SNL #40.9 RECAP: Host Martin Freeman, musical guest Charli XCX

What a wonderfully solid episode of Saturday Night Live from start to finish. Even the sketches that seemed about to go off the rails enjoyed a moment of salvation. It’s a two-weeks-before-Christmas miracle! Or hopefully a sign of the long-mentioned transition actually transitioning. Either way, let’s get to the recap of this week’s SNL with host Martin Freeman and musical guest Charli XCX!

Charlie Rose Cold Open: Charlie Rose (Taran Killam) learns the psychologists (Bobby Moynihan, Kyle Mooney) who devised the torture outlined in the CIA report are also behind self-checkout and autocorrect. From the opening joke about The Cheesecake Factory, I had a very good feeling that we finally had a topical cold open that found the funny without getting bogged down in the politics of what’s going on in the news. And they mined all sorts of annoyances in our everyday lives to describe what’s torture to the average American compared to what’s actually in the Congressional report.

Martin Freeman Monologue: Dame Maggie Smith (Kate McKinnon) and Alan Rickman (Taran Killam) join Martin Freeman for his monologue because all British actors are friends. Now that he mentions it up top, Freeman has been in plenty of things on TV and the movies that we’ve enjoyed — and he didn’t even mention Sherlock! Why didn’t he mention Sherlock? Did he not want us to raise our expectations for a Cumberbatch sighting? If so, good move. Something about Freeman’s willingness to play along with whatever the live studio audience gave him really put me and you both at ease that things would go swimmingly for the next 85 minutes. Indeed.

No fake ad in the fake ad slot!

Sump’n Claus: If you’ve been crossed off Santa’s nice list, here comes Sump’n Claus (Kenan Thompson). Instead of a fake ad, we go straight to a music video, with Kenan as a Santa pimp with the Rent is Too Damn High facial hair, and Cecily Strong and Sasheer Zamata as his elvish hos, as he dispenses cash gifts via envelopes to people who may have been naughty. Nice touch putting SNL co-head writer Bryan Tucker on that list. The premise, though, reminds me of the wealthy Secret Santa who pops up in the national news every December, and did again this week — where did that guy get his money, anyhow? What Up With That? There’s a hint of that going on at the end of this, too, don’t you remember.

Wedding Objections: WNBA athlete Alberta (Leslie Jones) and White Castle owner Ian (Martin Freeman) are getting married no matter what anyone says. One of two funny bits this week that take place entirely at church. The sketch allows a gradual reveal of what’s so inherently wrong about this coupling, as each cast member in attendance heightens the cognitive dissonance. Only unnecessary bit was the doctor with the dick joke; thankfully the bit kept going to two more bystanders, with Kate McKinnon’s elderly woman off the street making Jones crack into laughter briefly. How did these two kids hook up in the first place, anyhow? If only there were a flashback!

Hobbit Office: After saving Middle-earth, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Gandalf (Bobby Moynihan), Gollum (Taran Killam), Legolas (Kyle Mooney) and Tauriel (Kate McKinnon) take up office jobs. Just perfect. From the opening theme music and credits signifying that this is going to be the original Office parodied by the JRR/BBC and not the American version that aired on NBC. Killam’s Gollum was spot-on delightful. Moynihan’s Ricky Gervais/Brent as Gandalf was a magical surprise. It could have gone on for 22 minutes and nobody in their right minds would have complained. A precious pre-taped treasure.

Right Side of the Bed: While appearing on the daytime talk show Right Side of the Bed, Louis the handyman (Martin Freeman) keeps getting awkwardly cut to. So I get that we’re supposed to have watched Chrisley Knows Best on USA to know why the hosts of this Atlanta talk show aren’t all right in the head or the bedroom. And the joke about the teasing cutaways to upcoming guests is solid. Why did the closing graphic change Clay’s name to Grayson, though? Because Cecily Strong never called Taran Killam’s character Grayson. Did they mean to change this for the West Coast? Did they? Questions that don’t need an answer unless you’re obsessively watching the show like some of us are.

Church: St. Joseph’s Christmas Mass Spectacular features Pastor Pat (Bobby Moynihan), organist Linda Tayhoe (Kate McKinnon) and all 44 verses of “O Come All Ye Faithful.” A few sketches this year have gone straight after the 18-24 college-age demographic, and if you liked the Back Home Ballers music video for Thanksgiving, just wait until you see how SNL has tapped into your memories of going home for Christmas and having to attend Catholic Mass with your parents! The cutaway introductions of all the characters you see in that church reminds me of the fun of SNL’s “old” Insane Clown Posse parodies, except Bobby gets to rise again as Pastor Pat. Plays great with Pete Davidson at the perfect age for that atheist teen, and yet Kyle Mooney also can play even younger. Gets little details right, too, such as the curiosity about where the pastor lives at night. Roll the clip!

Ladies and gentlemen: Charli XCX! This is “Boom Clap.”

Weekend Update 12-13-14: Colin Jost and Michael Che tackle the week’s biggest news, including the CIA terror report, Prince William and Kate Middleton’s New York trip, the drop in oil prices and Rick Perry’s comments about running for president not being an IQ test. Che continues to get the better jokes, but nice touch by Jost to make fun of himself with his actual yearbook photo.

Weekend Update: Sasheer Zamata: Sasheer Zamata discusses the lack of diversity in tech, pointing out that of all the emoji available on Apple products, not a single one is black. One of those oversights you may not even realize if you’re white, brought to the fore by Zamata and written with Natasha Rothwell. How can they not offer a single black emoji?! Really?!? said Seth and Amy, somewhere offstage.

Weekend Update: One-Dimensional Female Character from a Male Driven Comedy: Heather (Cecily Strong) is the girl from work who eats burgers and wings but has the body of a salad girl. Confusing, right? Executed with great commitment by Cecily Strong. With more than a faint echo of Vanessa Bayer’s rom-com critique alongside Michael Che earlier this season, and an even fainter nod to the manic pixie dream girl motif, Strong slowly but methodically draws Jost into the bit. Or lures him. How does this work in real life, again?

Weekend Update: Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy on Hanukkah: Jacob (Vanessa Bayer) explains Hanukkah’s origins while also squeezing in a shout-out to Derek Jeter. Interesting to think of how many different Weekend Update anchors Jacob has broken in over just the past two seasons! Maybe it’ll help him get over the loss of Jeter.

Assembly Line: New hire Gordon (Taran Killam) has a hard time grasping how the assembly line works despite his boss’ (Martin Freeman) many attempts to explain it. Didn’t want to like this ketchup factory sketch, because how stupid could this guy Gordon be as Killam plays him? And yet. The ending on this sketch is so tight it deserved a blackout.

Holiday Gig: Isaac (Martin Freeman) just wants to play saxophone but the audience would rather he explain what’s going on in his personal life. Do I need to have been listening to Serial to understand the drama here?

Once again, Charli XCX. This is “Break the Rules.” Charli XCX, I know you’re old enough to be my girlfriend, so what do you say we break some more rules, eh? What. Too much? Not enough? Give me something to go on here…

Waterbed Commercial: When Dom (Martin Freeman) wants to advertise his Waterbed Warehouse, he turns to his wife, Janine (Aidy Bryant). 5 To 1! 12:55 on the East and West Coast clocks! Time to get the lead out and bring the show home, and often, they go to a weird, wacky sales pitch for it. This one has Freeman as a waterbed salesman whose wife has been bitten by the showbiz bug. And has she ever! The site of her face inside her giant face is priceless.

Alright kids. Goodnight! See you next Saturday! Good work, everyone!

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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