Saturday Night Live recap: Kristen Wiig returns to host last show of 2020

Andy Hoglund
·10 min read

Will Heath/NBC

Once more unto the breach, dear Coneheads, to another SNL in Review. Welcome to the Saturday Night Live Christmas show, hosted by Kristen Wiig and featuring musical guest Dua Lipa. Tonight is Wiig’s fourth appearance hosting the show, after a long stint as a cast member which launched her to stardom; she previously hosted the SNL at Home finale in May. And Lipa was the musical guest on the show back in February 2018, performing her hit song “New Rules” followed by her ballad “Homesick."

SNL has a long history of Christmas episodes, but with all things 2020, this one will be a little different. For one thing, Jim Carrey announced earlier today he will not be returning as President-elect Joe Biden. This opens up a few possibilities for the show — will Alex Moffat be given the opportunity to be cast as the future 46th president? Could Jason Sudeikis return? Darrell Hammond?! Kate McKinnon?!?!

Speaking of McKinnon, she is poised to begin filming a new project in early 2021. Questions remain how long she, or Aidy Bryant, or Cecily Strong will remain on the show.

I am joined tonight by THREE former cast members, who have experienced 30 Rock in December firsthand: Denny Dillon, who is currently appearing in A New York Christmas Wedding on Netflix; Siobhan Fallon Hogan, who recently wrote and produced her first film RUSHED starring Robert Patrick; and Victoria Jackson. They know all-too-well about the sometimes-difficult yet successful transition from SNL to Hollywood.

But let’s focus on the show’s well-worn holiday traditions. Dillon recalls: “I remember on my season’s Christmas episode doing a sketch with Eddie Murphy for the first time. David Carradine was host, and we were homeless people eating Kentucky Fried Chicken and lamenting the fact that the Colonel died. So did the sketch.”

Fallon Hogan remembers: “I remember Steve Martin coming to the table read - of all the possible scenes - and he was pure class. He was funny and kind. I was still so new and he made it a point to compliment me on a scene. We did a big musical number with Steve and it was a riot. I especially remember Chris Farley getting really into it and Steve getting a huge kick out of him.”

It will be interesting to see how SNL comments tonight on the upcoming holiday, which already feels so different and strange from any previous year. On her holiday plans, in the era of COVID-19, Dillon shares: “I am keeping very safe. My partner and I are going to exchange a drop-off Italian feast with two other ladies and eat together via Zoom. The hard part will be passing the garlic bread.”

It’s Saturday night, friends, let’s dive in!

Cold Open

Mike Pence (Beck Bennett) is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on live TV. Lauren Holt is playing his wife, Karen, who won't talk. He is looking “swole AF,” and has been doing weightlifting in his garage like Kevin Spacey from American Beauty. Mikey Day administers the shot.

Maya Rudolph returns as Kamala Harris. She won more votes, and smacks the current vice president. And heyo — Moffat appears as Biden. It feels deeply cathartic to have a cast member portray the president… for the first time in years! They joke about Mario Lopez playing the role one day — go AC Slater! (He’s having an incredible year!) I’m all for it. Moffat seems to be channeling mid-2000s-era SNL George Bush. Anything is better than Fire Marshall Biden.

We get our obligatory grotesque Rudy Giuliani, played by McKinnon. Woof. Anyway, Kenan Thompson is back as Ben Carson. Not a ton of these jokes land, it’s just a gallery of pop-in appearances with no story. So, Biden aside, SNL/Colin Jost continues phoning these cold opens in.

Monologue

Wiig considers SNL home, and is thrilled to be home for the holidays. She reminds us this is the last show of 2020 — and that she had twins! She assures us everything will go back to normal once this year ends. She is giving her assistant Glen a hard time. She then warps the lyrics from “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. Rudolph joins her on stage — a fun Bridesmaids reunion! They also appear together in Bless the Hearts, one of the more underrated animated shows on TV right now.

McKinnon joins in on the fun. Denny Dillon predicts: “Kate McKinnon will probably start her own comedy planet with her own unique creations. I cried laughing at her Kellyanne Conway.”

Fallon Hogan says: “I think Kristen Wiig is hilarious. I have never worked with her but I know she is from Upstate NY like myself, which I love. She is from Rochester, and my sister went to Nazareth College in Pittsford, so I spent a lot of time bombing around Rochester in my early 20s. I loved Kristen in Bridesmaids. I thought her performance was hilarious, specific and inspired.”

Secret Word

And we have a recurring sketch! Mindy Grayson (Wiig) is back. And Thompson’s Grant Choad returns as the host, not Bill Hader. For the November 19, 2016 episode, Choad replaced Bill Hader’s Lyle Round as host; a "telephone message" by Round explained that he'd retired, and said Choad is the "first ever Black game show host".

McKinnon joins Wiig as another washed-up celebrity botching the show. She’s Austrian. This is your standard fare, goofing clues like ‘Trimming the Tree.’ Eh? Fun fact: the first Secret Word sketch debuted way back in 2009. So I believe this is this 10th appearance.

Victoria Jackson says: "Kristen doing that old movie star — brilliant."

Christmas Morning

“I got a robe.” It’s Christmas morning, and the entire family (Bennett, Chloe Fineman, Kyle Mooney) is having an amazing day — great gifts, utter fun. But poor mom (Wiig) is internalizing her pain. Even the dog is getting superb gifts. (Is that Chloe’s real-life dog?!) This is deadly sharp, hilarious and well-observed.

