‘Saturday Night Live’ Recap: Brie Larson Hosts a Show More Sweet Than Salty

Skits center around presidential race, Mother’s Day and “Game of Thrones”

Dana Carvey‘s cold open cameo on “Saturday Night Live” expertly merged past and present, with a “Church Chat” that swiftly dealt with topical necessities like Met Gala costumes, Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” (“freshly squeezed, just like Jay Z’s naughty parts”) and Ted Cruz’s exit from the race for president. It’s worth noting that not only were Carvey’s Church Lady barbs as sharp as ever – criticizing Taran Killam‘s Ted Cruz, with “that happy, superior face, because we love Jesus more than everybody” – but the dude looked like he stepped right out of a time machine from 1988.

Host Brie Larson began what was the first of many Mother’s Day tributes, and addressed the elephant in the room, which was her movie “The Room,” and the fact that it’s not exactly Mother’s Day fare. (Her own mother, who was in the “SNL” audience left during the screening of “The Room” and never returned, she said). Larson let the cast members do most of the heavy lifting in her monologue, or, rather, she let the cast members’ mothers do the heavy lifting, with the moms of Pete Davidson and Kate McKinnon joining her onstage.

Next up was a commercial parody of a toy for girls called President Barbie, which bared an uncanny resemblance to one Hillary Rodham Clinton, right down to the pantsuit. The catch was that the girls in the commercial had no interest in playing with President Barbie, and this drove the narrator nuts. She continued to pester the girls in ways that the girls criticized for “trying too hard,” not unlike Hillary’s critics. The sketch was more pointed than funny, but its perceived ring of truth is what will propel it into your feed at the beginning of this week.

The next sketch was the same setup that had Ryan Gosling breaking during his episode earlier this season. Aidy Bryant and Bobby Moynihan were doctors at the American Medical Association, addressing three people who had experienced life-changing events. Whereas last time they were dealing with alien abductions, this time they were dealing with near-death experiences. The characters played by Cecily Strong and Brie Larson had been a part of a beautiful warmth of loving light, but again Kate McKinnon‘s character got the short end of the stick. Sitting back with legs akimbo, she said how an angel named Keith accidentally led her to dog heaven. “I don’t think I was rolling with the employee of the month,” she reported. Though the setup was predictable, it was still hilarious in its irreverent writing, giving McKinnon the material she needed to shine: How can you expect the cast not to crack up when she is alleging that “the soul of a Scottish Terrier has set up shop in my right knocker”?

A Mother’s Day tribute will also be in your social media feed early this week, especially if your mom and her friends (and your friends’ moms) are on Facebook, with Larson receiving a baby shower from her neighbors, and being interrogated about when she was going to get “the cut.” When she asked for more information, the women explained that mothers all eventually get the same haircut, which, as Strong’s character said looks like “a soft waterfall in the front, but with knives in the back.” The tone became sinister, and the sketch produced some good-natured laughs that will recur when you see the haircuts that those moms in your feed actually do have.

“Weekend Update” dealt swiftly with the second elephant in the room, this time the Republican elephant. Colin Jost and Michael Che went off for several minutes on how improbable it was that Trump secured the GOP nomination. Then Vanessa Bayer brought back her Laura Parsons junior news correspondent to deal with the same topic, and before going off into topics that were way over the head of a girl of her age, like the popularity of apps such as Tinder and Grindr leading to more STDs. Bayer’s appearance ushered in the sweetness of the guests that followed her. Sasheer Zamata delivered a concise editorial about Larry Wilmore calling Obama the n-word, and somehow managed to make light of the effect that racism had on her life. Really though, if you start off by replacing the n-word with McGriddle, then you’re already halfway there. Pete Davidson’s editorial about his mother was similarly heartwarming, with Davidson’s mom taking video of her son, who happened to be bringing 1988 back in his own way, with a pink Champion sweatshirt.

The “Game of Thrones” parody did a great job of making fun of how slow the “is Jon Snow dead?” episode was, and you’ll see this one a lot in your feed this week, but like that episode, this sketch was too long. There really wasn’t much to be done but comment on how everybody knew that Jon Snow wouldn’t really be dead.

Another sketch which did a good job of pointing out a truth, but not in an especially hilarious way, was a game show set in the year 2018, where contestants had to try to name who the Republican presidential candidate who dropped out before Trump was named the nominee. Larson’s character’s inability to do so was the punch line, but it still wasn’t enough to deliver actual belly laughs.

Kyle Mooney brought back his suburban teen Chris Fitzpatrick character for a pre-filmed Kickstarter campaign for his band, Discreet Annihilation. Larson turned in her most central role of the show with this sketch, and she did an admirable job, but the material just wasn’t as strong as previous Chris Fitzpatrick bits.

The infomercial for a CD called “Dead Bopz” was a ridiculous highlight, with Beck Bennett playing Bing Crosby and hawking a CD where holograms of long dead stars sing hits of today, the best of which was Jay Pharoah‘s Tupac, singing “Shake It Off.” Speaking of singing, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Alicia Keys‘ two performances were top-notch.

On the whole, this episode was sweet more than salty, with all of the Mother’s Day nods, and Brie Larson seemed to turn in even less comic star turns than Russell Crowe did in his episode.

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