1991 and passed away on Thursday. To honor Hooks, they showed “Love Is A Dream,” a sweet and somewhat serious short film featuring the late Phil Hartman. It’s beautiful, a little weird, and very touching, especially now knowing that both of them have passed away. It got me right in the feels, you guys.
SNL played “Love Is A Dream” in the tribute episode for Phil Hartman after he died, as well.
Never heard of him but he’s tall and Irish, and that’s all you need to know.
Jokes about LaGuardia Airport, American teenagers versus Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, White House Secret Service, and deadbeat gay boyfriends who don’t want to get married. Pete Davidson returned to talk about gold chains and BET’s no guns policy.
But after seeing this tweet from John Mulaney earlier today…
Brainstorming some nightmares over Skype pic.twitter.com/sxEqJCoz95
— John Mulaney (@mulaney) October 10, 2014
I was most anticipating the return of Stefon!
The dynamic between Michael Che, who still comes across as a bit stiff and unnatural, and Stefon isn’t great so you definitely notice Seth Meyer’s absence. But Bill Hader is wonderful as that character, and watching him break over every mention of Dan Cortese was endearing as hell. Rating: B+
Learning Annex: Making Puppets
This puppet sketch with Bill Hader as embittered war veteran Anthony Peter Coleman is perfectly dark, edgy, and hilarious. “Here’s a joke – God.” My favorite bit is the smoke coming out of the puppet’s mouth. Rating: A
The last 30 minutes means it’s time for one of Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney’s weird sketches. This one is a ’90s throwback. Rating: C
Hozier Performs Again
Wiig does the introduction.
Cat in the Hat
Awkward reunion between The Cat (Bill Hader) and Cecily Strong’s character Linda, the mother to those two kids from The Cat in the Hat book (Aidy Bryant and Pete Davidson). Turns out The Cat and Linda have a past and he wonders if he fathered her children. Thing 2 (Taran Killam), or JonaTHING as he likes to be called, shows up at the end as Linda’s significant other, forcing The Cat to leave but not without getting the last word – “Oh, the places she let me go…” Rating: A
Next week is a rerun but stay tuned for October 25th when Jim Carrey hosts with musical guest Iggy Azalea.