The long, national nightmare that is the 2016 election is a few weeks from wrapping up. This means that “Saturday Night Live” only has so much time left to tackle the dynamic between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and depraved businessman Donald Trump, and they’re not leaning away from it.
This week, an invigorated “SNL” took on “the second and worst ever” Presidential debate, passed out puppies to the audience, and introduced Emily Blunt as a legitimate comedic talent. Weekend Update even got in some jabs at Billy Bush and NBC! So what else worked, and what didn’t? Let’s dive in.
Best Sketch of The Night: “Melanianade”
If you try to parody Beyoncé, you have to do it as well as Queen Bey would, and — fortunately — “SNL” knows that. “Melanianade” was the show’s Trump-skewering version of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” and it’s something to behold. Casting our fair host as Ivanka, Vanessa Bayer as “other daughter” Tiffany, Sasheer Zamata as Omarosa (“Trump’s one black friend”), Cecily Strong as Melania and Kate McKinnon as Kellyanne Conway, the most prominent women in Trump’s immediate circle went after the Republican nominee for President.
The expert parody wouldn’t make sense to those unfamiliar with Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” album (and corresponding film for HBO), both of which largely involve her flanked by strong female allies and airing grievances with husband Jay-Z. However, considering most “SNL” viewers have at least some interest in pop culture, it’s okay to assume that “Melanianade” was well-received. The lyricism, the outfits, the editing, the dance moves — truly, this was “SNL” at its best.
Honorary Mention: “Drive-Thru Window.” IT WAS JUST SO SPECTACULARLY WEIRD. (Sorry not sorry.)
Sketch Most Likely to Go Viral: “CHONK”
The night’s lone commercial parody lampooned trends in women’s (and men’s) retail advertising. There’s really not too much that could or should be said about “CHONK” without spoiling it. So, watch it, and embrace your CHONK. Unless you’re a dude. Then you can just buy normal clothes.
Best Female Performer: Emily Blunt
It’s always nice to see a host genuinely enjoying himself or herself onstage, particularly when audiences aren’t sure what to expect from them. First-timer Emily Blunt went for it this week, committing to a lot of silly sketches with enthusiasm and a broad range of accents. The first sketch of the night, in which Blunt and Leslie Jones played escorts, actually got better based on the strength of Blunt’s commitment alone. Even when she broke — which did happen briefly — it was obviously because she was having a good time.
Also, her physical comedy was impressive; Blunt knocked over lamps and smashed into walls with glee. She only sang during the monologue, which was admittedly a relief after last week’s theater-heavy outing, but her singing voice is lovely, “Come On, Get Happy” sounded great, and the audience seemed legitimately surprised by the arrival of balloons, puppies and cast members’ moms.
More comedic roles for Emily Blunt, please.
Best Male Performer: Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars is a performer cooked up in a science lab; He’s so absolutely, blissfully perfect that he defies regular human physics. It’s impossible to find him cheesy. He’s never “too much.” Go ahead and tell me you don’t want to party with Bruno Mars. Stop lying! Of course you do. Everyone does. He’s a pint-sized, magical man. As such, he earned male performer of the night.
As expected, Mars performed new single “24K Magic,” but in a charming way unique to his crew: Mars began the song backstage, before moving into the audience, and eventually onto the normal stage – all without breaking eye contact with the camera, or missing a literal beat. His swagger, his exuberance, and his natural ability make Mars the ideal pop star. Plus, he made a cameo in one of the night’s more bizarre sketches and stole the whole damn thing.
Honorary Mention: Mikey Day, for his effort.
Worst Sketch of The Night: “Hamsters”
The last sketch of the night did not land. High-concept bits often do work — the evening’s ludicrous “Drive-Thru Window” sketch, for instance — but something about the hamsters just didn’t come together, perhaps because the “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” pastiche didn’t push beyond a basic recreation of the famous Edward Albee play (yes, with hamsters).
Yes, it’s always entertaining to see fully-grown adults, including one Golden Globe nominee for Best Actress (Blunt), in head-to-toe furry suits and fake rodent teeth. But “Hamsters” just felt like a waste.
Best Impression: Cecily Strong
If Strong isn’t nominated for an Emmy next year, something will have gone terribly wrong. Her Melania Trump impression only gets better, as her accent strengthens and her expressions grow more nuanced. This week, she had more than one opportunity to show off her gift: “Melanianade,” which was genius, as well as the best “Melania Moments” yet. (It is this reviewer’s wish that “Melania Moments” be expanded to tell a story across the episode — though making time for more non-election content is always welcome.) Strong earns extra points for doing her best Melania-as-Beyoncé and nailing it, but her pained debate host Martha Raddatz from the cold open deserves acknowledgment as well. As suggested previously, it definitely looks like this will be Cecily Strong’s breakout year as a performer.
Happy, goofy episodes of “SNL” make this election feel less gloomy. The show returns next week with host Tom Hanks and musical guest Lady Gaga.