On a day when Alec Baldwin returned to both Saturday Night Live and the pages of The New York Times – the former a more joyful return, the latter seeing the newspaper rake the actor for his support of Woody Allen and James Toback – the women of SNL responded with grace and strength.
In other words, they stole the show.
With Natalie Portman leading the charge as guest host and welcome contributions from ex-staffers Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch, last night’s SNL was one of the best of the season so far, more of a group effort than last week’s very funny Will Ferrell-dominated outing.
Johnny-come-lately SNL viewers accustomed to sketches like two of last night’s best – “First Lady” and parodies of Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve – will rightly hear tales of SNL‘s long disregard for its female cast members as so much ancient history.
In “First Lady” (watch it above) Cecily Strong reprised her fine Melania Trump impersonation, a mixture of runway model pouting and incipient wokeness. Existentially alone, Strong’s Melania, reeling from news of her husband’s affair with a porn star, is visiting by the Spirits of First Ladies Past – a terrific set-up giving Portman another chance to don the pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat she wore in 2016’s Jackie.
Also joining the exclusive support group: Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon), Martha Washington (Aidy Bryant) and Michelle Obama (Leslie Jones).
The Ladies are determined to bolster Melania’s glum spirits. “Jack cheated on me with Marilyn Monroe,” said Portman’s breathy Jackie, attempting to show solidarity.
“Oh please,” responded a not-to-be placated Melania. “She was in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Donald’s girl was in Guys Like it Shaved.”
After encouragement from the Ladies, Melania is finally ready for her public appearance. “Now get out there and do what First Lady’s have always done,” says Jackie. “Stand there and clap.”
“Ok,” says Melania, something showing in her eyes, “but sometimes I’m going to sit down. And not clap.”
Another bit of SNL in the age of #MeToo came during Weekend Update, when Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong arrived as Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve, the legendary French actresses whose brand of ’60s sexual liberation hasn’t meshed well with today’s Time’s Up reckoning.
As the more conciliatory Deneuve, Strong, white wine in hand, hair perfectly Deneuved, told Update co-host Colin Jost, “We will not discourage you from being a man.”
To which the less woke – in more ways than one – Bardot slurred, “A man ees a man, a woman ees a woman, and if they are not, they are homo.”
“Oh Brigitte come on!” said Deneuve. “We were having fun. Let them get to know you first.” Sotto voce to Jost, Strong said, “she’s 83,” then to McKinnon, louder, “Sweetie, I said you are a legend!”
As the duo’s reputation-saving appearance went off the rails – “Free Harvey Weinstein!” blurted McKinnon’s Bardot – Strong’s Deneuve was left to mutter the line that just might have been the attempt at understanding that fueled the sketch.
“Brigitte is very old,” she said apologetically. “And very wrong.”
Elsewhere during the show, SNL went topical in a different direction, lampooning today’s Super Bowl with a visit to Colonial times, where a group of Patriots under the leadership of (an unseen) Capt. Thomas Brady were obnoxiously pumped over an impending battle, while a Colonial division from Philadelphia calling themselves Eagles were equally boisterous.
“Call us the Eagle because we’re ready to fly – and we are swift, we are deadly and our eyes are a little too close together.”
The sketch marked the return of ex-SNLers Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch, the latter returning with her wicked Boston impression. Take a look:
Portman’s monologue managed to get in a not-so-subtle plug for NBC’s upcoming Olympics coverage, with Portman’s comic timing getting the judges’ analysis from Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon, while Leslie Jones previewed her Games commentary duties.
Portman was back in “Stranger Things 3,” a peek at the upcoming season of the Netflix supernatural series, with new characters like a kid who can mentally start fires but vomits from the effort and a girl who can read minds but not without farting. It played better than it reads.
Filling the episode’s quota for the utterly silly (which this week crossed over into guilty pleasure) was “Alien Lover,” a Star Trek-like sketch in which a blue-skinned alien (Beck Bennett) attempts a sexual encounter with a human captain (Natalie Portman). And, no, it’s not the skin color that gets in the way, but the fact that the alien’s face is – and no subtle way to say this – his butt and his butt is his face. Stick around at least till he sneezes.
Good performances kept two sketches from the filler category, the first a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards parody in which Portman’s screaming host loses her voice, and a barstool gathering of Manhattan women jarred by the mating habits of a less than sophisticated newcomer.
Finally, here’s another Weekend Update segment, with Jost irreverently riffing on a Passion of the Christ sequel (“nailed it!”) and Che introducing February as “But What About a White History Month?”
Best of the segment was Pete Davidson, doing what he does best with honest, self-deprecating play-by-play of his most recent career setbacks and his issues with mental health, all of which builds to a hand injury that impacts his favorite by-himself hobby.
Take a look: