Published Sep 30, 2018Adam Driver was an incredibly funny, dedicated host, while Kanye West put in his least-inspiring and most-divisive musical performances and appearances on an otherwise strong Saturday Night Live season premiere. Here's everything that happened.
The cold open
Matt Damon surprised the audience by appearing as Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and SNL lampooned the horrid senate hearings into his conduct that occurred this past Thursday. The show made the right move by only dealing with Kavanaugh's red-faced performance and not that of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, which was, as most comedians might say, not funny at all. Most of the cast (plus another special guest, former cast member, Rachel Dratch) took part in this pretty uproarious take on the captivating and disturbing fiasco that would normally be seen as patently, illogically absurd, if the context weren't so inherently cynical and surreally satiric on its own.
Adam Driver engaged in an amusing idea about hating to make small talk with cast members about what their summers were like while SNL was on hiatus. Aidy Bryant, Beck Bennett and Kenan Thompson all riffed on the sketch's central theme of "worked a little, travelled a little," which made Driver, who just wanted to reveal Star Wars secrets, increasingly angry. When Pete Davidson showed up, he did the cheap thing he's been doing about how his fiancée, Ariana Grande, is generally regarded as being too attractive to be engaged to Pete Davidson. It was palpable, the excitement that he and the show's producers share for the attention this union is getting. It will be milked.
Driver played a 46-year-old divorced dad who joined a live round of Fortnite to impress his son, who has bonded over the game with his new stepdad. He frustrates his remote game-mates, played by Kyle Mooney and Pete Davidson, but other than Mikey Day's physicality as a video game character and Driver's commitment to his role, there wasn't much meat to this and it fizzled.
Kyle vs. Pete
Seeing how Pete Davidson became a bona fide celebrity over the summer, Kyle Mooney tries to cop his life by stealing his look and demeanour, dating a hot, famous woman (Wendy Williams), and hanging with cool musicians (Kid Cudi). Things came to a bloody head in this random remote, which was an ambitious way of dealing with Davidson's ascent to gossip fodder, but this was already the second reference to his relationship in 20 minutes and that seemed excessive.
A focus group taste-testing Burger King coffee goes awry when one couple, played by Driver and Cecily Strong, lose their minds because they thought they were drinking a fancier brew called Domenico's. A nice outlet for one of Strong's energetic but vapid characters and Driver was particularly good in this, investing his character with a De Niro-like intensity while being so comically wrong about what he was saying.
Rad Times at Frat U
Playing on the Kavanaugh/Ford story, this remote imagined a frat party that altered the course of the lives of everyone who attended. The premise was that at some point, the party would come under scrutiny, as politicians and other public figures would have their character and temperament as adults examined based on their behaviour when they were drunken college students. Not sure what this sketch was saying about its real-life inspiration. Was it wrong for the world to dwell on what Kavanaugh did as a young man? Do we all need to chill in assuming such actions reveal whom we are as adults? Again, not sure if SNL had a point of view to express about all of this or were just riffing on this strangely disturbing confirmation hearing.
Why, oh why, would Kanye West choose to perform a sanitized version of the utterly profane "I Love It" on SNL? The mindless two-minute sex rhymes collaboration with Lil Pump is so dumb, its hook is "You're such a fucking ho, I love it." That's the gist of it. The pair, dressed as large water bottles to vaguely resemble their viral video and reference a spiel from the song (Pump was a bottle of still water, Kanye was dressed like Perri-Ye), awkwardly altered the chorus to "You're such a freaky girl" and yet tripped over verses, dropping actual "fucks" and "shits," seemingly lost and confused by how their own inane song went. This was a total disaster.
When Teyana Taylor joined West for "We Got Love," which leaked earlier this year, things improved marginally. Taylor, wearing a see-through bra, brought some strong, distracting energy to the bare stage, shamelessly lip-syncing her verse and singing too, but with Ye's scant bars, the song itself was unremarkable. For a guy who's transformed the SNL stage in the past, appearing more than any other musical guest in the show's history, this was the nadir.
Michael Che and Colin Jost loaded up the top half of Update with some very solid jokes about the Kavanaugh hearings before Kate McKinnon appeared as her energetic iteration of current Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who punctuates burns with hip-hop dancing. This is still a one-note time-suck.
Further headline jokes were interrupted by Leslie Jones doing a somewhat meta take on Serena Williams' umpire clash at the U.S. Open, and Che did a clever recurring bit about Bill Cosby going to jail and The Cosby Show. Good god, Pete Davidson did a desk bit about his relationship with Ariana Grande. This might be a long season.
Abraham H. Parnassus
Driver played an ancient, angry oil baron who makes a colourful career day presentation at his son's high school. The son, played by Ariana Grande's current fiancée Pete Davidson, is mortified by his father, an old-timey guy with the fire of Daniel Plainview. Driver was magnificent in this, despite Davidson's continuing Fallon-esque inability to keep a straight face during sketches he's in. Ariana Grande, ask your man to stop breaking.
Did Vermont make SNL mad about something? This gathering of white nationalists was upended when two members of the group, played by Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney, suggested that it was time for all of them to move to a minority/immigrant-free part of America. They never get to specify where this place is because, no matter what stereotypically white person thing that they mention might be in abundance there, a character played by Adam Driver suggests all of that and more is already present in Vermont. This funny premise was really sold by Driver, who exhibited impeccable comic timing.
The end credits
The usual trademark sign-off by the host, musical guest, and the cast was surprisingly cut short as, with five or so minutes still left in the show, Driver said farewell and thank you but then introduced Kanye West again. West, sporting his "Make America Great Again" hate speech hat, was backed by the SNL band (who rarely play with musical guests) and joined by 070 Shake, Kid Cudi and Ty Dolla $ign to play "Ghost Town" from ye. It was the best and most spirited of his three performances, but the bar was low. After the show went off the air, Kanye made one of his infamous speeches, criticizing the show for "bullying" him about his MAGA hat and displaying some confusion about what the "sunken place" from Get Out might signify.
SNL cast member Chris Redd tweeted his displeasure with West and his antics and much of twitter has had a busy Sunday unpacking what West got up to. Meanwhile, and lost in all of this, is the fact that Driver was a great, fun host.
I wasn't on stage for that. 🖕🏾— Chris Redd (@Reddsaidit) September 30, 2018