In one of the better cold openings on Saturday Night Live this season, Kate McKinnon and Larry David channeled Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in their latest CNN debate. The show was hosted by Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and the Seinfeld theme lent itself well to the upcoming New York primary, since the sitcom was the ultimate New York comedy. All that was missing was Jerry, George and Kramer, but Louis-Dreyfus asked Sanders (her former Seinfeld cohort David) for specifics on his plan to break up the big banks, and she rebelled when he invoked the “yada yada yada” obfuscating from that famous Seinfeld episode. McKinnon has been a little over the top as an exuberant Clinton, but David continues to dazzle as the Vermont senator, even engaging in a slap fight with his opponent that reflected the combative nature of last week’s debate. The Dems certainly got better treatment than the Republicans usually do, with Louis-Dreyfus blaming her HBO show Veep for informing the notion of a “presidential candidate being a cursing narcissistic buffoon.”
Louis-Dreyfus, who has carved the strongest post-Seinfeld identity of any of that sitcom’s cast with HBO’s Veep, reminded everyone of her early near-invisibility as a 1982 SNL cast member, and from there her movie “career” in films like Troll. She showed a clip of that one, but not Soul Man, where she shared the screen with a black-faced C. Thomas Howell. As she said, blackface had been considered racist for “only” 40 years when the 1986 film came along.
Louis-Dreyfus was the centerpiece of the commercial parody Heroin A.M., which parodied those annoying prescription drug commercials by touting heroin pills for parents. “I can get jacked on skag and then get to work,” Louis-Dreyfus’s character crows, adding that the product comes in the form of gummy bears “you can melt down and inject.”
As has been the case lately, the skits were hit and miss, but the writers (as they did last week in turning the ultra serious Russell Crowe into a fun and lecherous character in each one of his outrageous skits) used the host strongly, something they didn’t do when Louis-Dreyfus was all but ignored during the Martin Short-Billy Crystal era. On last night’s show, she played a jewelry-obsessed Massapequa, Long Island woman, a ’50s diva movie star who could not remember her lines, and a middle-aged pool boy-obsessed housewife in a pretty funny bit. It was one of several that worked in musical guest Nick Jonas, who has established himself as an emerging and engaging movie actor in the fraternity hazing Sundance drama Goat. Watch for this versatile young man to be hosting before long.
Last night’s show was an uptick from the previous week’s installment. “Weekend Update” anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continue to meld with a silly, unusual chemistry and sharp observations like one contrasting Sen. Bernie Sanders with Donald Trump after the former said he’ll release his financials because he’s poor and boring. Contrasting the differences between Sanders and Trump, Jost said that Trump spends two hours a day on his hair while Sanders’ barber is “the wind.” Jost also noted that Trump got the endorsement from The New York Observer, published by his son in law, while Senator Ted Cruz failed to get the endorsement from his own family’s Christmas newsletter. A study, Jost informed, said that 40% of former NFL players risked brain injuries, as evidenced by “the suits they wear on TV.”
The guests on Weekend Update were hit (Kenan Thompson’s Charles Barkley and Jay Pharoah’s Shaquille O’Neal) and misses (Aidy Bryant’s animal loving shut-in) and Cecily Strong’s ambitious but bizarre One-Dimensional-Female-Character-From-A-Male-Driven-Comedy. Too many of those skits get in the way when the fake newscasters are on a roll. The show then fell of a cliff with a game show involving CVS employees, and another involving a Match.com mixer, each bad enough to make you wonder if the show should shut off after an hour.