This is the type of episode that can restore hope for “SNL”: A surprisingly charming host, guest stars, and an unfettered political take that runs through the entire episode. Instead of confining cultural commentary or White House jabs to the cold open, the writers took on the Trump Era throughout the night. Even Update was consistently straightforward — until they chose to break it up with Kenan’s impression of David Ortiz. But between Kristen Stewart grinning through “I’m so gay, dude,” as she addresses the President directly and… You know what? We won’t spoil it here. Just know that it was a Good Episode, and “SNL’s” commitment to prop cigarettes this season is a weird, wonderful gift.
Host: Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart often gets painted in any number of unflattering lights: Aloof! Uncaring! Cold! Therefore, it was difficult to know what to expect from her as a host. But she came out swinging. In the first few minutes of her monologue, Stewart joked about “Twilight,” brought up President Trump’s infamous (and very real) tweets about her relationship with Robert Pattinson, and acknowledged her reputation for being a little too cool. Stewart fidgeted a little, but spoke casually, conversationally, and set the audience at ease. Throughout the night, she came across as warm, and genuine, and legitimately funny, and — fine — extremely cool. She romanced more than one cast member, and cursed so suddenly that censors couldn’t catch it. It was nice to see this side of her. Anyone else feel like buying a leather jacket and smoking a cigarette outside of 30 Rock now? Just wondering. Asking for a different writer.
Best Sketch of The Night: Sean Spicer Press Conference
We don’t often get a CSPAN parody any later than the cold open, so when the title card appeared around the 12:30am mark, we knew we’d be in for something good. And then a heavily disguised guest star — as you’ve probably seen by now, it’s Melissa McCarthy — charged up to the podium and made late-night history. (If you’ve managed to avoid watching a Sean Spicer press conference, you’re fortunate. It’s maddening! Spicer sputters, shouts, and verbally attacks the people whose questions he’s there to answer. These happen almost every afternoon.) Without giving away too much, know that this impression is the type of unbridled lunacy that McCarthy was made for.
Best Parody: Welcome Video
In the wake of the “Definitely Not A Muslim Ban” enacted by the White House, here’s the TSA-edited version of the United States’ “Welcome Video,” which now more accurately reflects the experiences of international travelers. Unfortunately, this had to be done hastily, and without anyone else signing off on it. But, that’s fine! What the President says, goes, immediately, right? Nothing will change, and then change again? That would be a disaster. You know what? Whatever. The video needed an update, anyway.
Best Impression: Melissa McCarthy
So, you’ve watched the press conference by now, right? You’ve seen it? What an earth-shatteringly good Sean Spicer that was? It’s unbelievable: The rage in her face; the fury in her answers, and the way yelling gives way to botched rhetoric that you can almost start to agree with. Whose idea was this? She’s unrecognizable. She became Sean Spicer. Even at the sketch’s silliest points, she stayed in character. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Spicer angrily brandishing props at the press corps by next week. Every note — from chewing an entire container of gum to referring to everyone Spicer dislikes as “Glenn” — was miraculous. At the absolute least, it will make the next few press conferences easier to bear.
For what it’s worth, actual cast members (and the host!) turned in some solid impressions as well: McKinnon’s Justin Bieber is always a delight, Stewart’s Gisele Bundchen was pretty good, and Pete Davidson’s Grandpa Joe was ridiculous.
Best Female Performer: Kate McKinnon
It’s starting to feel like this goes to Kate McKinnon by default, because cast members Leslie Jones, Sasheer Zamata, and Melissa Villaseñor have felt oddly absent in recent episodes. But that wouldn’t be fair to McKinnon, who is a truly gifted performer, comedic actor, and impressionist. In this episode alone, we saw her Angela Merkel, Justin Bieber, and freakishly accurate Betsy DeVos, and her character work was equally funny. Her “cool-girl” wig in the monologue perfectly complemented her “whatever, man” posturing, and the way she gasped and grabbed Stewart after she swore was adorable. Stay forever, Kate McKinnon, you loony comedy goddess.
Best Male Performers: Alex Moffat & Mikey Day
Welcome to the varsity team, new guys. Though neither one had a starring sketch this week, their bit work was excellent. Moffat’s accent as Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was solid, and Day’s timing as a UConn “Dry Fridays” counselor was amazing. Whether Moffat was being berated by Sean Spicer, or Day was snapping at Pete Davidson in “Meet Cute,” it was exciting to watch the next generation of “SNL” begin to bloom.
Runner-Up: Kyle Mooney. He was totally wearing a diaper at one point, right? That was a diaper?
Sketch Most Likely to Go Viral: Totinos Ad
Simultaneously a commentary on gendered football fandom, a French art film, and an ad for pizza rolls, this commercial parody — if you can call it that — will make “SNL Best Of” countdowns for years to come.
How can this be described simply? If you’re a douche-y football fan barking at your wife to cook pizza rolls, make sure your buddy doesn’t bring his alluring sister to the Super Bowl party. Oh, and it’s probably NSFW.
Worst Sketch of The Night: Dry Fridays
Spoiler alert: This is not a bad sketch. There really wasn’t a “worst” sketch of the night! How ‘bout that, “SNL”! But really, since this isn’t a bad sketch at all – maybe a little incongruous with the overtly political episode, but it works – we’re just going to use this space to talk about it. This was the first sketch of the evening, post-monologue (and post-Stewart saying a four-letter word live on camera). Tensions were high, understandably, and when Stewart struggled with a wig early on, we were anxious about how the night would proceed. But once “Dry Fridays” was off and running, we knew we could relax. After lampooning her own too-cool image during the monologue, Stewart played a low-key, legitimately too-cool UConn kid caught drinking in the dorm. You know, with a chainsaw.
The host dropped an f-bomb during the monologue, and somehow it only got better from there. “Saturday Night Live” is back next week with host Alec Baldwin (no, really) and musical guest Ed Sheeran.