Victoria Jackson says: "My fav of all time, the Christmas sketch where Mom just gets a robe. I can relate. All moms can. Funny, smart, catchy and perfect."

Christmas 1944

It’s a talent show during the war, for the 174th division. Wiig is the nurse on stage, who selects Bowen Yang for a saucy duet. They nail the choreography, as things descend into madness. Lipa joins them — it is a steady move for the show to include the musical guest in sketches. Okay then. This is random, and surreal. I guess I can see what they were going for here, but it feels so truncated. Like the premise short circuited. Props for the effort, nevertheless. “Break it down now, ya’ll.”

A Teacher Season 2

Andrew Dismukes can “barely read” — yet he tries to seduce his teacher, Ms. Williams (Ego Nwodim). She is not having it. “God, I hate kids.”

30th Anniversary of Home Alone 

Melissa Villaseñor is Kevin McCallister. And Wiig is Brenda Fricker from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. The premise is he’s very rich, and oblivious to the suffering of the ‘pigeon lady’ he befriended. Harry (Mooney) and Marv (Day) attempt to steal Kevin’s credit card. So Wiig loses it, murdering the Wet Bandits. This leads to Villaseñor perfectly doing the iconic screaming Macaulay Culkin face. It is fun to see so many current SNL cast members impersonate several former SNL hosts here. Somehow, the show resisted including a Trump reference here.

"Don't Start Now" — Dua Lipa

"Don't Start Now" is a song from Lipa's second studio album, Future Nostalgia. The song is nominated in three categories at next year's Grammys: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance. Strong '80s-disco vibes here. On her Christmas episode’s musical guest, Fallon Hogan remembers: “I loved James Taylor and grew up listening to his music so it was all just idyllic. New York was so beautiful at Christmas.”

Weekend Update

“This is the last Weekend Update with Donald Trump still in office,” Colin Jost proclaims. He decides to show a montage of Trump’s best moments in office, to “Closing Time” by Semisonic. Horrific, how far we have come. Michael Che introduces Smokey Robinson (Chris Redd), who went viral this week mispronouncing Hanukkah. Then his neighbor Willie (Thompson) comes on to discuss the vaccine. They both kill. Finally, Landis Trotter (Heidi Gardner), an Instagram influencer, pops in with her holiday gift guide. “Use code: OldPeeple for free shopping.” This is a brilliant takedown of social media hucksters and their detached corporate partnerships. Gardner never fails in these Update commentaries. “I have to say that because they give me the money… fwee stuff, and brag to people… I’m a moneymaker now.” Scalding! And it turns out Che is also sponsoring content.

It ends with Jost and Che giving one another jokes that they have never seen before. This is always a holiday treat. “Whoa, that’s pretty racist Colin!” Bro humor perfection. It concludes with Jost being forced to joke about his wife Scarlett Johansson playing Sammy Davis Jr. in a movie. Wow — I am dying.

Whoville — the Morning After

This is a follow-up to the classic Grinch story. And, in a bawdy turn, it seems Mr. Grinch (Pete Davidson) slept over after his infamous holiday redemption — ahem, his heart was not the thing that grew three times that night. He thanks the Who parents (Day, Wiig) for the memories. The children are rightfully confused. This feels wrong! The show loves its childhood nostalgia send-ups.

Aunt Sue — COVID-19 Surprise

Punkie Johnson, Bennett and Villaseñor welcome Holt, who is home for a surprise visit. She managed to overcome COVID-19 to see her beloved pops. However, her Aunt Sue (Wiig) can barely contain herself. As you all recall: Sue is a nervous, excited woman who is constantly overwhelmed at the idea of any surprise. Hilariousness and chaos ensues. Pop (Moffat) returns from Coinstar, sure enough. Sue, as is her way, word vomits and spazzes. Eventually she crashes through the window. She returns at the mention of the family’s Christmas ham, popping in through the chimney and destroying the tree. This is the way.

“Levitating” — Second Dua Lipa

Lipa has said "Levitating" is the first song she wrote where she felt she had everyone on board with the concept of the album. Here’s a tidbit: when she was writing it, “I felt like I was in Austin Powers," she wrote on Twitter. As such this is a very funky '60s flavored jam, and performance.

Final thoughts

-Thank you to the SNL cast members who weighed in tonight! What did you all think? Weigh in below or vote here.

-Many cast members were MIA this episode. Denny Dillon shares: “All of these ladies are wonderfully talented comedy performers… my analogy of being on SNL is like being a lion jumping through hoops of fire in the circus. They can move forward with confidence. I think after LIVE TV and the pressure of that show, as a performer, you can do just about anything. Maybe even brain surgery… Aidy Bryant has a sweetness she brings to all her characters which is disarming.” She concludes: “I’m a big fan of Cecily Strong; I think she is wildly funny in everything she does, and can’t wait to see more of her.”

-Victoria Jackson weighs in that tonight’s show was “excellent. Wiig [was] excellent. Sketches are super funny.” She likes the balanced hits at both sides of the political aisle: “They made fun of a couple Democrats! Equality.”

-Siobhan Fallon Hogan has this advice for the show’s cast: “You will have many doors opened because of your time there — and pray that good old NYC can open up again! On your way out or when you get back leave an extra big tip for your next NYC waiter!” Go see RUSHED once it’s out, people!

-Wiig was definitely game tonight, even if some of the sketches fell flat — she appeared to really enjoy playing with this cast. Fun vibes overall.

-Solid episode for Lauren Holt and Andrew Dismukes, which is fun to see. And Kate McKinnon had a strong first half. See you all in 2021!

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