Published Oct 07, 2018Living a dream come true, Awkwafina was more than ready to wow the largest audience of her young career, while Travis Scott, appearing in a sketch early, also made a strong impression as the night's musical guest. Here's everything that happened on Saturday Night Live this week.
The cold open
Kenan Thompson debuted his Don Lemon impression, and an almost-unrecognizable Beck Bennett also introduced a spot-on Mitch McConnell for the first time, in a CNN news update about the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. The show framed the result as two sports teams reacting to the news — the Republicans celebrating in their dressing room while the Democrats were repped by their sad coach, Senator Chuck Schumer, played by Alex Moffatt. This seemed to be a pointed way of dealing with the boys' club partisanship of this story, with women playing secondary or utilitarian roles at best, and was amusing.
Crazy Rich Asians star and musician Awkwafina had a funny yet earnest monologue. She made jokes about her financial status as a young, emerging Hollywood figure, and recalled her father in Queens, insisting she never forget her Chinese heritage. As such, Awkwafina highlighted SNL's diversity issues, telling us that, 18 years ago, she waited outside 30 Rockefeller Plaza in hopes of attending Lucy Liu's turn hosting the show, but ultimately never got in. She said seeing an Asian woman hosting the show inspired her to think she could do the same and lo, now she was.
Brooklyn Dance Off
This was a nice bit of physical humour, which featured some clever writing too. Two gangs show up for a duel that will be settled through a dance-off that takes unexpected turns. While one crew busts moves to edgy hip-hop beats, the other lose themselves to corny game show themes. With a guest spot by Travis Scott and some witty banter, this was enjoyable and funny.
A remote piece making fun of the past week's test of a presidential alert text. Various cast members react to the incessant, inane messages Americans might receive from their idiot leader, with the only respite coming for those with shoddy data plans. It was a short but effective piece.
The Hidden Tales of Egypt
Cecily Strong played a somewhat plain-looking Cleopatra until a visit from a make-up team — played by Awkwafina, Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon — convince her to upgrade her style. A silly idea that worked rather well with a nice, subtle assist from Alex Moffatt as Caesar.
Ted Cruz rally
A short remote, the show imagined a Ted Cruz rally that highlights how toxic the senator really is. Everything potentially fun that Cruz (played by Beck Bennett) touched, broke or deflated, suggesting that when it comes to joy, he really does possess the kiss of death.
Backed by John Mayer on guitar, Tame Impala's Kevin Parker on bass, producer Mike Dean and a female model vamping on a rotating merry-go-round horse, Travis Scott performed a medley of "SKELETONS" and "ASTROTHUNDER." Somewhat low-key, Scott's voice was shrouded in Auto-Tune, which infused it with a certain amount of distance. This first performance was alluring and an interesting visual spectacle but hard to connect with.
When he and Dean returned later for "SICKO MODE," with Drake's disembodied voice leading things off with a hook and an abbreviated verse, things got more compelling. With interesting staging and camera work and a much more dynamic hip-hop song, Scott's power as an artist and power popped off the screen.
For a second consecutive week, Michael Che and Colin Jost loaded up the top of the show with some rather good Kavanaugh jokes. A welcome visit from Mikey Day's Donald Trump Jr. and Alex Moffatt's glorious take on Eric Trump, suffering through arrested development, led to some pretty great physical comedy from Moffatt. After some further sharp jokes about a gender reveal party gone awry and Che delivering a funny callback to an earlier Trump joke, Pete Davidson arrived to do a desk piece, riffing on Kanye West's impromptu speech on last week's episode and urging him to get back on his medication.
Davidson actually had some astute commentary here and almost got through it without referencing his relationship with Ariana Grande (he showed a photo of the two of them together to highlight his strange wardrobe choices).
So You're Willing to Date a Magician
A goofy dating show bit, this had infamous SNL breakers, Leslie Jones and Pete Davidson, cracking up to a disruptive and infectious extent. With cast members playing iterations of unsuccessful magicians, Jones, as the game show's host, couldn't handle how ridiculous Kenan Thompson, Kyle Mooney, Davidson, and an incestuous brother-sister pair played by Alex Moffatt and Heidi Gardner, had to act in playing loser magicians. Though Jones tried to hide it, her inability to keep a straight face momentarily threw off Awkwafina too, but she managed to keep it together for this random and funny thing.
PSA: Pizza is a plate. pic.twitter.com/PI5aE3Obhc— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) October 7, 2018
SNL has used this premise before but Awkwafina, as an odd, straight-shooting interloper at a baby shower, was particularly good. At a gathering of moms, Cecily Strong plays a self-conscious single woman who invites a recent friend she made, but is unknown to the others to this baby shower. Awkwafina played a kind of motivational coach or one-woman interventionist, and this unfolded with measured doses of awkward, bizarre humour.
The Pumpkin Patch
In what appeared to be a classic Beck Bennett/Kyle Mooney premise, this remote was set in a pumpkin patch whose owner has discovered that his employees have had sex with the pumpkins. Bennett, Mooney and Awkwafina each made particular and specific choices about the hick-like simpletons for their guilty characters, while Mikey Day played a straight-laced boss who, relatively calmly, has to fire the trio because, again, they were credibly accused of having sex with pumpkins. Well-written as a short film, this was timely and good.
Kate McKinnon's Golden Age actress Debette Goldry returned to join a roundtable of women, for a panel discussion about #MeToo and Hollywood. As is custom, while younger people like Marion Cotillard, Allison Janney and Awkwafina each possess a more empowered and nuanced view of gender dynamics, Goldry reveals all manner of disturbing behaviour by men and studios that she, as a woman, has grown accustomed to accept as tolerable, even though it's really, really not. There have been more uproariously written scenarios for Goldry to recount in past iterations of this premise but, perhaps with Dr. Ford's testimony still ringing in our ears, the show softened its attack somewhat this week.