Saturday Night Live, Sunday Night or Later: Episode 11


General Overview:
“It was really fun to see Kristen host, then Bill, then Andy, then Fred, then Kristen again, then Bill again, then Jason… Seth Meyers, I mean he’s one of my best buds, but you know, come on. He wasn’t really a sketch guy, he was just on “Weekend Update, does that even count as being on the show? But he hosted, right? John Mulaney was a writer when I was on the cast, and then he hosted FOUR TIMES. But hey, that’s ok. I’m not bitter about it. Saved the best for last, right?”
—Will Forte, 1/22/22

Just like with episode 4’s Jason Sudeikis, I was expecting longtime cast member Will Forte’s episode to be mostly old sketches that I would have no connection to and therefore not appreciate the nostalgia of. Thankfully, I was only half-right. This episode had more than its fair share of returning content: the cold open, “Weekend Update” guests and over half of the sketches had been done before. But far more importantly, throughout the night I was nearly consistently blown away by how good they all were.

This episode started off strong with one of my favorite cold opens, a parody of Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle,” starring Kate McKinnon. While it reused many joke templates they’ve done before, like “things ‘the liberals’ want to take away from you,” “here are the few people weird enough to sponsor me” and the newer “let’s make Donald Trump’s rambling into a word puzzle (in this case a Wordle) because that’s the only way to make sense of him,” what’s more important is that they did them well.

From there, the episode repeated many more things from past episodes, but it modernized the over-a-decade-old stuff and added new jokes to the more recent repeats. Basically, they just gave everything a fresh coat of paint in the form of stellar writing across the board.

Even the “Weekend Update” segment “A Guy who just Bought a Boat,” whose one mediocre joke and consistently middling quality is usually mildly cringey at best, was great this week. That might just have been mostly because Pete Davidson was dying of laughter on the sides, though. But who am I to complain? There’s no business like show business.

Surprisingly, the new content was what was lacking in this episode. “Kid Klash” was fine (although it apparently would have made more sense if I’d grown up in the ‘80s), but “Threesome” was painful to watch. I have never been a fan of the “awkward guy gets his wife hit on” sketch that they do with all sorts of settings and characters. Very little else in this episode was really “new,” but at least they were honest about it.

The sketches themselves tonight weren’t the strongest, but the cold open and “Weekend Update” more than made up for that. I don’t have any other real major criticisms of the episode, but I will add that “ESPN’s First Take” was too good to be cut for time.

Best Sketch:
“MacGruber: Coronavirus.” This wasn’t the funniest thing that happened all night, not by a long shot, but conceptually, it was the one I most appreciated. The sketch was broken up into three parts that played at the beginning, middle and end of the episode just like it was originally, and it gave the episode a nice thread of consistency to hold on to. I may not remember “Kid Klash” or “Jackie & Clancy” in two years, or even by the end of the season, but the camera cut to Forte in full Q-Anon Shaman finery at 1 AM will probably be burned into my brain for quite some time.

Best Joke:
“I’d like to take a moment to thank my few remaining loyal sponsors, like COVID Negs: the COVID test that’s guaranteed to be negative even if you have it. ‘COVID Negs: I’m going to your wedding!’”—Kate McKinnon

Overall Score: 9/10
I was shocked that I liked this episode as much as I did. From the first re-appearance of “MacGruber” to the gleeful madness that was “Jackie and Clancy,” this episode showed that SNL can modernize their old content in a way that plays to both new and old fans, and this will be my new standard for the right way to bring an old cast member back.