Jimmy Fallon brought a couple of his best characters and impressions back to his old Saturday Night Live stomping grounds, chief among them a young John Travolta (this time facing off against his aging Travolta) and, in another sketch, Boston Sully, with his wicked Sox loyalty and chowder-thick Southie accent.
First of the two was Travolta, appearing in both old and young forms on “Celebrity Family Feud: Time Travel Edition,” with Kenan Thompson as Steve Harvey hosting a game show between teams from 1977 and 2017. The reoccurring sketch – altered here with the time-traveling twist – called for a large number of performers doing some fine (and some finer) impressions.
On Team ’77 was Cecily Strong’s funny, loopy Liza Minnelli, Sasheer Zamata’s pompous Diana Ross, musical guest Harry Styles’ Mick Jagger (overcooked and not overpowering memories of Fallon’s take), and Fallon’s Young Travolta, a Grease-era version with big beautiful hair, a dumb, ingratiating smile and Vinnie Barbarino Brooklynese.
Team ’17 had Kate McKinnon’s spot-on Kristen Stewart, all nervous self-consciousness and hipster bluster; an underused Melissa Villaseñor’s excellent Gwen Stefani, Pete Davidson’s forgettable David Blaine and, of course, Fallon’s Old Travolta, his GI Joe-hair painted the same pitch black as his caterpillar eyebrows.
Fallon’s mastery went beyond costume, though. Nailing Travolta’s eager puppy dog beginnings and strained self-regard, bizarre appearance and oddly clipped vocal affectations of the older version, Fallon was triply impressive for his quick-dress skills, changing costumes as he ran, off camera, from one team to the other.
Fallon resurrected another character from his late-’90s/early ’00s SNL days, and got a little help from an old pal. In “Sully & Denise,” Fallon reprised the hard-partying Boston boyfriend (now husband) to Denise – surprise guest Rachel Dratch making a very welcome return to the show. Ever young in their wicked rowdy ways, the couple are older in other, with lines on their faces and at least a little P.C. restraint as they take their prim, brainy daughter (Kate McKinnon) on a visit to Harvard, or Haahvud.
Take a look:
And in what was, for my money, the funniest bit of the episode, Fallon and cast member Mikey Day play actors cast as basketball-playing extras in a film shooting on a public ball court in NYC. Their one and only job is to quietly shoot hoops in the background while the main action unfolds for the camera. Shouldn’t be a problem, since one even studied sports movement at Juilliard, right? Take a look at the episode’s funniest moments here:
And finally, here are a couple Fallon sketches, one a single-joke throwaway, the other a one-joke-played-too-long. The latter works best, if only for the enthusiasm of the ensemble. Then we’ll leave you with Fallon’s musical opening monologue, a David Bowie tribute, complete with unnecessary British accent, in which the guest host sings “Let’s Dance.” Note Nile Rodgers in the band – he produced Bowie’s classic.