Now in its 40th season, the show started off well with a cold open featuring the consistently-funny Kenan Thompson playing Martin Luther King’s ghost trying to explain his legacy to a student (Pete Davidson) writing a paper. King is not thrilled when he learns that the holiday named after him is not a day of racial harmony, but rather a day when people debate whether or not they should have to go to work. He is similarly flabbergasted by the fact that most protesting now takes place via hashtag. King also assumes “Selma,” the historical drama about his role in the 1965 Selma, Alabama protests, will receive several Oscar nominations.
Hart’s opening monologue went over well with the crowd, though social media seemed more concerned with Hart’s shirt choice then the content of his jokes. Working at his trademark rapid-fire pace, Hart explained the difficulties he lives with after moving his family to a more rural neighborhood. He now lives in fear of a “thug raccoon” and earned the ire of his fiancee when he told her he would not intervene if she were attacked by a mountain lion.
After dealing with some technical difficulties in the “Why’d You Post That?” sketch, we moved on to the funniest piece of the night. In a taped segment featuring Thompson, Hart, and Jay Pharoah, three friends in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn discuss how crazy their neighborhood is. They spend their days at artisinal mayonnaise shops, attending brunches, and hosting wine and painting parties. When Pharoah complains that neither of the other two attended his last party, Thompson responds with “You’re acting like somebody put gluten in your muffin or something.”
Hart next played James Brown in a sketch in which Brown demands that each of his band members tell him whether or not they want to get funkier. Most are happy to do so, but Brown meets with unexpected resistance when some are satisfied with the current funk level. The sketch started off strong, but was dragging by the end.
Most other sketches of the night did not even do that well. One that seemed to spoof ABC’s new musical series “Galavant” featured plenty of singing but very little in the way of jokes. Similarly, a sketch in which a soap opera cast is reunited on a talk show relied almost completely on fart jokes, which tells you everything you need to know about that one. Fart jokes, like real farts, are best when used sparingly. They become more special that way.
“Weekend Update” had few laughs, but one particularly good joke concerned Duke University’s decision to cancel a planned Muslim call to prayer after Christian leaders complained. Co-host Michael Che noted the irony in this, as these same leaders had no problem with the Duke University mascot, the Blue Devil.
Musical guest Sia turned in two strong musical numbers, including her hit “Chandelier.” Her performance of “Elastic Heart” featuring two interpretive dancers acting out a conflict with one another while the singer remained completely still was also very compelling.
The show at least closed well with a sketch in which Hart played a rapper who decides to reveal the secrets of his entire entourage through his new song. Hart’s energy was again on display as he rattled of a list of confidential problems, which included not paying taxes, herpes, and pulling a “Weekend at Bernie’s” after accidentally killing another member of the entourage.