This week’s Saturday Night Live started out routinely enough: with a cold open featuring Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression followed by nine minutes of standup from host Louis C.K. This is C.K.’s fourth time hosting the show and, despite his limited versatility, he’s a great fit. But by the end of the night, both men were forced to overextend themselves and demonstrate the limits of their comedic powers.
The cold open was fine: The president visits coal country, where he continues to find support among the very people he’s hurting the most.
But then, Baldwin played Trump a second time later in the show, voicing his support for Bill O’Reilly. The sketch strained our welcome for Baldwin’s Trump — which long ago passed the point of parody and is now just a thing we tolerate — but putting the two characters together also highlighted just how bad Baldwin’s O’Reilly is. Without the makeup, the character is just Loud Alec Baldwin. Two shouting Alecs side by side is at least one too many.
C.K. fared better, but “Tenement Museum” pushed him out of his comfort zone to the point that the joke became how bad he is as an actor. “Soda Shop” basically asked him to be a hilarious pedophile, which is a tall order for anybody.
Best of the Night
C.K. is the poet laureate for sad white men. He has a particular genius for highlighting and ennobling the common schlub, and we feel for him even when his characters say or do something terrible. He makes good use of it in his standup and — when properly cast — can make a good sketch great and a surreal sketch make sense. In the case of “Sectionals,” he did both. Cecily Strong’s operatic recline and Aidy Bryant’s hysterics heighten the madness, turning this into the Apocalypse Now of sketches about sofas.
Worst of the Night
C.K. is great at what he does, but what he’s not great at is characters or accents — somebody decided he should do both in “Tenement Museum.” Maybe the plan all along was for C.K. to break on stage. Maybe they knew his accent would be the unholy union of Borat and Boris from Rocky and Bullwinkle as filtered through Hogan’s Heroes if it were a Russian POW camp. If the idea was for C.K.’s discomfort to draw attention away from the possibly controversial joke of “Hey, remember when we used to be racist against white people too?” then mission only partly accomplished.
Creep or Creep?
Sometimes, two sketches with basically the same joke get into the show, and you have to choose which you love more. It’s like Sophie’s Choice, only it’s usually a pretty easy decision. In “Birthday Clown,” the joke is a creep makes people uncomfortable. It makes perfect use of C.K.’s sad man persona, ratcheting up the awkwardness while still being completely casual.
“Soda Shop,” by contrast, turned him into an unlikable pervert who goes out of his way to be nasty when we already get that he’s a jerk (pun unintended).
Potential Viral Hit
Pretty much everybody has said what they’re going to say about Kendall Jenner and Pepsi, so “Pepsi Commercial” probably won’t become a breakout hit. But for those who are tired of talking about it and whose fingers have grown tired from constantly reposting think pieces about it, this feels about right. It feels like the exasperation of parents who walks into a room to find their 3-year-old scrawling crayon drawings across the wall; on the one hand, that’s what 3-year-olds do, but on the other, they should have known.
And speaking of reposting think pieces, thank you again, Scott.
The O’Reilly Factor sketch was terrible, but the three remaining sponsors — dog cocaine, Cialis for horses, and the movie remake of ChiPs — may have been one of the funniest gags of the season.
C.K.’s material was what it always is — he thinks of something horrible to say, then finds a way to make it OK. There will be plenty of headlines wondering if he’s gone too far this time, but they say that every time. What the headlines ought to be saying is… boy, that sure was a lot of animal material, right? Who’s doing four and a half minutes on chickens, goats, and giraffes these days except fifth-graders and Louis C.K.?
Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on NBC.
Read more from Yahoo TV:
Ken Tucker Reviews Louis C.K.’s New Netflix Standup Special: From Abortion To ‘Magic Mike’
Former ‘SNL’ Star Taran Killam Says Trump ‘Struggled to Read’
Louis C.K. Calls President Trump a ‘Lying Sack of…’ on ‘The Late Show’