Saturday Night Live debuted its 45th season last night to an incredibly lukewarm reception. Lots has happened since last season’s finale in May, so there was no shortage of topics for the cast to dig into. Hosted by Woody Harrelson, SNL’s season opener tackled Trump’s impeachment proceedings, the Democratic Debates and . . . the World’s Largest Cheeto? Sun contributors Nkem Obodo ’22 and Greta Gooding ’22 and Sun assistant arts editor Dan Moran ’21 are here with their unabashed thoughts on the season premiere.
Thoughts on the Cold Open and Opening Monologue?
Dan Moran ’21: This was like the liberal version of one of those really bad Netflix specials that’s just some former college Republican in a stand-up skit entitled “Triggered.” I don’t think Woody Harrelson had one funny moment in his entire monologue. The cold open was solid, but I was hoping it would reach the highs of the Matt Damon cold open about the Kavanaugh hearing from last year, and it was nowhere close.
Nkem Obodo ’22: The opening monologue was, in a word, painful. Though Harrelson’s intentionally offensive punchlines were in reference to Shane Gillis — a potential cast member fired for his racist and homophobic language — they were unseasoned and difficult to endure.
Greta Gooding ’22: That was incredibly sleepy. Even Liev Schrieber couldn’t resuscitate the lackluster writing to anything funny or meaningful.
What did they do well?
G.G.: Maya Rudolph mercilessly took on Sen. Kamala Harris in a way which hadn’t been explored. I didn’t feel that many stones were left unturned. The fan on her face and the staging fit exactly within the context of Harris’s grandiose rhetoric. The skits eloquently evoked Democratic anxiety — so these are our choices . . .
N.O.: As expected, Woody Harrelson’s impression of former Vice President Joe Biden in the Impeachment Democratic Debate skit echoed the many critiques surrounding Biden’s 2020 Presidential campaign strategy. Specifically, Harrelson ends his incoherent story with the phrase, “long story short, Barack” underscoring the growing concern that Biden invokes his term with Obama when convenient.
Additionally, the skit encapsulated the bohemian spirit of author and spiritual leader Marianne Williamson, who, in the first democratic debate, assured viewers she would win the election simply by “harnessing the power of love.”
What opportunities did they miss?
G.G.: The writing about Vice President Joe Biden was spot on. Woody Harrelson, not quite as much.
D.M.: The Greta Thurnberg plug at the end was so forced. It probably would have been worth it to have one skit related to that considering how much it’s dominated the news this week. Maybe take out the Cheeto one instead? Also, where was Pete Davidson? The Marianne Williamson bit had the perfect setup but I thought they fumbled the joke by trying too hard.
Which cast member stood out the most or surprised you the most?
G.G.: Kate McKinnon is still flawless. She’s a shape shifter and I sometimes wish the entire show was just her.
N.O.: Kate McKinnon radiates with talent. As usual, I watched SNL enthusiastically waiting for her to appear on screen.
D.M.: Michael Che, Colin Jost and Pete Davidson all let me down. The Weekend Update is usually the most consistent part of SNL, but it was mediocre at best in this episode. There were so many good opportunities for the special guest and they picked . . . David Ortiz? Imagine how good this section could have been if they had Greta Thurnberg as the guest here, or threw in Pete Davidson and his Resident Young Person act to talk about juuling or literally anything in Politics. Hell, maybe they could have even incorporated Billie Eilish here as a Resident Young Person. Either way, there were way too many missed opportunities from my favorite part of the show.
G.G.: The “Inside the Beltway Sketch” was masterful. Kenan Thompson sits among a panel of people explaining due process and the ramifications of President Trump’s errors. But he can barely utter anything more than, “ain’t nothing gonna happen.” That’s where we all are now. It feels as though we are all so familiar with the lack of consequence. This impeachment inquiry is tiring. Aidy Bryant laughs, maybe panickedly the way that I do.
Additionally, The “Chickham’s Apple Farm” skit really spoke to apple picking culture, including the inevitable bees and questionable morals of upstate New Yorkers. Do we even enjoy apple picking? I feel like whoever wrote this skit was at Apple Fest today. This was SNL for Ithaca humor.
N.O.: Kenan Thompson’s perspective in the “Inside the Beltway” sketch represents a growing sentiment among Democrats that the new impeachment proceedings will inevitably result in the exoneration of Trump. If Trump consistently escapes facing consequences, will the attempted cover up of his Ukraine scandal prove any different? Plus, with the 2020 presidential election happening in T-minus 14 months, strategy is important. Kenan’s repetition of “ain’t nothing gonna happen” has us wondering: Should Democrats even proceed with the impeachment process, or simply wait and rely on voters to formally vote Trump out of office?
What did you think about Billie Eilish’s performance?
G.G.: Don’t put Billie Eilish in a box. Oh wait — Billie dances upside down with what appears to be a broken foot, yet the performance of her wildly popular song “bad guy” is oddly dull. There are so many gimmicks, but her voice is undeniably flat over the throbbing treble. I know every 16 year old in America would probably fight me on this. I was rooting for her, hoping she’d bring her delicate and moving vocals to a very small stage. For her second song, my prayers were answered when Billie sits down and focuses to sing “I love you.” The result will restore faith in moms everywhere — This young woman can do more than roll her eyes and shout “DUH!” She is convincingly heartbroken and emotive.
D.M.: I’m in my 20s now, so legally any opinion I have about Billie Eilish is irrelevant.
N.O.: As one of many people who became fascinated with Billie Eilish after hearing “Ocean Eyes,” I think I speak for many when I say that I’d rather have heard that than “Bad Guy” tonight. Despite the impressive, gravity-defying set, Eilish’s voice was largely overpowered, and the overall performance was unexciting. However, her second performance of “I love you,” though stripped of a grand set, was a powerful reminder to the audience of how multifaceted an artist she is.