Saturday Night Live: Season 41, Episode 9: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band
Tina. Amy. Bruce. I can’t remember the last time Saturday Night Live had such unstoppable headliners for a single episode. Seriously, this has the potential to be one of the best nights in many seasons. What else can you possibly say? There is nothing but excitement here. Come Goddesses of Comedy and The Boss. Show everyone how it’s done.
This is how you host. There’s a great reason why Poehler and Fey are considered powerhouses in the field of comedy after all! These two comedians were on their A-game and everything about this episode benefited because of that. The skits were funnier, the jokes flowed better, and the crowd laughter was stronger. I’m all for any big name person hosting SNL, but there’s no denying how enjoyable the show is when previous cast members return to the stage.
Probably the best example of this was a return of “Bronx Beat”, the night’s 10-to-1 segment. Taking a page from Will Ferrell’s recently hysterical Cold Open, there wasn’t a single cast member in this sketch. It was just Poehler, Fey, and special guest Maya Rudolph, and that’s really all you need for a good time. These three women with their laughably terrible accents gave an excellent night the perfect ending. As if to show how great they are as a trio, there was about 30 seconds of them just saying water to each other, and it was comedy gold. Sometimes, the best thing Lorne can do is let the veterans cut loose.
As for sketches that did involve the cast, “Meet Your Second Wife” was a standout sketch in a night of really solid material. What made it work so well was its delicate mix of absurd comedy and unexpected turns. Did anyone really foresee them trotting out children to take jabs at the age gap most adults shrug off because both people involved are still adults? A 50 year old person marrying someone 30 years old doesn’t raise (many) alarms, but there’s always the underlying truth that, yeah, when the older person was 30, the other one was 10. That’s the mark “Second Wife” hit and it ran with it all the way to the end. Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, and Kenan Thompson were great purely as the reactionary males, with Thompson getting the best material when he learned his second wife wasn’t Cecily Strong’s Rutgers Sophomore. It was actually her unborn child. “We don’t make the future, we just know it” was an amazing one-liner too by Poehler. It proves that these women have incredible precognitive abilities, and instead use it to torture married couples.
Now, there are two things people expect when you have Poehler and Fey on the roster: Weekend Update material and a return of their classic characters. The latter absolutely delivered in spades with the hosts bringing back Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton to play advice ghosts for Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton. Fey’s Palin was as great as ever, delivering another rambling monologue that just devolved into a jumbled mess without missing a beat. What I really liked personally was seeing the two different Clinton impressions SNL has found success with. They really are a sign of the times. Poehler’s 2008 Clinton is a lot more measured and calm, while McKinnon’s 2015 Clinton is a calculating wild-eyed candidate prepared to do whatever it takes to win. Watching these two bounce jokes off each other was amazing and I can’t imagine SNL handling this any better. The email joke at the end was masterfully done too.
Considering who we had at the helm, it’s not a shock that the women of SNL got the lion’s share of material. The three sketches I mentioned already were anchored by ladies, and the rest of the episode followed this same structure to great success. “Special Offer” was when Rudolph appeared for the first time and she just killed it. “Tina & Amy’s Dope Squad” was great commentary on them being viewed as singular forces of comedy when actually an entire army is behind them (including a gynecologist, their nannies, and Amy Schumer). The Poehler and Fey monologue was a special music number that let each comedian take the limelight in their own special way. SNL has been a great pioneer of female driven comedy as of late and this episode was proof of how hysterical the ladies on this show (past and present) really are.
Weekend Update has had a lot of hosts over the years. While people can debate one who was the best, nearly everyone agrees on one thing: the Amy Poehler and Tina Fey duo was incredible. People born in the late 80s and early 90s grew up with these ladies behind the Update desk, and they crushed it every single night. When it was announced that these two would host SNL as a duo, it’s not unreasonable to believe they would just take over for one night. Why wouldn’t they too? Colin Jost and Michael Che do it every week or so, this pairing doesn’t happen all the time, and it would be the perfect bit of nostalgia. It just made so much sense…which is why it’s very disappointing that it didn’t happen. All Poehler and Fey got were two jokes at the very end. You know they were put there because people would get even angrier if they didn’t show up at all, but it still wasn’t enough. There was so much potential here and it was missed entirely.
The pre-recorded sketch about wheelie boards (I refuse to call them hoverboards because, c’mon, they don’t hover) was pretty weak. It was less a joke and more an aggressive repetitious mention of a very serious design flaw on a recent fad. Sure, watching it blow up lead to a few laughs in the beginning, but it rapidly diminished with every new mention. Also, with a sketch as directionless as this one, it’s no surprise it had a poorly devised ending. The final joke was Pete Davidson quickly being whisked away on a rogue board. It was less a conclusion and more of the writers just running out of things to say.
In a classic example of SNL trying to turn anything into a recurring role, Thompson’s Jefferson obsessed director returned on “Movie Set” for the first time in a while. I had honestly forgotten this was a thing until about mid-way through the sketch, which isn’t a good sign. This was the rare bit that wasn’t elevated by Poehler and Fey present. They might have actually made it worse. Thompson was able to deliver his cartoonish shock face pretty easily, but whenever Poehler or Fey had to do it, they weren’t able to match his energy at all. Poehler especially had to pause before the take. It all felt very bumpy because of this. On top of that, it was another sudden and random ending.
This episode wasn’t perfect, but it was still an awesome night of comedy. You’d have to try extra hard to make a Poehler and Fey duo not work well. This was just start to finish hilarity. The Republic Debate Cold Open kicked things off very well, and then the night simply steamrolled forward with two beloved names in tow. I’m a little surprised Bruce Springsteen didn’t pop up in any segments, but we did get two amazing performances plus a surprise “Santa Claus is Comin to Town” at the very end with a cameo by Paul McCartney. Why was Paul McCartney there? Who gives a crap, he can do whatever the hell he wants.
I went into this episode expecting one of the best SNL show’s in a few years and that’s exactly what I got. SNL is always reliable with their Christmas episodes but this was something else entirely. The hosts were dominant, the skits were hysterical, and the music was incredible. The only big overlook was not giving Poehler and Fey full control of Update for the night, along with two weak sketches that still had a few laughable moments.
See you on January 16th when Adam Driver hosts the first episode of 2016!