SNL #40.20 RECAP: Host Reese Witherspoon, musical guest Florence and the Machine #HappyMothersDay

In primetime this past Saturday night, NBC rebroadcast the Mother’s Day episode that brought back several great female cast members to help Betty White host Saturday Night Live in 2010, and it reminded me — wow, so much has changed in just the past five years for these cast members, and what are they going to do to honor Mother’s Day this weekend?

Not to fear, as Lorne Michaels and the show had a nifty trick or two up their sleeves, and host Reese Witherspoon proved she’s game for anything.

To the recap!

2016 Republicans Cold Open: Republican presidential candidates Mike Huckabee (Beck Bennett), Ben Carson (Kenan Thompson), Ted Cruz (Bobby Moynihan), Carly Fiorina (Kate McKinnon), Rand Paul (Kyle Mooney) and Marco Rubio (Taran Killam) make their entrance at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference with the help of a DJ (Cecily Strong). How does a comedy show portray just how unremarkable and unready this crop of presidential candidates is, without hitting us over the head with that reality? This is a start. Good thing Chris Christie hasn’t announced yet, otherwise we’d have seen Bobby Moynihan pulling some TV magic on us…

Mother’s Day Apologies Monologue with Reese Witherspoon: Host Reese Witherspoon and cast members Cecily Strong, Jay Pharoah, Kate McKinnon, Sasheer Zamata, Beck Bennett, Vanessa Bayer, Kenan Thompson, Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney and Bobby Moynihan apologize to their moms for their bad behavior as kids. Thoroughly enjoyable, and even more so for someone who thinks about the details and the process of it all! Think about how they already did this once for the dress rehearsal audience, and so all of the moms had a chance to get rid of any on-camera jitters (or develop too much TV confidence by overcompensating) and all came through when it went live; also how some cast members may have asked to change their apologies between rehearsal and the live show; how either way, the moms saw the apologies coming via the cue cards; and how they easily could have held back the home movie reveal til the live show, because that’s a fun surprise that you could throw at them. Well done, all around. Best points to Kate McKinnon’s mom, for reminding her daughter that “weird is what got you here!” 

No fake ad in the fake ad slot, since instead we got home movies of the cast members as kids! How great, though, that even Kenan’s “home movie” as a kid is from a big-budget commercial film as a member of the Mighty Ducks?!?

The L.A. Scene: Whenever talk show hosts Lisa Ferar (Cecily Strong) and Jackie Fong (Reese Witherspoon) step off-screen to make a call, they forget to turn their mics off. A joke on Los Angeles people — where all of New York’s creative class is moving, according to trend pieces in the news! — as much as one on local TV, and cougars, and well, even Robert Durst’s hot mic farts? This rookie TV broadcast certainly is JINXED.

Picture Perfect: Game show contestant Daniel Hoffman (Bobby Moynihan) and his celebrity teammate, Reginald VelJohnson (Kenan Thompson), must draw the prophet Muhammad if they want to win $1 million. Topical.

Mr. Westerberg: When a group of coworkers (Reese Witherspoon, Pete Davidson, Kenan Thompson, Vanessa Bayer, Beck Bennett) takes turns mimicking the boss (Bobby Moynihan), one unintentionally reveals some disturbing comments Mr. Westerberg has made. Nice slow burn of a digital short sketch, with Bennett not getting the predicament he still finds himself in throughout.

Ladies and gentlemen, Florence + the Machine! This is “Ship To Wreck.”

Weekend Update 5-9-2015: Weekend Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che tackle the week’s biggest news, including Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers dropping, the royal baby being named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, McDonald’s introducing a new Hamburglar, and Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn breaking up. Seriously, though. What and why is there a new Hamburglar?

Weekend Update: Leslie Jones on Social Media: Relationship expert Leslie Jones reads a love letter to her booty call on-air after he blocked her on social media. Compare the fake stalking/love relationship between Leslie Jones and Colin Jost with that which existed between Stefon and Seth Meyers. That’s your thinkpiece assignment for today.

Weekend Update: Colin Jost and Michael Che Read Their Mothers’ Jokes: In honor of Mother’s Day, Colin Jost and Michael Che each read one joke they were texted by their moms. Jost and Che have realized that what’s going to make them stand out as an Update team, for better for worse, is having them go at each other. So far, Che is winning this more handily than Witherspoon dispatched of Pac-Man. Although earlier, Jost did execute a solid Witherspoon joke. So there you are.

Weekend Update: Two Girls You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party: The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party (Cecily Strong) and her best friend Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) weigh in on the San Francisco police department’s review of previous arrests. Somehow having two of them makes the sum of their parts not equal to the original, but then again, you wouldn’t expect these girls to be strong at math.

Weekend Update: Willie on Graduation: Michael Che’s neighbor Willie (Kenan Thompson) shares happy memories from his time at school, like when students threw batteries at him. The Girls You Wish are still more welcome than Willie, however. I guess if this is Kenan’s last month (speculate as you will), then you might as well let him do whichever Update characters he wishes. Is this what he wished for?

High School Theatre Show: Six high-school students (Kyle Mooney, Taran Killam, Reese Witherspoon, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Beck Bennett) stage an avant-garde production dedicated to John Lennon and Shonda Rhimes. Comedy about naively bad stage productions is weird, doubly so when they go back to this well of observational humor. If their characters as audience members don’t like what they’re seeing, why are we supposed to, again?

Southern Ladies: Carolynn (Aidy Bryant), Marilyn (Kate McKinnon), Terrilynn (Leslie Jones), Jerrilyn (Reese Witherspoon) and Nan (Cecily Strong) open up about what’s got them down over drinks. Come for the accents. Stay for the plot twist.

Waterslide: Two water park attendants (Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney) cause accidents when they stop doing their jobs to flirt with a lifeguard (Reese Witherspoon). Ummmmm, OK. Would have enjoyed better as an elaborate Good Neighbor video. Remember when they made those?

Once again, Florence + the Machine. This is “What Kind of Man.”

Whiskers R’ We Spring Cat Giveaway: Barbara DeDrew (Kate McKinnon) and Purr-sula (Reese Witherspoon) showcase several cats up for adoption, including Cat Middleton, Mufasa and Magellan, a cat whose greatest discovery is his own butthole. Weird is what got Kate McKinnon to SNL, and it’s tellingly great that the show often lets her run wild sexually in the final 5-to-1 sketch, whether it’s with men at last call at a bar, or with women who’re all too fond of her in pet adoption infomercials. Loved when McKinnon’s fake laugh prompted Witherspoon to break into real laughs. Love love love that all of this is played without overt commentary on sexual politics. It’s not about that. It’s about the kittens.

And that’s our show. Make your moms proud, people! See you next weekend for the season finale.

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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