If you don’t like political humor and satire, you should probably stay away from Saturday Night Live, and really all of late night television, for the next several months. The presidential race is the starting point for talk show hosts and sketch comedy shows during these times. Saturday night had a political cold open, the place for political humor for several decades, a pre-recorded Trump ad spoof and Weekend Update.
Then there was host Jonah Hill, who isn’t the most political celebrity out there. While he wasn’t a part of any of the political sketches, he brought his energy and acting chops to the SNL fray. The result was one of the stronger episodes of the season with fewer repeated sketches and more fresh ideas.
The cold open spoofed the last week of presidential primary elections by mocking Trump’s speech with the bewildered Chris Christie (played by Bobby Moynahan) in the background. It featured impressions of Hillary and Cruz, also. I guess Larry David wasn’t available to bring back his popular Bernie Sanders impression. Then again, Bernie didn’t have a ton to celebrate this week.
Jonah’s monologue has to go down as one of the strangest of the season. It opened awkwardly as he explained that he had nothing to promote and didn’t even star in a movie last year. Then he brought out the musical guest Future to do a rendition of his song with Drake “Jumpman” while Jonah played the part of Drake. Hill did a verse, and that was the end of the monologue. It wasn’t exactly funny or creative, but it was certainly a monologue.
Then came the moment everyone will be talking about this week: it was a fake commercial for Trump. Specifically, it’s name was “Racists for Trump.” The ad ran like a typical political ad showing unassuming Americans talking to the camera about why they support Donald Trump. That’s how it plays out until the camera pans out to show them burning books, ironing a KKK robe or carrying wood to a cross burning session. SNL is at its best when it goes for the edgy, but it’s hard to be sold on its political stance when they gave Trump the stage just a few weeks ago.
From there, SNL poked fun at northern accents with the Fon Du Loc News. It was staged as a local news set, but anchors played by Jonah Hill and Cecily Strong had over-the-top Wisconsin accents and wore winter jackets. It wasn’t so much news as it was northerners talking local happenings. There’s something inherently funny about that accent, and I don’t know exactly what it is. Parts of the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer were unintentionally funny and it’s all because of that accent. This sketch tapped into that humor and nailed it.
The second prerecorded sketch was called “The Champ.” Jonah Hill played a high school jock getting dropped off at his house after winning a big wrestling match, that was until it was revealed on the local news, much to Hill’s shock, that the community came together to give the school loser a special moment where he was able to be victorious against the real school. It went on for a little long, but Kenan Thompson’s role as the school janitor stole the sketch.
The second live sketch on the night was a better concept than its execution. The setting was a high school student auction. A couple of the high school students had decent followings on YouTube, which got the attention of a couple middle eastern princes who wanted to bid millions of dollars to bring them to the middle east to perform for royalty. The concept on paper is a good one, but Jonah Hill playing a middle eastern errand boy who yells at the students and PTA didn’t bring many laughs.
This week’s Weekend Update was probably the longest of the season. It wasn’t bad, but could’ve been trimmed. Cecily Strong’s “girl you wish you wouldn’t have started a conversation with at a party” returned after a long hiatus. I don’t think she’s been on since Seth Meyers left the post. The appearance didn’t change the character’s formula and brought the laughs. Jay Pharoah came in at the end to talk about the Kat Williams/Kevin Hart feud, which was just an excuse for Pharoah to impersonate every notable black comedian. Sure, the impressions were on point. His impressions always are, but it just seemed so shoehorned into Weekend Update.
Then came a Clue-esque sketch where several victorian-style characters tried to figure out who the murderer was, but it turned into a sketch where the other characters accused of Jonah Hill’s character’s unusual and embarrassing bathroom habits. The gag felt reminiscent of The Champ sketch from earlier in the night. Everyone just pointed out embarrassing things about Hill’s character, and we had already seen that in this episode.
The night ended with another Inside SoCal segment; the brainchild of Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett, plus a final sketch where Jonah played an enthusiastic caterer. It’s a recurring sketch where the duo spoof California teen living, and the whole SNL crew came to help with the impressions. It’s a well produced segment that always makes me laugh.
In a season that has been wildly inconsistent. Jonah’s episode was in the top half of the crop. Plus, it was his fourth time hosting. That makes one more hosting gig for Hill and Melissa McCarthy before they’re inducted into the Five Timers Club.