‘Saturday Night Live’ Ends 43rd Season With Tina Fey Hosting Celebrity-Packed Blowout
In its 43rd season “Saturday Night Live” remains the weekend’s major laughing tonic for our nutty times. Now operating in a world where the sketches practically write themselves, the SNL cast closes its latest season with a celebrity-packed romp. There is something that remains familiar or standard about SNL’s format, and even when the show has found itself lacking, it has never sold out on its original style or voice. Now more than ever, politics is the name of the game and this season’s closing episode roasted the Trump White House to no end, taking a detour here and there to take aim at the royal wedding and To Catch a Predator.
Tina Fey returns to her old haunt to host. Fey made her bones as a comedy writer on SNL, proudly telling the audience that it’s been two decades since she penned material on the show. Not one to hog the spotlight, she turns her opening monologue into a Q&A session, which is really an excuse for quick cameos by Jerry Seinfeld, Robert De Niro, Donald Glover and a few others. They all riff on the idea of SNL featuring too many celebrity cameos in recent years, although Glover clarifies he’s just here to look for his missing hat from the night he performed on the show. Yet what celebrity can outshine Donald Trump these days in terms of cultural chatter? The introductory sketch features Trump, played by Alec Baldwin of course, meeting friends Rudy Giuliani (Kate McKinnon), Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller) and Donald Trump Jr. (Mikey Day) at a diner while enjoy the sound of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Giuliani can’t stop blabbering about what he’ll expose next when being interviewed on TV (“I told them you were openly colluding with Russia but ‘so what?’”). Just then Robert Mueller (De Niro) walks in, giving Trump a warning stare that he’s watching him. It isn’t as glorious as the opening skit from a few weeks ago featuring the real Stormy Daniels warning Trump over the phone that, “a storm’s a comin’ baby,” but Baldwin and McKinnon are always good fun in their roles.
As political satire, SNL has always kept alive a more traditional form of political mockery, using the absurdity of real life to make hilarious, exaggerated interpretations. Tina Fey reprises her legendary role of Sarah Palin, hosting musical by those who have been fired or targeted by Trump. John Goodman pops in as Rex Tillerson. During the Weekend Update, hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che hilariously commemorate one year of the Muller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. In one brilliant bit they use the Yanny/Laurel debate to frame how for Trump supporters hearing about the investigation translates to, “There was no collusion, it’s a witch hunt,” whereas for Trump haters all they hear is, “I’m getting away with it, bitches.” Che notes that this is one of the few times black people root for the feds, “watching Rachel Dolezal get kicked out of a Starbucks.” Yet the writing still has some sharper edges, as when Che comments on racial inequality in the prison system, opining with that serious, news-worthy dead pan tone that makes every line even more biting.
Of course SNL quickly finds other things to mock. A sketch based on To Catch a Predator features Fey as Dateline host Dana Milbrook, cornering a man thinking he is meeting a prostitute. It then turns into a rowdy take on TV itself, as Milbrook and the crew discuss the lightning and urge the pervert (Beck Bennett) to do a few more takes, even as he hyperventilates. A sketch based on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show cheerfully aims at the onscreen engaged hosts Joe Scarborough (Alex Moffat) and Mika Brzezinski (McKinnon). They lust for each other in-between news commentary, coming close to making out. The best part about the sketch is how it focuses on Brzezinski’s on air hums, moans and mannerisms.
For Tina Fey this is a fun return to familiar ground, and in self-mocking fashion she even has a great skit where she insists on performing in a musical based on “Mean Girls,” the 2004 cult classic written by Fey. Lin-Manuel Miranda guests as the show’s supposed writer, who grows frustrated because everyone knows Fey has no musical or dancing skills, but she misinterprets comments from office workers and insists on being let in. Miranda’s final line is a killer as he decides to write her into the script, with a comment on the size of her head.
Overall SNL ends another season with big cameos and scorching roasts on everything we get on the news and the pop culture radar. Nicki Minaj is the guest music act, performing with her usual verve (she also appeared in a sketch with Fey which was cut for time but is available online). Now we enter a summer of more headlines, eager for SNL to come back and make some sense of it all with gusto.
“Saturday Night Live” season forty-three finale aired May 19 at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC.