Nothing screams SNL is in a transition year than quickly bringing back its former stars to host — Andy Samberg led the 39th season finale in May, a year after his final episode as cast member, and now here in the third episode of the fall, all-time great Bill Hader is back to remind us of what Saturday Night Live used to be oh-so-not-long-ago. But that’s not all! We’ve also thrown in Kristen Wiig and one of her least adorable recurring characters, too!
And yes, there will be Stefon.
Let’s get to the recap.
Kim Jong Un Cold Open: Kim Jong Un (Bobby Moynihan) attempts to dismiss rumors of his poor health but his physical ailments get in the way. The week’s big news was that the North Korean dictator had disappeared, gone missing. So…where did he go? What has he been doing in hiding? This sketch seemed like it similarly went into hiding and was missing something. Too restrained, perhaps?
Bill Hader Monologue: Kristen Wiig and Harvey Fierstein help Bill Hader achieve his dream of performing a singing monologue. Because Bill Hader cannot sing. Apparently. It’s difficult to know for certain when the premise requires him to deliberately awful it up. Not surprised in the least to see a Wiig cameo, since the dynamic duo stars in a little indie film that could, The Skeleton Twins. If only this cameo had been the extent of it. If only.
No fake ad in the fake ad slot!
Herb Welch: Virginity Pledge Rally: Veteran reporter Herb Welch (Bill Hader) can’t keep his personal opinions out of his interviews with local students (Pete Davidson, Cecily Strong) who’ve taken a virginity pledge. One of Hader’s later recurring characters gets prime placement, and just to remind you, this is based on a real interaction between an old local TV news reporter and his anchor. So it’s delightful to see the fun and the funniest lines within those interactions between Herb Welch on remote and Taran Killam’s anchor back in the studio. “I don’t take orders from mannequins. I know you’re smooth down there.” But why the second microphone and dangling appendage, though? It’s never explained. Just sort of a thing they threw in there to see if we’d notice? We noticed!
The Group Hopper: Adapted from a YA novel written entirely in the comments section of a Hunger Games trailer, The Group Hopper chronicles Thehero’s (Pete Davidson) fight against a tyrannical leader (Bill Hader). Davidson is getting plenty of chances to shine tonight away from his traditional stand-up, where you first spotted him at the Weekend Update desk in the season premiere. And shine he does. Actually, this entire video is pretty stellar. As they’d done with the Wes Anderson parody a year ago, SNL’s Film Unit does a bang-up job of skewering all of the big YA novels-turned-films of late. Tons of subtle jokes, plenty of smack-you-in-the-face jokes, and a hysterical job of turning the Elilzabeth Banks “Effie Trinket” character from The Hunger Games into something so silly that it’s a show-stopping moment. Great work all around.
Hollywood Game Night: Jane Lynch (Kate McKinnon) presides over another episode of Hollywood Game Night featuring Morgan Freeman (Jay Pharoah), Sofia Vergara (Cecily Strong), Christoph Waltz (Taran Killam), Nick Offerman (Beck Bennett), Al Pacino (Bill Hader) and Kathie Lee Gifford (Kristen Wiig). With so many impersonations, too many of them become irrelevant the moment Wiig’s Kathie Lee chews up the scenery. Not even Hader’s Pacino (calling back to his own SNL debut) stands a chance. Only McKinnon’s Jane Lynch can put Kathie Lee in her place and shut her down.
39 Cents: For only 39 cents a day, you can help the people of a starving village. But they’d prefer if you sent more. Written by Michael Che, this takes on the very real, longstanding campaign of ChildFund (I’ve included one of their videos below for comparison’s sake), where the old white guy in the white beard (real name: actor Alan Sader) has been asking us to give less than a dollar a day to sponsor a child in ads that go back to 1992. Still asking for so little 22 years later, which begs the question from cast members Jay Pharoah, Kenan Thompson and Sasheer Zamata, and writer Leslie Jones, why not ask for more? Why not???
Jan Hooks Tribute: Love Is A Dream: Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader intro one of the late Jan Hooks’ sketches, “Love Is A Dream,” costarring Phil Hartman. Talk about show-stopping moments. Instead of a mere title card of In Memoriam at the end or the middle of the show, both Hader and Wiig take center stage to introduce this short film that starred Hooks and Hartman. It’s not laugh-out-loud hilarious. Merely poignant. Class acts.
Ladies and gentlemen, Hozier. Hozier performs “Take Me To Church” with the voice like an angel of Elton John…
Weekend Update 10-11-14, Part 1 & Part 2: Colin Jost and Michael Che delve into the week’s biggest news, including Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize win, Ebola screenings at New York’s JFK Airport, radioactive reindeer and a break-in at the Yogi Berra Museum. I stopped paying attention the moment Che’s routine stopped in Hacksville Junction for that old old joke about gay men who used the illegality of gay marriage as an excuse for all of these years. Really? That’s the joke you guys went with?
Weekend Update: Pete Davidson on Gold Chains: Pete Davidson explains why gold chains are to blame for the new no guns policy at BET’s Hip Hop Awards. Could Davidson had sold this better with his delivery or his physicality?
Weekend Update: Stefon Returns: The return of Weekend Update’s city correspondent has everything: news on New York’s hottest clubs, MTV’s Dan Cortese and a revelation about life with Seth. Knowing that former SNL writer John Mulaney sent a last-minute text to 30 Rock to add Cortese to every club description makes Hader’s crack-ups that much more sincere. Of course, that’s always been the shared joy in watching a Stefon segment at the Update desk, the knowledge that Hader is reading something completely different from what he’d read at dress rehearsal, for the first time, live on TV, and fighting back giggles at the absurdity of it all. Plus, Seth Meyers is pregnant. Which tells you something more than perhaps you thought you knew.
Puppet Class: War vet Anthony Peter Coleman (Bill Hader) has a hard time keeping things light while performing as his puppet Tony. Making Hader’s puppeteer a veteran of Grenada somehow validates his PTSD in a way that never would be funny otherwise. Grenada. Do you kids even get that joke? “Here’s a joke—God!”
Inside SoCal 2 with Bill Hader: Casey (Beck Bennett) and Todd (Kyle Mooney) discuss why Rigoberto’s no longer serves red salsa and how art can be baller on their public access talk show. And now we have a recurring Good Neighbor video segment, as the kids down by San Diego way make the most out of nothing, as Millennials are wont to do.
Once again, Hozier. Wait a second! Kristen Wiig is introducing Hozier? Why is this happening? This is the host’s job. Hader better have a good excuse, because it’s not as if he were stuck in makeup beforehand. This is “Angel of Small Death…”
Cat: When Cat (Bill Hader) arrives to cheer up a pair of children, he’s unexpectedly reunited with his ex (Cecily Strong). Our 12:55 a.m. 5-to-1 sketch of the night, and oh, there’s Hader made up as the Cat in the Hat. So maybe that gave him an out from his hosting duties to introduce the musical act. At any rate. The point is we’re making a family-friendly Dr. Seuss story risque with a sex-filled backstory. That’s what she said.
That’s your ballgame, folks! See you in two weeks with Jim Carrey and Iggy Azalea!