You knew Peter Dinklage‘s episode of “Saturday Night Live” would have lots of “Game of Thrones” jokes, so the show took its time getting there — and started by giving Donald Trump about as much love as Tyrion had for Joffrey.
“SNL” opened with a mock-CNN segment in which Cecily Strong played a Donald Trump defender, Scottie Nell Hughes, who will not be discouraged. She explained at one point he wants to improve trade to “make American grapes again.”
When Kate McKinnon, as CNN’s Kate Bolduan, showed her a clip of Darrell Hammond‘s Trump punching somebody at a rally, Strong explained: “Clearly that man had a bee on his face, and Donald was trying to punch it off of him, ten times.”
From there, it was on to Dinklage’s “Game of Thrones”-rich monologue. He began by saying that he has no intel on spoilers for the new season.
“If I’m not in the scene, Petey no-read-y!” he joked.
The next sketch featured Dinklage playing an ace version of Winnie the Pooh. Jay Pharoah played Denny the Real, who looked like the cartoon bear from Kanye West’s first few album covers. He chided Pooh for being lazy, saying things like, “Your cousin was just in the movie, ‘The Revenant.”
Other highlights included a sketch in which Dinklage and Gwen Stefani sang about “space pants,” and a “Naked and Afraid” parody with Dinklage and Leslie Jones. Jones only brought Frank’s Red Hot Sauce with her, and wanted nothing more than to hook up with Tyrion.
The requisite “Game of Thrones” sketch came in the form of an HBO First Look trailer. Bobby Moynihan played a dragon who had to “bust a piss” and did absolutely everything that wouldn’t be appropriate for a character who would eventually be edited out and CGI-ed over.
Another great sketch involved couples on a double-date at an upscale New York City that used to be a sex club. Taran Killam presented food through a former glory hole, and while Dinklage and Aidy Bryant ate enthusiastically, Vanessa Bayer and Beck Bennett were more skeptical. The sketch pushed the limits in the grand tradition of Lord and Lady Douchebag.
“Weekend Update” was heavy on the political humor, as always, but it was hard to top the cold open. Pete Davidson’s commentary on Hulk Hogan receiving a big payday for a sex tape being unlawfully distributed was funny, but his delivery was off. It seemed like the type of riff that would have read better as an editorial on a blog. Kenan Thompson brought back his David Ortiz character, and although it’s not necessarily strong enough to justify so many appearances, it’s more tolerable given the knowledge that this will be Ortiz’s last season.
In a how-have-they-not-thought-of-that-before sketch, Dinklage played a concierge at a Bahamas hotel that offered a honeymoon suite with an underwater view, one which kept getting crowded by dead bodies floating into the frame. Strong and Bennett heightened this sketch perfectly, and at one point Dinklage hilariously asked, “How are all my best employees drowning today?”
The next sketch brought stomach-hurting laughter. Dinklage played the host of a show called “Vacation Nightmares,” in which Strong and Killam gave an account of a trip to Copenhagen in which they were accosted. The actors’ portrayal of their tribulations didn’t quite live up to the real witnesses’ accounts though. It would be hard to narrow down what the best quote from this sketch was, but we’ll go with McKinnon saying, “My Danish ding-dong is huge.”
Both of Gwen Stefani‘s performances were passable, but they weren’t the stuff of “Wow! Did you see that?!” Gwen Stefani is amazing, and her performance would have been a great debut for somebody we’d never heard of before, but because it’s Gwen Stefani, we hold her to a higher standard.
The final sketch of the show involved Killam as a magician on a company retreat. He shamed Dinklage’s character, who was the boss of said company. He did a trick where he removed Dinklage’s character’s underwear, and then commented on how badly his underpants smelled. Then Dinklage got obsessed with the details in a way that was characteristically absurd for this episode. “So you’re saying the log flew out without touching the undies,” he asked angrily.
This was the type of lowbrow levity that dominated this episode, and it was part of what made it one of the best of the season so far.