Stewart previously hosted in season 42 — you may recall her memorable monologue in which she addresses Donald Trump’s Twitter obsession with her. (We truly exist in an alternate timeline.) The most iconic sketch from her last hosting gig is almost certainly the faux Super Bowl commercial for Totinos with Vanessa Bayer. It has over 8.5 million views on YouTube.
This is Coldplay’s sixth appearance performing on Saturday Night Live. The band first played the show in 2001, pre 9/11, and subsequently returned to perform in seasons 30, 34, 37 and 39 (Chris Martin also sang Thanksgiving songs opposite Garth and Kat on Weekend Update).
Appearing on SNL six times is a feat; only a handful of musical guests have surpassed that mark. Paul Simon performed 15 times, and Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters have been on a bunch. Tom Petty came on eight, and both Beck and Eminem have appeared on seven shows. So tonight’s Coldplay appearance ties the band with the likes of Randy Newman, the most appearances by a non-American artist. History is fun, isn’t it?
I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member Victoria Jackson, who appeared on the show from 1986 to 1992. Jackson was a big fan of the season premiere cold open, which spoofed the DNC Town Fall. She says, “Woody Harrelson is an excellent Biden!”
SNL dedicates its first cold open solely to Elizabeth Warren here. Kate McKinnon does a great impression of the senator, and there are some killer one-liners (“When the numbers are this big, they just don’t exist)… but it still feels like the show is grappling with her to cover her. McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton was so savage, they seem resistant to stumbling back into inadvertently boosting the president’s reelection. Or maybe they are merely reflecting our own ambivalence.
McKinnon’s body language sometimes tap into her RBG rhythms, no? Don’t answer that – the big takeaway here is: resting its shoulders solely on a cast member, and its own observations not gimmick, gives this cold open a nice vintage vibe.
Meanwhile: “I work for Kamala Harris’ campaign but I’m still undecided.” Cecily Strong leads a strong crop of cast members questioning Warren’s policies and electability. “I have a followup because I’m annoying.”
Stewart opens by spoofing her “anxiety teen trying to leave dinner” persona, before hopping into “one of those” audience Q&A motifs. It seems awkward, which may be the point. Pete Davidson dives in with his own AMA before Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney randomly appear in costume as Stewart. This is short, and harmless in the grand scheme of life, but damn… was there an overarching conceit here?
Victoria Jackson adds Stewart “forgot to button her shirt! I love all the cast. They’re terrific.“
America at War!
PR pro-Bennett meets industrialist Mikey Day during World War II. Day introduces Bennett, who is looking for the new face of his patriotic marketing campaign, to Chloe Fineman is (the iconic) Rosie the Riveter, while Stewart joins Aidy Bryant and McKinnon as Barbara, Norma and Dot, the true female heroes who worked in American factories during the war. “Cram it, ya coward!”
This has the vibe of one of those Bryant-McKinnon riffs but it’s short.
Short film: Duolingo for Talking to Children
Stewart headlines a great commercial parody targeting adults who aren’t able to talk with children. It is very sharp and hilarious — SNL almost always knocks these filmed parodies out of the park.
“Very cool, bud.” “I like your backpack.”
Farrow & Ball
We quickly jump into another sketch, which at first appears to be another commercial parody before becoming something more twisted. Bennett, Stewart, and Bryant return, initially banally discussing a recently painted living room. Things escalate as Bryant crushes with a full-throated, “LOOK AT THE CO-LURE OF HIS EYES!”
Bryant, I have to say, may the MVP of these early, non-political sketches. But is it a swan song for her? “We met in Facebook Marketplace!” Bryant cries, describing her boyfriend, played by a (still shirtless) Mooney.
Kellyanne Conway and Conan the K-9 Commando
McKinnon is back! In another political sketch! Initially, this feels like a cold open that was repurposed for later in the show.
Then the reveal: it’s another Strong partnered with a dog sketch! I’d say this is hacky, but Strong’s line writings are very funny… and it really makes me want Hollywood to produce another Turner & Hooch series. Just for Cecily! She deserves it!
Corporate Life music video
SNL takes on early 2000s pop-punk in this corporate office culture riff. It sounds like that era of music — the Simple Plans, Sum 41s, and Paramores of the world. That makes Stewart the Avril Lavigne of the proceedings here, and she feels well cast.
Mooney dominates this — it’s got his spirit, even if it’s aiming for, and not reaching, Lonely Island heights.
