Matthew McConaughey said in his opening monologue on “Saturday Night Live” that it had been 14 years since the last time he was on the show. This isn’t true. He hosted in 2003, and the last time we checked, that was only 12 years ago. But that was about the only thing that McConaughey did wrong Saturday evening.
The cold open began with the old reliable “Fox and Friends.” Sure, it’s formulaic, but since we’re living in a news cycle that has forced us into election season way too early, it’s refreshing to see Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer, and Bobby Moynihan skewer the extreme right. Best lines from the sketch included Bayer’s Elizabeth Hasselback angry about Black Friday: “All Fridays matter!” Also noteworthy was Jay Pharoah‘s Ben Carson: “I’m like a koala bear. On the outside I seem nice, but on the inside, I’ve never held elective office.”
McConaughey’s monologue was a recapping of how he first came to utter the “alright, alright, alright” that has been his catchphrase since his screen debut in “Dazed and Confused.” He told the story without many laughs, but with the engagement of a guy that you’re a few beers deep with at the bar. Not that funny, but it was entertaining just the same.
The first sketch after the monologue will be the one that everybody is passing around for the next week. It was a pre-taped vignette of a Thanksgiving meal where the different generations clashed in their political views and lifestyle choices, but just as things started to get really heated, a young girl pressed “play” on a boombox. As soon as Adele’s “Hello” came through the speakers, everybody at the table became lost in the moment, singing, growing totally enraptured and slowly becoming Adele. Jay Pharoah for the win again as he held his painted nails to his face with his long, silky hair blowing in the sepia-toned wind.
Next up was Kenan Thompson leading a band at Charlie’s Blues Shack. McConaughey played an out-of-tune bluesman sitting in with a New Orleans house band whose blues don’t go much deeper than having a sucky fantasy football team.
Cecily Strong set up the next sketch, leading a presentation about a company called Bio-Print, which figured out how to use a 3D printer to create a human man. She invited audience members to guess which of the three men onstage is not a real human. Without giving away too much, this sketch is full of some of the most quotable “SNL” lines since the 90s, with the character who may or may not be the 3D printing of a man saying things like “you’re making a sunglasses guy like me laugh hard from my face.”
The highlight of the show was a pre-taped bit with J.J. Abrams introducing screen tests for the new “Star Wars.” It’s an easy joke, and one “SNL” has done before, most magnificently with Kevin Spacey playing Christopher Walken reading for the part of Han Solo. This one was just as funny, with Cecily Strong killing it as Sophia Vergara and Aidy Bryant nailing a highly improbable audition from Wynona Judd. Famous cameos abounded, most notably Jon Hamm, saying he’s reading for the part of “Hamm Solo.”
Adele’s musical performance was as amazing as the world needs it to be right now, as evidenced from the first filmed sketch of the evening. At this point in the show, we were still hoping that she’d also do a comedy cameo, as more than 11 million have already seen what she did with Graham Norton earlier this week.
“Weekend Update” focused mostly on American politicians’ hypocrisy for refusing to allow Syrian refugees into the States, especially timely given the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The best lines included Michael Che saying, “my ancestors weren’t exactly immigrants. We were more like invited guests” and Colin Jost saying, “Do you know how easy it is to lie about being Christian? I do it every time I go home for Christmas.” Che and Jost’s biggest asset is also their biggest downfall: They always seem like they’re performing primarily for each other. Cameos from Vanessa Bayer as an aspiring “Update” anchor and Kenan Thompson as David Ortiz helped minimize this though.
Kate McKinnon dis indeed save the next sketch though. It was “Bright Side of the Bed,” where Strong and Taran Killam play married morning talk show hosts. McConaughey played Buster Little, a hirsute creole cook who tells jokes he doesn’t even get. This bit is moderately funny, but Killam’s character cops too much of his persona from Dana Carvey‘s Lyle the Effeminate Heterosexual. But it was McKinnon’s Ed Sheeran impersonation that tied this installment together.
Adele’s second song was flawless. It really is great to be living in an age where a contemporary singer is still releasing her best material.
The show closed with one of the funnier moments. McConaughey played a character at a small town meeting who speaks out and gets hung up on what everybody else has that he doesn’t have (a college education, shoes, a real hand etc.). His performance here almost made up for the fact that he didn’t do a “True Detective” parody. Almost.