SNL #35.21 Mother’s Day all-stars with Betty White, Fey, Poehler, Rudolph, Dratch, Gasteyer, Shannon

Too many of my acquaintances were hyped up about this show before it ever went live, which to me, is always an ominous sign. With a live show such as SNL, you never really know what you're going to get until it happens, no matter how the rehearsals or the table reads go. And from what I had heard earlier in the week, with so many returning regulars guesting this week, my expectation was that we would see essentially a reunion of recurring characters. What would that leave for the actual cast to do, though? And how would 88-year-old Betty White fare as a host, anyhow? Or are we going to be pleased as punch if it was all reunions and putting naughty words in White's mouth? (Foreshadowing) Onto the All-Star RECAP!

We open cold with the Lawrence Welk (Fred Armisen) take on Mother's Day, so many tiny bubbles and a tease to the Jugglettes: Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey and Molly Shannon. Not a reference to the Juggalos so far as I know. OK, audience, cool it. Stop applauding just because you see Betty White alive. Here she's mother to the sister act of Janice (Amy Poehler), Peggy (Maya Rudolph), Clara (Ana Gasteyer) and tiny-handed big-foreheaded Judice (Kristen Wiig), who sing with Will Forte. Look. They got all of the old ladies in the open with one of Wiig's crazy characters and gave White as little as possible to do. Don't get me wrong. It's cute and all. But this is a comedy entertainment show. Let's try to keep some perspective on it? Just showing up does not automatically warrant complete fawning. A little bit of fawning is expected, though. See? Perspective.

White makes it to center stage in a quicker time than either of my grandmothers did when they were 88 (especially since one never made it to that age). "It's great to be here for a number of reasons," White said. She reminds us that in the 1950s, they didn't want to go live, either, but they didn't know how to do it otherwise. She thanks Facebook, before mocking it. And let there be old people jokes. White does a nice aside while joking about poking. "Guess what? Jay-Z is here! If I had a dime for everytime I've said that, I'd have a dime!" Nicely played. Nicely executed.

MacGruber! Ready for the movie? Ready or not, MacGruber is working with his Nana (White) now, who keeps embarrassing him in front of Vicki (Wiig). As in past weeks, SNL has put the night's trilogy of MacGruber bits into one clip, which will roll at your convenience:

An NPR scene brings back "Delicious Dish," a recurring scene hosted by Gasteyer and Shannon — and best known for their "Schweddy Balls" bit with then-host Alec Baldwin. Tonight they're celebrating dietary fiber. Their guest is Florence Dusty (White), and she is known for her muffin. "I can't wait to taste your muffin." And so on, and so forth. Dusty admits that bakers of her day may have dry, crusty or even yeasty muffins. Just ask her how long it has been since her muffin had a cherry. We dare you. So yes, you'll probably want to see this:

The first ad of the night is the Snickers Super Bowl ad with Betty White, and don't forget Abe Vigoda! The second ad is for the MacGruber movie. The third ad is for beer. The fourth ad is for Sex and the City 2, which you need to drink a lot of beer before deciding that's a good idea. The fifth ad is for an iPhone. The seventh ad is for Betty White's new TV Land sitcom.

Dominican television presents "The Manuel Ortiz Show" (Armisen) to work out family problems. Rudolph plays a woman who has lost faith with her sister (Gasteyer), because she's sleeping with her husband (Bill Hader), who thinks he is gay and here is Nelson (Forte), but he needs powder from makeup (Wiig), and Nelson needs to come out to his parents (Bobby Moynihan and White). They break into dance to introduce each guest. What more do you need to know? Betty White tries to dance along. That's all you need to know.

MacGruber #2. Is Nana playing dead again?

Next week is the season finale with Alec Baldwin and music from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Lorne Michaels must have been reading #tweetsfrom1989. Ah, trending topics.

What is "Gingey"??? They're in Cleveland in 1904, and look, and while the girls are singing (Jenny Slate, Fey, Dratch, and Wiig), Gasteyer is the den mother and White is knitting in the corner. Poehler is the tomboy Gingey who doesn't fit in. "Because she's a lesbian," repeats White in the corner. Drake Shoemaker (Hader) in his letterman's sweater stops in, but "you're barking up the wrong lesbian," White intones, wondering if she could do it all over again and "lez it up." Also, no balls.

MacGruber #3, who talks about "going through a gay phase" and not finding anyone he could love as much as Nana, so he proposes marriage to her.

In case you're keeping track, we've had a number of recurring characters, and after the cold open, the themes were: Old lady's vagina, gay Dominican coming out to his parents, old-timey teen is a lesiban, and MacGruber wants incest with his grandmother. Another first half-hour devoted almost entirely to sex jokes. But look at how many ladies were on TV? Even a whole bunch of women on TV can resort to sex jokes. See, that's progress! Moms everywhere must be so proud.

