Matt Damon Is a Chugging, Raging Kavanaugh and Kanye Is Kanye on ‘Saturday Night Live’ Season 44 Premiere
With Brett Kavanaugh hearings dominating every news cycle there has been plenty for the “Saturday Night Live” writing team to draw inspiration from. For their 44th season premiere they did not disappoint. SNL began its new season with political satire sporting a darker edge and some of its more common antics still intact. While Kanye did deliver an interesting, costumed performance, it is arguably Matt Damon who stole the show early on with his jockish, short-tempered rendition of the now infamous Supreme Court nominee.
Host Adam Driver opened this season holding little back. The opening skit was almost inevitable as the cast do their own version of the Kavanaugh hearings that have gripped the country. Damon stomped in as a hotheaded Kavanaugh, warning that he’s going to “start at an 11 and take it to a 15.” More of the dialogue was a brilliant, vicious takedown of Kavanaugh’s own reasoning during the hearing. He stomped the table and yells, “I went to Yale!” Hilariously bad but believable nicknames are thrown around when he says, ““I worked my butt off to get here! I lifted weights! Every day with Tobin and PJ and Squee and Donkey Dong Doug and had a couple thousand beers along the way.” At one point Damon chugs a glass of the water the way a frat boy would down a Bud Light. Also wickedly brilliant in this skit was Kate McKinnon as a twitchy, creepy Senator Lindsey Graham who tries to defend Kavanaugh by comparing him to Bill Cosby. SNL veteran Rachel Dratch returns in the skit to play Senator Rachel Dratch. Her and Damon do their own version of that bizarre moment from the hearing when Kavanaugh snapped back, asking if the Senator herself ever drinks to the blackout point. It was guaranteed that SNL, a longtime staple of American comedic commentary, would address the Kavanaugh case, but with Damon, it was precisely the skit we need.
Kavanaugh would also dominate the jokes during the Weekend Update newscast, with Michael Che pointing out that if you’re being investigated for sexual assault as part of your job interview, you probably shouldn’t get the job. Yet the most brilliant and provocative commentary on the Kavanaugh story is a pre-filmed skit where Adam Driver attends a 1983 frat party. Shot almost like a short film, it’s titled “Rad Times at Frat U.” Like a dark version of a John Hughes movie, the skit takes us through the party, pausing on characters as they drink, make out and do coke. Occasionally the image pauses to inform us that the person in question would later be forced to drop their 2020 presidential bid, tell a grand jury none of this ever happened, died, or even married whatever jerk they’re gossiping about. It’s the episode’s satirical peak, creatively capturing what the Kavanaugh case means for us culturally.
Not everything revolves around Kavanaugh. Another hilarious theme running throughout the episode is cast member Pete Davidson’s engagement to pop star girlfriend Ariana Grande. First we get an absurdly funny skit where Kyle Mooney celebrates his sixth season on the show by sharing how Pete Davidson has stolen all of the limelight with the whole Grande engagement. To get some attention back he does a full makeover to look and act like Davidson. One of the real howlers is when Davidson catches Mooney hanging out with Kid Cudi behind his back and confronts him, saying “don’t you know I have mental problems?” Mooney takes out a bottle of pills, “oh yeah? Me too.” But Davidson’s relationship truly becomes the center of attention when he appears on the Weekend Update to discuss how great it is to date a woman who is the successful one. As he puts it, his only duty is to make sure the fridge is full. But to be safe he has switched her birth control pills at night, just to make sure she never leaves because hey, it might not last.
We can be certain that a large portion of the audience this time around did not tune in for Kavanaugh or Davidson’s engagement to Ariana, they tuned in for Kanye West. Anticipation is high with West’s new album, “Yandhi,” expected to drop any minute. There is no mention of West’s public name change to YE in the episode, but his first performance of the evening of “I Love It” is quirky enough. West appears onstage alongside Lil Pump dressed as a of Perrier and Lil Pump as a bottle of Fiji. Kanye in particular moves and waves as a big water bottle. The second performance of the evening is more traditional Kanye West in his trademark look, performing “We’ve Got Love (You Bette Believe It)” alongside Teyana Taylor. The performance ends with a meditative tone as the two artists stand and listen to a recorded speech by Lauryn Hill about keeping your sense of love. Kanye can’t help but be Kanye and for the closing performance of “Ghost Town” with Kid Cudi, 070 Shake and Ty Dolla $ign over the end credits, in which he appears wearing the “Make American Great Again” hat.
Delivering some great comedy over this packed roster is Adam Driver, who opens the show with a monologue about how summer’s over and now we have to endure everyone going on and on about what they did during the last few months. His best moment is a brilliantly strange skit where Davidson plays a kid going to career day in school, but father, played by Driver, is a dark and brooding oil baron named Parnasus. “What does an oil baron do? Crush your enemies!” Such are the lines Driver hurls at the class as Davidson tries to keep himself from exploding with laughter (especially when Driver yells, “look at your father boy!”).
With the headlines continuing their spiral into conflict and uncertainty, full of heated if necessary social debates, SNL is back to provide a bit of a tonic for it all. It knows how to say what we’re all thinking but with mischief and sharp laughs, which is not an easy thing to do when real life is playing out like its own, tragic comedy.
“Saturday Night Live” season 44 premiered Sept. 29 and airs Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. on NBC.