Read quirky however you like.
In the best of the lot, the digital short “Captain Shadow and the Cardinal,” Hart played a superhero who, along with youthful sidekick the Cardinal (Chris Redd), gets pulled over by a cop (Alex Moffat) for more or less driving while black. A Shadowmobile without license plates, a scary-looking utility belt and his rather attention-warranting living arrangements with the teenage Cardinal make for an uneasy pull-over – and that’s before cops find Captain Shadow’s white powdery energy dust. (Watch it above).
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In an “Inside the NBA” sketch, Hart did his devastating Shaquille O’Neal impression, joined by Kenan Thompson’s Charles Barkley, Alex Moffat’s Ernie Johnson and Chris Redd’s Kenny Smith, all discussing the Doug Jones victory in Alabama:
The host also appeared in “Active Jack,” a parody of vintage public television exercise shows, with Hart as a ’70s-era fitness buff and Kenan Thompson as the character in huffing, puffing old age. Has some laughs.
In “Nativity Play,” Hart joins the ensemble as Sunday schoolers staging a Christmas pageant with a llama playing the part of a camel. The joke (and it’s the only one in the sketch): The llama gets aroused and upstages the holiness with his lordly dimensions.
In “Office Phone Call,” Hart is a coworker who can’t bring himself to share the real reason he has to leave a meeting, leading inevitably to an explosive outcome. Dumb, but Hart plays discomfort very well indeed.
Better was the digital short “Holiday Jewelry,” a commercial parody plugging those bracelet charms that men seem to think all women love. “It’s a coffee cup, Greg got it for me,” a brave-faced Kate McKinnon tells other party-goers. “Greg, look, I’m wearing it. I got Greg a motorcycle.”
Worst of the night (and maybe worst of the season)? “Christmas Party,” an unfunny bit apparently designed around Hart’s rubber balding cap. He plays a milquetoast party-goer who gets bossed around by his wife (Leslie Jones, at her line-flubbing worst). Try to find a laugh here:
Since we can’t end on that note, let’s circle back to Hart’s opening monologue. He’s been better, and his take on fatherhood isn’t exactly cutting edge, but his energy and obvious delight in returning to SNL for the third time launched the episode with fine holiday cheer. Take a look:
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