Saturday Night Live recap: Adele makes hosting debut with musical guest H.E.R.

Andy Hoglund
·10 min read

NBC

With our powers combined: earth, wind, fire, water, heart! Week 4 of SNL46, commence! It’s Saturday night, so as always welcome, my dearest Coneheads, to SNL in Review. We’re back with tonight’s host, Adele, who previously appeared as the musical guest in 2008 and 2015. This is her first hosting gig but — curiously — H.E.R. will feature as tonight’s musical act. (This in itself is fun, as H.E.R. appeared on All That last fall opposite Kel Mitchell. Time is a flat circle.) Adele has previously been impersonated twice on SNL, by Aidy Bryant.

Given the ongoing focus on the presidential election, tonight’s SNL alum is Denny Dillon, who has a lot of firsthand experience doing live TV comedy in an election cycle, given her stint on the show in the fall of 1980. And in particular, she memorably played a Carter family member — when the show still allowed cast members to play such roles! (Kidding.) “Personally, I was happy when the writers told me they had a new character for me: Amy Carter. I had no idea what she sounded like so I gave it a wild Tennessee Williams spin. She ended up being in three episodes,” says Dillon.

On the subject of playing a presidential offspring today, versus during the early '80s, she adds: “Perhaps it’s less taboo. Generally, the press and president’s children used to be off-limits. I gave Amy an absurd comic spin as she was just a kid. Adult children of Showboat-aholics like Trumps’ sons are a comedy meal. Alex Moffat and Mikey Day are terrific… Love [the] Trump sons. Would like some more Ivanka.”

As much as I think the Jim Carrey-as-Biden stuff has fallen flat, it will be interesting to watch the cold open tackle what was a more muted, “normal” final debate between the former Vice President and Trump. Will they surprise us?! Let’s jump right in!

Cold Open

It’s the presidential debate with Kristen Welker (Maya Rudolph)! Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) and Joe Biden (Carrey) enter the arena. Remarking on the show’s take on today’s cameos, Dillon says: “Maya Rudolph is brilliant in anything she does. I only wish she could have a solo as Kamala and sing and dance. I [was thinking] Jim Carrey might take his impression from Biden’s smile, and I think he has.”

Fire Marshal Biden is “Eastwooding.” The Biden Bingo card is pretty clever, but most of this hews pretty closely to the debate — no real hook. Maybe we need an SNL political cold open bingo card! Kate McKinnon appears as Rudy Giuliani, who was recently mired in controversy due to his appearance in the new Borat sequel. She is the only actual cast member to appear in this sketch. By the end of this 11-minute, mostly laugh-free affair, Rudolph’s Welker is drunk! Lucky!

“I watched the first debate. I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. Trump’s rudeness is mind-numbing,” Dillon adds, summing up the feelings of millions of Americans. This debate feels it’s lacking any true comedic hook.

Monologue

Adele shouts out her original appearance in 2008 when Tina Fey first played Sarah Palin. She credits that spot for starting her career, and thanks Palin. She also acknowledges questions about why she is not singing tonight — her album is not finished, and she was scared to do both.

“I could only bring half of me,” she jokes, discussing her recent weight loss — she blames it on the COVID-19 travel restrictions. This is blunt and self-deprecating. She seems enthusiastic and happy to be here, which is a good sign for a host!

Kenan Thompson is on top of Adele’s curse jar — twice the size of him.

“I think Adele is a genius. One of the greatest soulful singers in memory. Truly a gift,” says Dillon.

Madame Vivelda

Bowen Yang, Heidi Gardner, Adele, and Ego Nwodim visit a psychic (Kate McKinnon). The year is 2019! So this leads to lots of winking jokes about her dark, absurd visions about the hellscape of 2020. Adele crying over her lost adult coloring book; Gardner losing it over her live-in boyfriend washing a bag of potato chips. Cryptic transmissions that only make sense to the audience. Pretty clever.

Other examples: Bowen Yang’s trip to Paris is canceled — he visits Kentucky instead and is afraid to use the gas station bathroom. “Do we cry for all of 2020?!” asks Nwodim. Yang’s friends are furious with him when he eats at a restaurant.

The final vision: Gardner’s father — Jeffrey Toobin — is on Zoom when he accidentally exposes himself. The sketch ends with a good slap at J.K. Rowling: “Stick to the books!”

Chad in a Haunted Manor

“Okay.” Chad (Pete Davidson) is driving and runs out of gas. Going inside a spooky country manor, a ghost (Adele) appears to him. As always he is apathetic — he accidentally lights the ghost’s letter on fire.

In the end, Chad dies — could this be a signal Davidson’s tenure on the show is coming to a close? Chad was the closest thing he had to a recurring character. This is Chad’s seventh appearance (his first since February with RuPaul), and his second Halloween-themed short.

The Bachelor

Ah, SNL returns to riffing on The Bachelor. Typically, this doubles as a nice showcase for the show’s female cast members. Tonight we get Adele singing, which is, of course, a treat! She needs to pace herself emotionally — it’s fun to incorporate her iconic music and tease at the melodrama of her vocals. “Hello,” “Someone Like You,” “Rolling in the Deep” and “When We Were Young” are modern classics. And the crowd seems into it! Lauren Holt gets a nice laugh — she is frightened and intimidated by the unstable Adele, as are the other contestants.