After more ads…Jay-Z is here to change things up. The opening chords remind me of a song off The Black Album, and sure enough, here he is to re-introduce himself. He medleys that into "On to the Next One," "99 Problems" and gives short shrift to "Empire State of Mind" (although who was that singing on the side???).

Weekend Update time. Introducing the Taliban Corey Feldman! Then Maya Rudolph makes an appearance as Whitney Houston, ready for her comeback. Or not. Seth Meyers reminds her that the newspaper headlines read: "Houston, we have a problem." Will she treat us to a song? Sure thing! Oh, no. Don't tell me they have licensing issues, even if the song is a train wreck?

Sally O'Malley (Shannon) returns, this time with her mom Dotty (White).

Really?!? With Seth and Amy on several topics. And also with Tina. Who looks great, by the way.

I'm reading all of these people just gushing on Twitter, and had to interject: "Never underestimate the people's love of nostalgia. That's as true for SNL as it is for everything. Ev-er-y-thing."

Just to remind us there are still men on the show, it's another "Scared Straight" spoof with Jason Sudeikis as the cop, but Lorenzo Macintosh (Kenan Thompson) brought his grandmother with a big big Phil Spector courtroom perm named Loretta (White) to talk to the delinquent teens (Bobby Moynihan, Andy Samberg and Hader) with tales straight out of movie scripts. So White can say things like "Wizard of Ass." Doesn't get Hader to crack this time, however.

Hey, in the middle of more ads, I spy Nasim Pedrad on a set. It's a nursing home for a CBS CSI: Sarasota, with Sy Horowitz (Dratch) and David Caruso's aunt (White), as Pedrad looks after victims (Hader, Forte). With White trying to do the Caruso sunglasses thing on the one-liners. Eh.

An SNL Digital Short with Samberg giving White her own memory, as the cast old and new sings the Golden Girls theme song. "Thank you for being a friend." reminds me of when Neil Patrick Harris played the "Doogie Howser" theme when he hosted. And then there's the twist. Um…"Happy Mother's Day, Motherf&*#ers!" Hulu is saying it's not cleared for their uploading yet, so until then, you'll have to go to a site like Mediaite (which has disabled its own embedding, it seems) to see it.

Jay-Z featuring Mr. Hudson on the remix/remake of "Forever Young." Short and sweet, and dedicated to Betty White. Because we're running short on time. And they must really want to get one last sketch on the show. Which is…

About the 2010 U.S. Census, with Tina Fey as the census taker, and White saying she used her calculator battery for a crotch massager. The rest of her answers are similarly off-the-wall. "Ah, Ascertain. That used to be my stripper name." With a late appearance by Thompson. It's much like a Census sketch Fey wrote for SNL 10 seasons ago, the last time we had a Census to write sketches about.

And this has been "Look at what we made an old lady say on live TV!"

Who knows…if the ratings match the overnight buzz, maybe NBC and Lorne Michaels will cast future hosts by popular demand (or seemingly so) and bring back former cast members every week. Oh, wait. They already kinda do that? Hmmm. It would be a grand idea if once per season, SNL did a big all-star reunion spectacular. Everyone looked like they were enjoying it. I bet most of the current cast wished they could have been more involved in it.

Moreover, I'm not so sure about the part of letting Facebook whims dictate the hosting — it just worked out that White has several decades of comedy experience and audiences enjoy hearing her say naughty things. We don't need to get too carried away now. Perspective.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →

5 thoughts on “SNL #35.21 Mother’s Day all-stars with Betty White, Fey, Poehler, Rudolph, Dratch, Gasteyer, Shannon

  1. During the Gingy sketch, Betty was not knitting, she was crocheting. Because she is a crotchety grandma. Get it.
    Most of Betty’s resurgence has to do with her looking like everyone’s great grandmother and being a crotchety old lady who can get away with saying the worst things. This is the woman who told Oprah her to do list (Robert Redford)

  2. come on Sean, that was the best episode of SNL in a long time.
    also, fyi hulu has some un-aired dress sketches including Debbie Downer and Bronx Beat.

  3. Good episode, though I agree it may have relied a bit too heavily on granny-talking-dirty for laughs. Still, this was my favorite episode of the season! I started to watch and love SNL in the late 90s, so it was great to see the return of characters and sketches I love.
    I watched the cut sketches and honestly wish they’d had time for everything. Great writing on this episode too.

  4. Do you like jokes about farts and wieners? Then you’ll probably dig Brian Posehn’s comedy CD, “Fart and Wiener Jokes” haha and he throws in some metal, check it out!

  5. THis is great content. This episode reminds me of my mother. She is not a star in the movie, but she is a star in my soul and my mind.

Comments are closed.