Saturday Night Live deferred from its usual structure last night. Instead of the traditional cold open sketch, they had the New York Children's Chrous sing two verses of "Silent Night."
It can be hard to see the point of a live, weekly funny program in the face of such a disturbing national tragedy like the shootings in Newtown. On the one hand, it almost seems insensitive to try and make jokes at a time like this. But, on the other hand, laughter is medicine. Any comedian will tell you they use laughter to get through pain. It's how we cope. The counter argument to nay thought about cancelling the show, as Saturday Night Live considered, is that putting on a show is like doing a public service. We need this. We need to laugh at a time like this. But the tragedy can't go unmentioned either, and so we open the show with a children's choir, a fitting, beautiful way for the folks at SNL to acknowledge to mood of the nation right now.
Now, on to the funny business...
Last night's episode felt like putting on a reliable Christmas sweater. Martin Short, a former cast member and someone this writer has a personal soft spot for, served as the host, and Paul McCartney, he of moderate musical fame and a very reliable, game SNL musical guest in his own right, provided the tunes. Short brought out a laundry list of SNL staples for his walk-around-the-set monologue, which can be disastrous in the wrong hands. With Short it works because of his natural energy. (It also helps that Short is, y'know, funny.) You don't get bored in the down time. Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Hanks, Paul Schaffer and Lorne Michaels, the evil mastermind himself, all made an appearance. It felt nice. Unfortunately, the video isn't available online because, well, we don't know why. If they add it later this afternoon we'll embed it in the post.
Aaaand the most blogged about sketch of the night, besides the cold opening, is going to be the latest episode of "What's Up With That?!" Sam Jackson stuck around, and Portlandia's Carrie Brownstein showed up, with Bill Hader's Lindsay Buckingham as the guests. We don't really "get" the love for these sketchs. They're hit and miss, at best. And really they're a poor man's version of Eddie Murphy's classic "James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub" sketches. But this one was funny enough, and will be talked about for a while, because Sam Jackson said fuck. They bleep it in the video above, but you can hear it (for the time being) here. It's Lorne Michael's cardinal rule that no one says the f-word, so don't hold you breath for a Sam Jackson hosted episode any time soon.
In another inexplicable move, Alec Baldwin appeared to reprise his classic Tony Bennet Show sketch and for some reason it's not online. In related news, NBC just received a strongly worded letter from this writer.
We wish Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party had a shorter name, but, like, oh man she's good. She's easily the breakout recurring character of the season, by far. Kate MacKinnon is shining now that she's out of the shadow of Kirsten Wiig, but she should keep an eye on Strong. She's making a nice case for a bigger workload in 2013. We don't really know what to say about this besides, bravo, you amazing drunken nightmare.
Remember what we said about McCarney being a game musical host? He always gets involved in at least one sketch, and, most importantly, he's funny. Short and McCartney are a musical duo, but Short is the singer, and he bullies Sir Paul into playing the triangle for their Christmas pageant audition. Short goes totally overboard, and it's great, and closes with the children's choir joining Paul for the last musical performance of the night. Really, there was maybe one bad sketch last night. We were smiling the whole time. If only the best ones were available online, NBC.
This is probably the strangest sketch they did last night, but it worked on the strength of each of the impressions. Note to Broadway producers: if you were to assemble this cast and perform this play, we would probably pay you real money to see it. You know, in case you're short on ideas.