Saturday Night Live: Adele hosts as cast pulls off the Jeffrey Toobin gags
This week we kick off with a send-up of the second and “praise Jesus, final” presidential debate. Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) tries to play nice by complimenting moderator Kristen Welker (Maya Rudolph), although he’s his usual unhinged self when directing nutty personal attacks and lies against Joe Biden (Jim Carrey), who struggles to keep his temper in check.
From the get, the sketch is riddled with awkward pauses, missed cues and bungled lines – a frustrated Carrey exclaims ‘Damnit!’ – and it quickly devolves into a mug-off between the guest stars (Carrey’s rubber-faced caricature captures almost none of the real Biden’s idiosyncrasies, serving instead as pure ego trip). Puttering to a weak end, it’s the worst of the election cold opens so far, which is really saying something.
Adele hosts for the first time, talking about how her 2008 performance on the show was the catalyst for her breakthrough in America. She thanks Sarah Palin directly. She then addresses confusion over why she’s not pulling double duty as host and musical guest – “I’d rather put on a wig, have a glass of wine or six and see we happens” – tabloid obsession with her weight loss, and her penchant for cursing when nervous. There’s little in the way of humor, but Adele comes off as laid back, which is a nice change of pace from a couple of noticeably nervous hosts.
The first sketch is set in 2019 and sees a group of friends visiting a fortune teller, Kate McKinnon, who relays blurry visions of the hellscape that is 2020, which none can comprehend. (She tells one, “In 2020 you do something so terrible none of your friends will ever speak to you again … you eat inside a restaurant!”) The best sketch of the season thus far, it really sticks the landing with a final revelation that one of the friends is Jeffrey Toobin’s daughter.
A new Chad sketch finds Pete Davidson’s laconic slacker visiting a haunted house and being confronted by a restless ghost, who tries to confide in him about her murder but accidentally kills him. It’s slight even by Chad standards, but Adele acquits herself well as the spirit.
On a new season of The Bachelor, Adele is a contestant. Looking for love after a series of public heartbreaks, she refuses to pace herself emotionally, breaking into song at the drop of a hat, much to the chagrin of the bachelor and the other contestants. It’s a mostly lazy excuse to have Adele belt out some her hits, but it’s hard to complain since she gives it her all.
A campaign commercial for Trump Addicts of America sees Biden voters admitting their fear of a post-Trump world: “My entire personality is hating Donald Trump. If he’s gone, what am I supposed to do? Talk to my kids?” The premise is solid, since previously apolitical anti-Trumpers definitely deserve to be mocked, but SNL is absolutely no position to sit in judgement. It’s impossible not think, “The lady doth protest too much.”
The night’s musical guest is HER, who performs the soulful Damage. On Weekend Update, Colin Jost compares Biden’s performance in the debate to Giants quarterback Daniel Jones much-memed trip at the 20-yard-line earlier this week (a comparison that doesn’t seem to bear out the post-debate snap polls, but whatever). In another bit of SNL’s patented both-sidesism, Jost laments how old and out of it both candidates are: “This election is the equivalent of a baseball team giving a four-year deal to Willie Mays NOW.”
Melissa Villasenor joins the desk to talk about her summer quarantine. She quirkily rolls through a number of random impressions – the little Rascals, Link from Zelda, Stevie Nicks and Sia. Then, following another solid dig at Toobin, this time courtesy of Michael Che – “He’s from the New Yorker, so you know that jerk was dry as hell!” – they welcome the Village People, who respond to Trump’s playing their music at his rallies by singing “Cease and Desist” to the tune of YMCA.
Next, Rudolph plays a grandmother paid a socially distanced visit by her grandchildren. They try to sugarcoat their struggles with jobs, money and marriage with millennial jargon, but her constant refrain of “WHA?” breaks them down until they’re forced to air their failures in the most basic terms: “We had a three-way and he liked the other girl more!” It’s good to see Rudolph playing a purely silly character again.
A message from the tourism board of Africa sees Adele and McKinnon playing horny divorcees hot for the “tribesmen”. It’s a seemingly problematic bit – let’s see if it provokes the same outrage Bill Burr got for calling out white women a few weeks ago – but it’s hard to focus on anything other than Adele’s full-bodied breaking throughout. Then HER takes the stage for a performance of Hold On, taking a break from crooning for a solid guitar solo.
The final sketch sees Adele and Rudolph in a commercial for Ass Angel Perfume Jeans – women’s jeans that use a dangerous amount of chemicals to cover up embarrassing “lady smells”. It hits all the beats of a modern-day prescription drug ad, despite being set in the 80s. This strikes me as indicative of one of the major problems of current-day SNL– half-decent ideas fail to land because the writers can’t commit to a basic premise.
This episode was about on par with the last three, although it contained a few more laughs. H.E.R. put in a very good performance and Adele held her own, save for breaking in the penultimate sketch. Mercifully, we’ll only have to weather a few more election cold opens, although we can only pray a Biden victory won’t result in Carrey sticking around like Baldwin did.