SNL #40.1 RECAP: Host Chris Pratt, musical guest Ariana Grande

The 40th anniversary season of Saturday Night Live kicked off with the luxury of having the summer’s hottest movie star coming from within NBC’s ranks to host in Chris Pratt, a new Weekend Update co-anchor coming back from within SNL’s own writing ranks, and the hottest young pop singer as its musical guest coming along with her own history of TV sitcom work. Plus a new cast member in Pete Davidson, who at the tender age of 20, made a stellar debut.

Should be a complete victory right out of the gate, right?


I don’t know. I’m in transit from another country, so I’ll have to give you my full two cents (wait, they don’t even use pennies any longer in Canada) upon my return. For now, at least, I can bring you the full video highlights for you to view and review as you’d like. Then click back here again and see if your perception of it and mine were the same. Enjoy! UPDATED: I’m back in the U.S., back in the U.S., back in the U.S. of A., eh! My impressions of their impersonations and such and whatnot or added in italics.

CNN State of the Union: NFL Cold Open: Candy Crowley (Aidy Bryant) and former NFL players Ray Lewis (Kenan Thompson) and Shannon Sharpe (Jay Pharoah) weigh in on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s (Chris Pratt) latest press conference.

Our cultural hot-button topic gets the cold open treatment via cable news talk show split screen with press conference, SNL’s two favorite ways to indulge in topical commentary in the cold open. Nice vote of confidence in Aidy Bryant by giving her the opening moment and “Live from New York” line. Interesting to note the two different stylistic approaches to impersonations coming from Jay and Kenan; Jay is all facial tic impersonation to convey Sharpe’s; Kenan; just his charisma is enough to sell his lines.

SNL40 Opening Montage: New graphics and a new announcer (Darrell Hammond) voices over the opening montage for season 40!

Nice new action shots of the cast, although putting Colin Jost in an FDNY firehouse immediately after Pete Davidson’s appearance is curious, considering Davidson is the son of a fallen firefighter from 9/11 (unfun fact). Also, perhaps more importantly, what’s up with the low mic and low energy from Darrell Hammond? Plenty of people in social media also noticed this and blamed it on the sound mix. Regardless, you’d think Hammond would bring something to the table vocally, right?!

Chris Pratt MonologueGuardians of the Galaxy star and first-time host Chris Pratt sings an original song for the SNL audience. Guest appearance from Anna Faris.

Sincerity goes a long, long way.

Cialis Turnt: Fake ad in the fake ad slot! Combat erectile dysfunction while also feeling the unbeatable sensation of getting turnt.

If you’re still thinking about this ad parody four minutes later, call a doctor.

He-Man and Lion-O: When Danny’s (Kyle Mooney) action figures (Chris Pratt, Taran Killam) come to life, they’re more interested in spending time with his sister (Cecily Strong) and mom (Aidy Bryant) than him. Guest appearance from Ariana Grande.

Dick jokes are easy. That said, the concept of action figures — once living — having no concept of what it means to even be alive, and then discovering the boy’s birthday cake and their own sexual needs, is worth exploring. Physically tearing apart the set with their various new hungers also helps. Obligatory cameo from the musical guest with a history of TV comedy, but not given much of anything to add to the scene. Funniest line: “Where is sister?” Second funniest line: “Oh, my sweet meats.”

Vet Office: OK. Even before watching this, how many of you are equally surprised that this sketch from last year is back, and in the season premiere, no less? Three pet owners (Vanessa Bayer, Bobby Moynihan, Kyle Mooney) receive some bad news from a trio of less-than-sympathetic animal hospital employees (Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Chris Pratt).

This is a recurring sketch now?

Marvel Trailer: A pre-taped video sketch everyone immediately was talking about and sharing online. Thanks to the Star Wars tie-in. Halloween came a month early this year? Nope. Just a fun premise imagining the other things that might as well as Guardians of the Galaxy. Including Bus People, Fancy Ghosts and Some Shopping Carts.

Ladies and gentleman, Ariana Grande. This song is “Break Free.”

Weekend Update
The first two-male Weekend Update team in Colin Jost and Michael Che. And Che’s also the first not-a-white-guy to sit in a suit full-time at the Update desk. Here’s part one of two of their headline highlights.

Part two of two.

Removing Cecily Strong from the Update anchor desk meant her first, most popular character, could reappear at the Updated desk: The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At A Party talks to Michael Che about the ebola outbreak.

In the year since Girl gone, did she become related to Drunk Uncle?

Leslie Jones didn’t go away, people. She’s still at SNL, and back at the Update desk to talk relationships and the difficulties of being single.

Pete Davidson Talks Business: Davidson’s big SNL debut! As the show’s resident young person, he explains that young people do all kinds of weird things, like playing “How much money would you go down on a guy for?” Well, how much did you bet he’d say?

Leslie and Pete are part of a recent wave of SNL bringing stand-up routines straight to the desk (Brooks Wheelan, John Mulaney). Which only draws a sharper contrast with the anchors. The best Update anchors put their personality into the delivery. JB Smoove used to write for SNL…could you imagine????

Weekend Update: Cheer Up Obama

Booty Rap: When Sheryl (Aidy Bryant) and Todd (Chris Pratt) meet in a bar, they use rap music to express how they feel about each other.

This reminds me of that sketch from last season with Josh Hutcherson that relied on lyrics from The Outfield. Is this a new trend? Although I’m betting we saw this sketch because of how well Pratt did rapping Eminem lyrics on a morning radio appearance that hit YouTube this summer. Let’s see him do it again? But this time, we’ll have him spar with Aidy! Is that how they pitched it?

Bad Boys: Good Neighbor’s big post-12:30 a.m. contribution. Maxie (Chris Pratt) learns the perils of peer pressure when he turns his back on friends Ben (Beck Bennett) and Tyler (Kyle Mooney) for a group of troublemakers.

The Tim and Eric influence is strong with these Millennials. Something about intentionally bad acting and humor really strikes a chord with younger audiences and not so much with this aging man.

NFL Intros: Players from the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers introduce themselves by which crime they’ve committed.

OK, fine. But you could have made this the cold open and been done with the subject.

Once again, Ariana Grande. For her second song, Grande is joined by The Weeknd to perform “Love Me Harder.”

Video Game: Three testers (Bobby Moynihan, Pete Davidson, Sasheer Zamata) are surprised to see the intimate way a new video game’s characters (Vanessa Bayer, Chris Pratt) celebrate completing a stage.

This is our five-to-one sketch, and it’s hot hot HOT.

Well, everybody. That’s a wrap on the season debut of SNL. In the goodbyes, they gave a special point and shoutout to Davidson. See you next week to see how this group gels together in week two on a quick turnaround!

Next week is host Sarah Silverman and musical guest Maroon 5.

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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