Coldplay — “Orphans”
Chris Martin launches into a performance of “Orphans,” one of the singles off Coldplay’s new album. He quickly enlists professional dancers posing as members of the studio audience. They seem to be enjoying themselves. Some background: “Orphans” was recorded last-minute during the mixing of the album, perhaps a bid for a bubbly Justin Timberlake-level hit. We’ve come a long way from “Yellow” dominating MTV2, haven’t we folks? This is the first time the song has been performed live.
Kicking things off, Colin jost and Michael Che tackle President Trump’s decision to move to Florida, which leads to Che launching into a hilarious riff about Trump being booed during the World Series. He also possibly nods to the uproar from his Caitlin Jenner joke last week, claiming he was called the N-word while peeing on the subway. (He also lands hard with the bomb, “Even Cosby can still play Philly!”)
Oh wow, Melissa Villaseñor gets an original character on Update. She’s playing Riley Jenson, kid genius. Good to see the show giving her a chance to shine, though Riley’s mom — played by Heidi Gardner — upstages her. It’s interesting to see Villaseñor’s performance style play off Gardner’s more theatrical and dramatic chops. How is Gardner so good at this?
Our second correspondent bit returns Bryant and McKinnon — the All Stars. We previously saw Vaneta and Wylene Starkie, from Smokery Farms, last March. It’s hard to deny their charisma here.
Ever curious how original bits get to appear on Update? Let’s explore… Victoria Jackson has a bit of experience appearing on Update during the Dennis Miller era, and cites her favorite moment in show business as her performance of “I Am Not a Bimbo,” which spoofed Jessica Hahn’s PEOPLE magazine cover quote during the Jim Bakker scandal. Here’s her describing the process of creating the bit, and getting it on air:
“On Tuesday, Christine Zander threw the magazine on my desk and said, ‘You should write this!’ I asked Greg Greenberg, who worked at the front desk, for help with the lyrics, but most of them poured out of me in ten minutes. Wednesday, I sang it at read-through and Lorne rejected it. I couldn’t believe it! I went to his office. He said, ‘I don’t like the blues.’ Odd. I asked if he would reconsider if I changed the music. He said, ‘Take it to Cheryl.’ Brilliant Cheryl Hardwick quickly changed it into a pop song, sitting at the piano in her office, with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth and eyes squinted. (She’d practice Beethoven and Bach in there a lot.) Lorne let me do it at dress rehearsal [on] Saturday and it was a hit so he left it in the live show. Good times.”
She adds: “I felt like I was walking ten feet off the ground when I walked into the after-party. Years later, I met Jessica Hahn and she was very gracious about it. She said that I made her laugh during a dark time.”
It’s 12 Angry Men — but a more diversified, hungrier version. Bowen Yang makes his first appearance tonight, as the bailiff (not a waiter!) This is a key point, as Stewart and the majority of the cast wrangle a man’s fate on empty stomachs. After the K-9 sketch earlier tonight, this episode is keen on the sound effects. Live television at its finest, maybe not… but it creates an excellent opportunity to callback PG County’s own Ginuwine.
Ego Nwodim and Kenan Thompson portray an oblivious, crabcake-eating Baltimore couple, immune to Stewart’s seduction efforts. Yang shows up for a nice reveal near the end. Ego lands the best line of the sketch: “I stopped listening to music when Queen Latifah began hosting talk shows.” She couldn’t handle the betrayal!
Coldplay — “Everyday Life”
Coldplay returns with the new title track off their forthcoming album. After the XXXtreme pop instincts of “Orphans,” this returns the band to more familiar, maybe better territory. Martin crooning on a piano — right down the middle. Side note: remember when Martin appeared on a song with Kanye West, then did a song with Jay Z, then was mentioned on a West song about him doing a song with Jay Z? 2007 was wild!
Victoria Jackson says, “Just saw Kristen introduce Coldplay. She forgot to button her shirt again!”
Bennett and Stewart channel Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch’s kinky Love-ahs characters on a midnight hike. Bennett even looks and sounds like Roger Clarvin. The cast seems ready to move on from this 10-to-1 effort, which includes easy galactic 69 jokes.
Victoria Jackson concurs, “They crossed the line. This stargazing sketch is not funny.”
—So what did you all think? Weigh in below or vote here!
—Some corners of the web have been speculating SNL may yet again be facing cancellation or a major facelift due to this season’s declining ratings. It’s hard to determine whether there’s any actual substance yet to this (admittedly, unlikely) theorizing. One thought on their origin: MAGA country has long chattered about the show’s biases. So it’s potentially good old fashioned trolling. Remember: the President himself threatened a federal probe of the show.
—Thanks to Victoria Jackson for her thoughts tonight!