Oprah for President – or not. Captain Hook’s young-boy pirate gang in the age of Bryan Singer jokes. And a Dog Head Guy. Last night’s Saturday Night Live struck a well-edged balance between the topical and the silly, with a game Sam Rockwell showing the chops to go either way (at one point getting in character a bit too much).
First the topical. Rockwell didn’t do Weekend Update, but the regular cast didn’t really need him, with anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che handling the week’s top obscenity-laced Trump story of the week, and Leslie Jones and a funny Chris Redd tackling Oprah Winfrey and a very, very amenable Stedman Graham.
Watch the Oprah clip above.
Update also took on Hollywood’s pay disparity and the Mark Wahlberg/Michelle Williams controversy with a commentary by Aidy Bryant. On Wahlberg’s donation of his reshoot money: “It would be so cool if it didn’t take a weeklong public shaming to do the right thing. Maybe do daily, private shaming, what I’ve been doing my entire life.”
Hollywood and its attempts at reckoning also “Fashion Panel,” a so-so sketch in which Rockwell, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, Melissa Villaseñor and Kate McKinnon (as Frances McDormand) serve as one of those E! News Golden Globes fashion panels now forced to alter their approach. A lesser sketch of the night:
Better was “Captain Hook,” in which Rockwell, at his episode best, plays the Disney pirate suddenly nervous over the public perception of a ship filled with boys who never grow up (Mikey Day, Kyle Mooney, Pete Davidson, Luke Null). SNL hasn’t gone the all-male pirate route since John Belushi boarded The Raging Queen way back when, and this time around deftly blended the topical with the absurd, Bryan Singer joke and all.
In the episode’s best digital short of the night, called “ATM”, Rockwell and Kenan Thompson play two men waiting at a late-night cash machine, with Rockwell nervous about having a black man so close. The encounter plays out – and is played by the actors – with both suspense and laughs, then ups the ante when Rockwell departs and Thompson has to deal with his own fears.
And then, in the episode’s outright silliest – and, since we’re being honest, funniest – moment came a bit of absurdity called “Genetics Lab,” in which a team of potential investors (Thompson, Bryant, Beck Bennett) inspect the lab of the title, only to find scientists (Rockwell, Day, Villaseñor) perfecting a pointless canine-human transplant they call Dog Head Guy.
There’s not a topical moment in the sketch, just a simple but hilariously realized visual gag allows an animal, with some human assistance, steal the show. Somewhere, Gilda Radner and Mr. Ed’s widow are laughing.