Saturday Night Live – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Review

©2015/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC
©2015/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC /

It’s the last Saturday Night Live of the year, and expectations are sky high. This season has been a mixed one so far with hosts like Miley Cyrus, Amy Schumer and Chris Hemsworth. Now SNL legends Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are sharing the hosting duties to show the cast, writers and previous hosts how it’s done. It’s difficult for an episode of SNL to meet those kinds of lofty expectations, but Fey and Poehler delivered one of the strongest episodes of the season, even if it didn’t have any bits that can be considered instant classic.

The cold open was packed with excellent political impressions and some new takes on some of the candidates. It was a recreation of the republican presidential debate from earlier this week. Darrell Hammond returned with his rock solid Trump impression, which is an upgrade from Taran Killam’s. Killam instead stood in as Ted Cruz. Beck Bennett stole the show with his bewildered Jeb impression, and Bobby Moynihan and Jay Pharoah reprised their roles as Chris Christie and Ben Carson respectively. Hammond and Bennett played off of the headline grabbing duel between Trump and Jeb. Bennett constantly having to psych himself up before sparring with Trump was some excellently performed comedy. Cecily Strong also crushed as Carly Fiorina with the killer line, “I know Vladimir Putin personally. I sold him an HP printer. It didn’t work. It never worked.” Cold opens, especially this year, have seemed forced like SNL is checking off a political checkbox every time they do it, but Saturday’s was one of the best sketches of the night.

The monologue was a better premise than execution. Fey and Poehler hit the stage speaking in unison and finishing each other’s sentences. Then they grabbed the microphones to sing some original Christmas music. Poehler’s song was a breezy, Christmas pop song while Fey’s is a dark tale of Christmas from the bible. The songs went back and forth until they mashed them up together. As Fey puts it, Amy is the peanut butter in her salami.

The first sketch of the night is sure to be a topic of conversation on Monday. Kate McKinnon reprised her role as Hillary Clinton only to be joined by Amy Poehler’s version of Hillary. McKinnon’s was the current-day Hillary while Poehler was mid-00s Hillary. Modern Hillary cleverly warned younger Hillary about Benghazi and her email scandal, but shared a laugh when she told her that she would be facing Donald Trump in the general election. Eventually Fey’s impression of Sarah Palin returned to bring her dippy outlook on American politics. The three super-talents in one political sketch brought huge laughs.

My personal favorite sketch of the night, “Meet your Second Wife” game show, continues the long line of successful game show premises for SNL. Three shocked male contestants are introduced to their future second wives, all of which happen to be little girls. This all went down while their current wives were in the audience. The sketch delivers thanks to the nervously surprised acting by Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam and Kenan Thompson.

SNL finally went after the ridiculous craze of hoverboards in a lukewarm fake commercial. The bro-heavy ad made light of the fact that the devices have reportedly been catching fire. There’s a lot to make fun of when it comes to the kind of people who ride hoverboards. SNL went for the obvious and physical.

In a strange choice for recurring sketch, Kenan Thompson returned as the eccentric director from The Jeffersons working as a director of an artistic period piece. I can’t remember exactly which episode he was in, but we’ve seen this character before. The movie was a spoof of the new Cate Blanchett movie Carol. Fey and Poehler played lesbian lovers from the 1940s, while the director wants displays of surprise to mirror the comical performances of The Jeffersons TV show. It’s rare to see Poehler and Fey to adopt physical comedy, especially in this episode of SNL which relied on higher concept sketches, but they nailed their wide-eyed, comedic noises that Kenan’s character suggested.

It was a surprisingly brief Weekend Update this week with literally one-joke cameos for Update alums Fey and Poehler. Kate McKinnon continued her run as the most valuable Update guest with the character “Somebody’s Mom, Deenie.” Deenie came on to talk about the daytime television of 2015. She donned a Christmas sweater, ate salmon out of a tupperware container and didn’t know any of the characters names. She spouted descriptors as she shoved old salmon in her face. It was terrific. Che and Jost had some solid jabs at Bill Maher, Bill O’Reilly and Marco Rubio. Che’s best joke of the night came at the expense of Kwanzaa and how nobody celebrates it. As Che puts it, “You can’t follow up Christmas with a worse Christmas. That’s like Beyonce performing and at the end of the concert she says, ‘and now Fergie.’” Fey and Poehler came out to give the final jokes of 2015.

In a strange, but hilarious, sketch that was a spoof of Time Life classic Christmas performances, Maya Rudolph returned to SNL to worble through a drunken rendition of “12 Days of Christmas.” Rudolph, Fey and Poehler in a single sketch goes on to prove just how underrated the cast was when they were all a part of it. Remember that Kristen Wiig was a part of that cast, too. They’re able to nail such a wide range of comedy seemingly effortlessly. The sketch ended on a Bill Cosby rendition of “Baby it’s Cold Outside.” Honestly, why does poking fun at Bill Cosby’s transgressions still get groans from the audience? I think we can all agree that he’s a pig. 

The digital short came late in Saturday’s episode where Fey and Poehler spoofed Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” video. Entitled “Dope Squad” Fey and Poehler shouted out all the ladies they roll with including their nanny’s, gynecologist (they share the same one), Gail King, Amy Schumer and Robert Downey Sr. It made sense to tuck “Dope Squad” toward the end of the episode. It’s a concept that is sure to get some traction online and Schumer’s cameo is top-shelf, but the payoff left something to be desired.

Having Poehler and Maya Rudolph in attendance was a good excuse to bring back Bronx Beat in the 10-to-one slot. Fey joined the two New Yorkers with a talk show as the friend from Philly with the most over-the-top accent she could muster.

Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen brought the house down with two performances, plus an encore with three minutes left at the end. He sang “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” while joined by the entire cast and Paul McCartney, (!) who was apparently in attendance. It was a great sendoff for SNL’s 2015. Seeing everyone happy at the close brought smiles to everyone watching.

SNL ended on a high note, which was never a given in this inconsistent season. Fey and Poehler are such skilled writers and performers that this episode was basically in the bag when they were announced as co-hosts. Adam Driver brings SNL back with its first new episode of 2016.

Last Night On grade: A-