Tracy Morgan’s return to Saturday Night Live was bound to be emotional. After all, he’s only hosted the show once since wrapping up his seven-year stint as a Not Ready for Primetime Player in 2003. But the circumstances of his return — as part of his journey back into the public eye after a 2014 car crash that nearly claimed his life — lent his presence in Studio 8H extra dramatic weight.
Morgan addressed the accident right off the top in his monologue, saying, “I was in a terrible car accident a year ago. It was awful, but it also showed me how much love and support I have in this world.” The comic went on to add that people wondered whether he has 100 percent mental capacity, but pointed out, “The truth is, I never did! I might actually be a few points higher now.”
Morgan then discussed how life sometimes imitates art by recalling a 2012 episode of 30 Rock where his alter ego, Tracy Jordan, almost died. That set up what the world has been waiting for: an honest-to-blog 30 Rock reunion, with the entire core cast — Morgan, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski, and Jack McBrayer — reprising their roles live on the air. (Admit it: didn’t it give you tingles to hear Baldwin call Fey “Lemon” one more time?) We were already tearing up a little at Morgan’s obvious happiness at being back in his home away from home, but seeing that crew together again had us reaching for the Kleenex. Whaddya say, Netflix? 30 Rock, Season 8?
Best Sketch: “Yo! Where Jackie Chan At Right Now?”
Finally, a sketch that dares to ask the question: where is Jackie Chan at, anyway? Asia doesn’t know, Chris Tucker doesn’t know, and Owen Wilson definitely doesn’t know. Bonus points for the Carmen Sandiego game show shout-out; no wonder these guys won a Peabody.
Worst Sketch: “Good Morning Song”
Musical sketches can be hit-or-miss, and this vaguely Disney-ish send-up was a big ol’ miss. Morgan plays the long straight-talker in a fantasy realm where people tend to not discuss their personal issues. For good reason: those issues really aren’t very funny.
Best Use of Tracy Morgan: “Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet”
Morgan confirmed he’s back on his game by reprising one of his most popular SNL characters, the animal aficionado with a sixth-grade education. Not only was it a great showcase for him, but we also got to peek at some awesome animals like an adorable camel who was clearly a little nervous about making its on-camera appearance. (It was nice to see Astronaut Jones again, too.)
Episode MVP: Larry David
Sure, it’s an easy lay-up to cast the Curb Your Enthusiasm star as his Presidential candidate doppelganger. (Wonder if they’re both fans of Bern Your Enthusiasm?) But David was cranky perfection as the loveably cranky Sanders. Here’s our question for the next debate: what’s the real Bernie’s position on podiums, too short or just short enough?
Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:35 p.m. on NBC.