SNL #38.20 RECAP: Host Kristen Wiig, musical guest Vampire Weekend

The return of a longtime favorite cast member as host of Saturday Night Live almost certainly calls for a trip down memory lane of that actor or actresses most popular recurring characters from SNLs past.

Kristen Wiig’s first-time hosting SNL, one year removed from her “graduation,” did not depart from that formula.

But first. A political cold open.

The Congressional Republicans still are holding hearings about the terrorist uprising in Benghazi, Libya, because it’s not enough to know who did it nor why they did it if you cannot also drag your own political opposition through the circus of public inquisitions. And yet. SNL did two curious things with it. One, they inserted Jodi Arias (as played by Nasim Pedrad) into the mix as a witness, fresh off of her murder conviction in Arizona — because the hearings needed a reason for the mainstream media to cover it. And secondly, they gave two of their Congressional reps dual identities. On the dais, Rep. Darrell Issa (played by Bill Hader) is flanked by congressman played by Kenan Thompson and Taran Killam. The nameplate in front of Thompson reads “Rep. Doc Hastings” and for Killam “Rep. Peter Welch.”

But the superimposed graphics identify Thompson as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Hastings is a bald white Republican from Washington state. Cummings is a black Democrat from Maryland with a thin goatee. So, yeah. Why the wrong nameplate?  Same for Killam as Troy Gowdy R-SC., seeing as he’s not supposed to be or look like Welch, a Vermont Democrat. Either the show did feature actors as Hastings and Welch in the dress rehearsal and forgot to fix the nameplates, or it’s just a weird oversight. Then again, when they cut to Bobby Moynihan as Ariel Castro, the accused rapist who held three women kidnapped for a decade, but Hader’s Issa addresses him as “Mr. Ramsey” — the last name of the neighbor credited with helping rescue the women. Just sloppy.


Which only makes sense if you had been following Jay Pharoah on Twitter @JayPharoah, where he had posted an Instagram photo at 11:19 p.m. of himself as Charles Ramsey, typing “Dead Giveaway bro.”

And with that, “It’s Saturday Night Live!”

Kristen Wiig’s monologue not immediately available as its own clip (but viewable online with the full episode). Her first time hosting front and center for an SNL monologue. 11 months and 30 days ago, “But it really does feel like a year!” She breaks into song with customized lyrics to “I’m So Excited” with backing singers and dancers and a backstage walkabout. Oh, look, it’s Jonah Hill and Maya Rudolph! In the janitor’s closet. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Why does Kenan’s hair look fake? Anyway….”I loved you in Lincoln, by the way. You were great.” As for Gilly. If that’s all we ever see of Gilly again, so much the better. Everybody dance now!

Fake ad slot goes to 1-800-FLOWERS, with a little help from Wiig. For Mother’s Day. And Kate McKinnon as her mom. Her oversharing mom. “God I wish I was a lesbian so I didn’t have to carry a purse.”

With McKinnon assuming Wiig’s role as the can-do crazy character and impersonator this season, safe also to assume that we won’t be seeing more of Kate tonight as she cedes that role back to Kristen? Yes, it’s safe. Everyone else but you and me will be making asses out of themselves. Speak for yourself.

Speaking of “The Californians,” they are back, with Wiig’s character now dead? Or soap-opera dead. In other words, not dead. The original premise for this soap-opera parody, in case you forgot, was to make fun of how Southern Californians measure everything by their individual driving direction preferences. This sketch quickly became a contest to see who could crack whom up with their accents and faces, and that’s what this has since become. Something is fishy about Brad the new gardener. At this point, Armisen and Hader pretty much stare at their cue cards and nothing else in hopes of keeping straight faces. Even that’s not so much fun any longer. Even if Maya Rudolph and her pregnant belly do make a last-minute appearance here, too.

Now. Here’s something new. It’s a promo for the Disney Channel with Hayley (Cecily Strong) and Max (Bobby Moynihan). Check out the premise for “Aw Nuts! Mom’s A Ghost!” One little itty bitty question, though. If Mom was drowned in South Korea, why is her ghost version straight out of the Japanese Ringu/The Ring movies? Korean. Japanese. What’s the difference? Aw Nuts!

