There are a few different types of Saturday Night Live hosts. There’s the talented dramatic actor who’s stepping into rare comedic situations. There’s the athlete who has no acting experience. There’s the actor who’s really happy to be there, but doesn’t have the comedic chops to make the zany sketches that the SNL writers come up with quite work. Ryan Gosling is in the latter category.
Gosling took the stage after a Trump-centric cold open that was as shoehorned as political sketches get. It didn’t even have enough material to make it to the five-minute mark. Trump announced his naughty and nice list. Riveting. Gosling’s monologue wasn’t the typical “song and dance” number we’re used to even though it included a song and dance. He came out doing local plugs and trying to fire up the crowd by shouting out Brooklyn until an audience member pointed out that he’s actually from Canada. That’s when Mike Myers came back to join Gosling in song about Christmas in Canada. It was an undeniably clever song, while Mike showed off some impressive tap dancing skills.
The point after the monologue is usually reserved from prerecorded sketches or commercials, and this week’s commercial was for a fake dating app called “Settl.” Settl is for women who are late enough in life to overlook obvious flaws in their dates. Props to the women of SNL for coming through with strong performances of uncomfortable smiles through gritted teeth while they introduce their new boyfriends. Also noteworthy: Settl’s tagline is “Tick Tock.”
The first live sketch of the night is going to be the one everyone is talking about this week. It’s not because it was particularly good or clever, but because Kate McKinnon had everyone involved fighting back laughter, including the worst offender Ryan Gosling. The sketch, set in the Pentagon, involved three alleged alien abductees being interviewed by government officials. Gosling and Cecily Strong played the typical abductees with typical alien stories, while McKinnon’s character told outlandish tales of what the aliens did with her. “They made me pee in a bucket and then they just took the bucket. I don’t think I was dealing with the top brass.” The sketch is carried by McKinnon’s character and performance. It had almost a Stefon feel to it, with one outlandish statement coming after another and everyone involved is trying not to laugh.
Santa Baby marked the second pre-recorded sketch of the night. This Tarentino-esque bit had Gosling and Vanessa Bayer as a couple at a Christmas Party. The two aggressively believe in Santa Claus, so much so that they end up violently threatening anyone who tells their children that they think they heard Santa on the roof. They want to meet Santa so badly that they force the host to show him to them. It’s such an off-putting combination of Christmas story and grindhouse film. Unusual doesn’t always mean funny.
Aidy Bryant was back playing her recurring role as the early developing tween at the sleepover. This week’s victim of aggressive come-ons was Gosling who played the host’s dad. The sketch followed the familiar format: the girls talk about typical grade-school age things, the lame dad walks in, Bryant’s character is sexually attracted to the dad. It’s never been my favorite sketch, but Bryant’s Chris Farley-esque pratfall at the end nearly makes it all worthwhile.
It was a run-of-the-mill Weekend Update this week. It wasn’t the best and wasn’t the worst. There were some toothless Trump, Jeb and Carson burns. Cecily Strong got to try out a new character named Jill Davenport, a Glamor Magazine writer who came on to talk about gadget gifts for the Christmas season. But she was actually there to flirt with Colin Jost. Kudos to Strong for bringing this character to life with her over-the-top flirting, taking off her jacket because “it’s so hot in here,” and then later asking for Jost’s jacket because she’s cold. I don’t know how much mileage Strong can get out of this character, but it’s definitely a good one-off. Bobby Moynihan’s Second Hand News Correspondent Anthony Scarpino returned along with his cousin, the third-hand News Correspondent played by Gosling. They’re unison high-pitched “I’m pretty sures” were just terrific. This was one of the few character that Gosling actually nailed. Best joke of update: “Kylie Jenner sparked outrage when she posed for a photoshoot as a sex doll in a wheelchair, but they say ‘dress for the job you want.’”
The “what the heck was that” award goes to the sketch following update. Gosling played himself being interviewed for GQ of his home town of Cornwall in Canada. Kyle Mooney plays a scrawny bully from Gosling’s past who kept interrupting the interview to rib Gosling. The twist is that Gosling is actually very good at all the things Mooney’s character makes fun of him for, like singing and dancing. It ends with the physical gag of Mooney taking off his shirt to compare physiques.
In the third (!!!) pre-recorded sketch of the night poked fun at the lunacy of the George Clooney-Danny DeVito Nespresso commercials. Honestly, I don’t understand them myself. Bobby Moynihan plays an honest and puzzled DeVito who turns out to be genuinely concerned for Clooney’s well being. Watch this one before it becomes dated, which is inevitable. It’s not like the Nespresso commercials have infiltrated the mainstream.
The naughty elves returned for the 10-to-one spot. Vanessa Bayer, Keenan Thompson and Gosling played three Santa’s elves who are practically begging to be physically punished. This sketch always makes me laugh thanks to the elves’ performances. They can barely get out their requests because they’re so excited by the thought of physical punishment. Bonus points for Moynahan’s Santa saying “3000 years ago, I would’ve torn into all of you.”
There weren’t many standout moments from Saturday’s episode, and host Ryan Gosling faded into supporting roles for many of the sketches he was a part of. Strong recurring sketches mixed with hit-or-miss pre-recorded sketches make this episode a mixed bag.
Last Night On Grade: B-