Adele finishes the sketch in the audience, singing. This upstages H.E.R a bit no?! You can’t top Adele, as this sketch implicitly sees.

Election Ad

The cast worries, without Trump, what will people talk about? “My entire personality is hating Donald Trump,” confesses Melissa Villaseñor. “What is the news even going to be about now?” wonders Mikey Day.

This is a twisted look at Trump’s legacy — but even if the president loses, he is not going away. There could be a trial! He could run again in 2024! This is chilling.

The hook is Trump addicts secretly maybe possibly don’t want to see Trump beaten by Biden. He’s way too controversial and engrossing — and maybe hilarious?!

Dillon adds: “I moved to NYC in 1974 so I’ve known for decades what a con-artist, sham, and liar Trump is/was. I knew about his bragging, his bankruptcies, Marla Maples, and all his affairs in the New York Post every two seconds. He took away many New Yorkers' view of the Hudson River with his high-rises. He owned the Plaza for a minute and brought that down, just like his casinos in Atlantic City. He pretends to have a Midas touch, but actually, it’s more biblical... He’s the Day of the Locust.”

Trump’s appeal to people is certainly complicated, in some cases. Reflecting on being a part of SNL during the Reagan Revolution, Dillon says: “I am from a family of democrats so was horrified when my mother voted for Reagan because he was ‘handsome.' ‘How could you vote for such a bad actor!’ I said.”

H.E.R performs "Damage"

This has a lovely early '90s R&B vibe, crossed with a little Janelle Monáe. It’s vulnerable, raw, and sexy, and H.E.R’s croon is powerful. The music video for “Damage” was released earlier this week.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost opens Update by slamming Joe Biden’s debate performance, which feels misplaced. He also again returns to Biden’s age. Michael Che gets choked up over the coronavirus not taking the president.

Melissa Villaseñor pops up to discuss being alone during the pandemic. She taps her Little Rascal impression. (Shout out Buck Wheat.) She also impersonates Sia. Glad to see her get some screen time!

Jost takes a dig at Che, who in turn slaps Nelly!

Chris Redd, Bowen Yang, Beck Bennett, Kenan Thompson, and Mikey Day play the Village People, demanding Donald Trump stop dancing to “YMCA” at his rallies. It’s hilarious watching Kenan belt his heart out like it’s “What’s Up With That” and Bowen looks fantastic! They want to shave Ivanka Trump’s head. “Everything is legal if you sing it in a song!” They’re furious at Trump, clearly.

Visiting Grandma

Maya Rudolph pops up in a second sketch for a second straight week! She is a grandmother at a nursery home sequestered during quarantine. Adele is her granddaughter, joined by her boyfriend (Pete Davidson). Rudolph is amazing. With Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong still MIA, it is fun to see Rudolph used so frequently like this. She’s going beyond simply playing a famous politician — like Rachel Dratch last season, it’s almost like she’s a genuine cast member again. Could Blanche become a new recurring character?!

“I’m unemployed! I don’t have a job!” Davidson angrily confides. Ego Nwodim has been dumped. “Okay,” she says, content, in both instances.

Africa Tourism

Adele and Kate McKinnon are spaced-out spokeswomen for the sandy beaches of Africa. “The tall, tall tribesmen, the bamboo.” These two divorcees feel like they could have been an Aidy-Kate duo. They are joined by Heidi Gardner, a passing of the torch.

Adele cannot handle the silliness here. “You can feel it in your stomach,” deadpans Gardner, as Adele howls with laughter. “For divorcees of a certain age,” ends the ad. “We’ll leave the light on for you.”

“Adele was wonderfully funny in the sketches,” says Dillon. “Couldn’t keep my eyes off her. Loved when she cracked up.”

H.E.R. performs “Hold On”

The “divine” H.E.R performs her jaw-dropping, D’Angelo-inspired latest single. “How do you get somewhere comfortable then leave? Say something baby,” she yearns. This is deeply moving, and H.E.R’s guitar solo continues SNL’s strong track record with musical performances this season.

Ass Angel Jeans

Maya Rudolph is back for a three-peat! She’s in a bizarre '80s-themed musical commercial parody. Beck Bennett howls the anthems, as Adele gives the perfunctory explanation. This feels at least partly inspired by "San Junipero."

“She got the ass of an angel!” Kyle Mooney without Kyle Mooney vibes.

Final thoughts

  • Soo… what do we think? Very musical episode. Sound off below or vote here!

  • Thank you to the most excellent Denny Dillon for sharing her thoughts tonight! For more on Denny, please check out my Vulture conversation with her from this summer. And look out for her in the upcoming film Bruised, directed by and starring Halle Berry. It will be released soon on Netflix.

  • "Look after each other and don’t forget to vote!” implores Adele, who was fun tonight. They’re all wearing masks at the goodnight.

  • Hey you! Want to relive this episode’s best moments alongside some great folk? You can do worse than the SNL Afterparty YouTube Channel. It’s currently the longest-running SNL podcast, and John is good people.

  • Maya Rudolph was practically tonight's co-host, wasn't she? They have used actual hosts far less in the past...

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