A lot of times, they’d use their Finger Lake Sisters characters (all sisters not named Dooneese optional) from “The Lawrence Welk Show” to open SNL cold. But not this night? Why not? Not enough time for Wiig to make the transformation during the opening credits to hit her monologue? What gives? Armisen’s Welk always has a sexual innuendo or two to drop in regards to the Finger Lakes, and then there’s a male lead singer of inconsequence, all to set up the interchangeable sisters who set up Wiig’s tiny-handed, big-headed Dooneese. Oh, speaking of the other sisters, this is Cecily Strong’s first time as one of them! Tonight’s trio of sisters is Strong, Vanessa Bayer and Nasim Pedrad. J-Suds is our male crooner. But what about Dooneese? For her encore, she’s making a sand squirrel and licking nuts, got a case of the crabs, wants to scratch J-Suds’ balls, and gets knocked on her noggin by coconuts.

Ladies and gentlemen, Vampire Weekend. This is “Diane Young.”

Weekend Update time! Or should we say, the future host of Late Night delivers monologue jokes time!? Not only because Jimmy Fallon used to do this, but also because Seth Meyers already knew he had the job succeeding Fallon at his next job when he sat down to do this job on this night. You know. He knew. And now you know he knew.

Bobby Moynihan’s Anthony Crispino makes another appearance at the Update desk for his second-hand news reports. Where can we sign up for lap dance surgery? If you want to know just how Moynihan hits the high notes, then you’ll be mystified by this trick.

Garth and Kat improvise a Mother’s Day song. Or a whole new album of riffing for Fred Armisen to make up and for Kristen Wiig to follow along. “You had a full year to work on this? That was terrible.” “I feel like you put no effort into it.” Those aren’t random quotes. Those are the real-time reactions from SNL’s head writer, who wrote those reactions ahead of time to whatever gibberish Garth and Kat would spit out.

During the break, we see a sneak peek of the Target set and the Target Lady herself. Looking forward to it?

Fun fact: Target Lady’s name is Target Lady. Other fun fact: Jay Pharoah plays a customer who cannot handle the idea of Target Lady working, so he decides not to buy anything rather than go to another line.

An unanticipated by-product of all of this Greatest Wiig Hits is making any SNL sketch that’s not that seem so much more refreshing. It’s like, “Oooooh. What could this be, pray tell?” And then it’s like, “Bloody hell!” In this case, exactly that. Welcome to the Douglaston Acupuncture & Wellness Center. Sudeikis plays a guy who’s never had acupuncture before, and Aidy Bryant will light some incense to set the mood, while Wiig supervises the operation. Er. Operation. That’s right. E.R. Dr. Chang! If only they knew that the ancient Chinese secret was Calgon. That would take them away from this situation. Comedy!

Once again, Vampire Weekend! This is “Unbelievers.” Not to be confused with Un-Beliebers.

I don’t know what SNL is saying about gender roles and power in our society, but in this sketch, two women (Wiig and Strong) in finance are on a double date with two sixth-graders (Moynihan and Tim Robinson).

Maybe they’re not saying anything about gender roles. But the fact that they played this scene straight says something. It reminds me that if I see something, say something. I said something!

Five minutes to 1 a.m. Five-to-one time!

A full CD packed with songs from the people whose only talent is having appeared on a really wanted to be on reality TV show. “Classy Sexy Elegnance.” And nothing says elgnance like watching Kenan mouth the words like a bad ventriloquist while Pedrad is reading the title of the CD. Do all of the auto-tunes make you want to break out into Cher’s 1998 mega-hit, “Believe”? I believe they do.

Time for good nights. Good night! Roll the credits. No time for credits. Darn it all. Darn it all to Trump.

Next up: The season finale! See you then!

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.

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One thought on “SNL #38.20 RECAP: Host Kristen Wiig, musical guest Vampire Weekend

  1. This was one of the best episodes of the season! The Californians was my favorite skit, and it was nice to see many of her most memorable characters back on the show. I hope that Kristen Wiig hosts SNL again soon. I worked late at DISH the other night and didn’t want to miss it, so I set up my DVR to record SNL. I usually keep up on my TV shows while I’m cleaning the house, and having the ability to pause them in the kitchen, and then continue in the living room with my DISH Hopper helps me stay productive.

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