While the Dec. 3 episode of “Saturday Night Live” didn’t bring a lot of hilarity, Emma Stone’s charm — and frequent cameos by Jennifer Aniston — carried the night.
Jen was, of course, there to plug “Office Christmas Party” — which co-stars, among a group of actors possibly as large as “everyone who is alive,” Kate McKinnon and Vanessa Bayer — while Emma was hosting for the third time ahead of “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s followup to his films “10 Cloverfield Lane” and “Whiplash.”
We have seen “Whiplash” — we loved it when the mean man made him hit the drums faster — and will be on the lookout Dec. 16 for a highly anticipated whimsical fantasia on Hollywood themes. No word yet on whether “La La Land” will pay tribute to Emma Stone’s Pacific Islander heritage — but there’s always hope, isn’t there.
Best Use of Jennifer Aniston, Besides Pinning So Much of Our Stuff on Her All the Time
This “Weekend Update” sketch, in which Vanessa Bayer’s “Friends” impression is finally roasted by the queen herself, is notable not only because Jen is the most wonderful person but also because of the very weird, very “2016 SNL” way it all comes together.
You could show this sketch to someone — with its odd jumps, self-reflexive commentary, completely losing track of its own premise, and hilarious performances — and they’d get pretty close to understanding what the show is about now:
Most “School Play” Iteration of the “School Play” Sketch
This series, in which the cast plays anxiously/cluelessly woke teens to Bayer and Kenan Thompson, is sort of like an ensemble version of Cecily Strong’s “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t,” in that it’s usually pretty on-point politically, but never seems completely done. The crust isn’t as flaky as we’d like, the room didn’t veto enough of the first-drafty jokes, and randomness rules the day.
But this week’s School Play — which includes shoutouts to AIDS and an uproariously mindless tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement — seems like what the sketch has wanted to be all along: Nasty as hell, cruel in its satire, and completely on target — making it more like the ensemble version of Vanessa Bayer’s tiny kid star Laura Parsons, instead:
Again, this is precisely the tone — exhausted, progressive, angry and accountable but neither snarky nor righteous — that will define the current crop and flavor of the show.
The Trump stuff really burned them, and it’s so encouraging to see these gifted performers stepping away from the sniping back-and-forth to present a more precise version of their truth, false equivalencies be damned.
Best Emma Stone Performance Overall
Not hugely in love with the premise here, or the jokes — Kyle Mooney’s Joseph is a selfish boyfriend to Stone’s put-upon Virgin Mary, on the night she gives birth — but the way Emma Stone commits to the role has more subtle power than any one moment in the rest of the episode.
Even Stone’s pitch-perfectly Jenna Jameson-esque porn voice, as a Carl’s Jr. poster — in a sketch you can find elsewhere, but went too long and played only to Kate McKinnon’s strengths — was not quite as impressive as the tiny little decisions she makes here.
BONUS: Emma Stone’s Inaugural “Jeunes de Paris”
…Speaking of Emma’s gifts! We miss all the castmembers in this first installment of the running joke — but not as much as we wish it had stayed just like this: Perfect, eternal, and extremely relevant to all of our lives. And gone forever.
There were several this week that stood out — and definitely outshined the majority of live sketches.
The first, “Hunt for Hil,” is a pretty classy and quiet postmortem on what we did — a crummy and soft-racist paranormal-reality series tracks Hillary through the woods she’s been spotted in since the election — and while the attention to detail is worth admiring, just as with “American Horror Story’s” last season we’re left thinking that sometimes, perfectly aping something that isn’t that great in the first place is more fun in theory than in practice.
Carrying on the tradition of all-lady digital shorts — increasingly a show staple, and with good reason — we have this little number, in which Aidy Bryant is particularly enchanting, as is to be expected: Between the various “L’il Baby Aidy” numbers over the years, and Girl’s Halloween a month or so ago, it’s nice to see the show doubling down. Most ideas that get franchised out like this (remember the Broken Lizard years?) run out of steam after a year or so, but “Christmas Savior” is one of the funniest — and more importantly, relatable — bits since the digital short was invented.
After testing the boundaries with “First Got Horny 2 U,” the crew didn’t backslide all the way to Adele and Taylor Swift jokes (which would have been fine!) and that says a lot about the support they’re getting behind the scenes.
We talk so much about representation and diversity with this show that it’s important to note exactly when and how it backs its women up — and even super-basic yuppie jokes about candles can have an edge, with a confident hand on the tiller. Great work.
But best of all — and speaking of inclusivity — this week’s uncontested hit was “Wells for Boys,” a multi-leveled comment on gender and heteronormativity that got unanimous approval while still riding the edge of PC/problematic. A spiritual successor to “Lil Poundcake,” the doll that vaccinates against HPV and was probably the most common interstitial short after “Lazy Sunday,” “Wells for Boys” seems to be a loving nudge/side-eye to our “sensitive sons” and their heavily gendered toys…
Until that last moment, when Emma Stone unleashes 200 years of our frustration on her son’s rowdy little playmate. I can’t be the only one that sat up and screamed when it happened, and it’s a top highlight of the season. Even if you don’t get where she’s coming from… You get where she’s coming from, come on. Just a really unbelievable, late in the episode, appeal to our better natures. Really moving stuff, honestly.
Because you are nice, some Bonus Wiig from a while back that really speaks to what life, music, and this crazy journey we’re on are all about.
“Saturday Night Live” airs at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. Two episodes remain this year: John Cena (with tiny child country singer Maren Morris) on Dec. 10, and Casey Affleck (with Chance the Rapper!) on Dec. 17.