Benedict Cumberbatch Brought His Calming Charms to the Last ‘SNL’ Before the Election

©2016/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

SNL has spent plenty of time tearing apart this year’s crop of presidential candidates and all the crazy shit they’ve gotten into, but this week’s episode — the last before election day (not counting Monday night’s election special) — chose not to focus on the negativity and nastiness that’s come to characterize 2016. Sure, the show’s been on a roll this season, and with more viewers tuning in each week, it’d be the perfect opportunity to get a few last, vicious jabs in.

But what good would it really do? We’re all already losing our minds watching this country become more and more polarized, split quite literally in half by a man who feeds on our fear and distress. And while SNL’s election coverage has excelled at using the candidates’ actual words against them, ultimately it’s more horrifying than hilarious. Of course it’s funny when a Trump quote, verbatim, provides a perfect punchline, but when the show’s over there’s really nothing to laugh about — he’s still got millions of supporters, and what’s worse, they love him because of everything he’s saying. It makes watching SNL’s satirical take hard, sometimes, because it’s a very loud reminder of exactly how serious this all is.

So, we needed this week. From the tear-jerking cold open to Michael Che’s uplifting Update message to Dana fucking Carvey singing “What A Wonderful World,” our friends in Studio 8H were sending one simple message: we’re all in this together.

Clinton / Trump Cold Open

That’s not to say there were no election jokes. The cold open had a handful of digs: at Trump’s weird neck (which always looks like it’s trying to run away from the rest of his body), at his unfiltered Tweeting (though as of this week, he’s no longer allowed access to the app), at his frequent awkward kissing and his many man-crushes (Baldwin-Trump at once denies knowing, and then shows unselfconscious affection for, an FBI agent, Vladimir Putin, and a fully uniformed klansman). Kate McKinnon’s Clinton is, as usual, reduced to silently screaming towards the camera.

But before things get too heated, Baldwin breaks. “I’m sorry, Kate,” he says, stepping away from his podium. “I just hate yelling all this stuff at you like this…I just feel gross all the time. Don’t you guys feel gross all the time about this?”

And so, to the tune of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up,” our Trump and Clinton take to the streets. Hand in hand, they roam Times Square, sightseeing and eating pretzels and generally having A Very New York experience among hundreds of very blasé onlookers. McKinnon hugs a man in Trump/Pence gear, and another (Bill Murray!) in a ‘Trump That Bitch’ tee. Baldwin photobombs confused tourists. They hold hands and dance in circles and gaze with wonder at the lights and smiles around them. It was beautiful, and real, and a reminder that we’re all human, and the same simple things make us smile.

“None of this will have mattered if you don’t vote,” Baldwin says when they return to the studio. “We can’t tell you who to vote for,” continues McKinnon, “but on Tuesday we all get a chance to choose what kind of country we want to live in.” And live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night.

Monologue

Benedict Cumberbatch’s monologue brings things back to familiar territory with an Isaac Hayes-y song, in which Sherlock brags about his cinematic achievements, his almost knighthood, and the volumes of “generally unsettling” fanfic dedicated to him. Leslie Jones, a self-proclaimed Cumberbitch, tries to solicit a breast exam. Kate McKinnon shows up as a bald Tilda Swinton. There’s a lot of awkward sexy dancing. Not the best use of the versatile and charming actor, but a fun time nonetheless.

Koohl Toilet

In the future, toilets – “designed to make you look stupid and feel foolish” – have become the political tool of a dictator (Alex Moffatt) bent on shaming his followers into conformity. Only one man can save the world from this Steve Jobs-inspired bully: revolutionary / Kohler spokesperson Benedict Cumberbatch, who Changes Everything by introducing the Koohl Toilet. Pretty much a regular toilet that you sit on backwards, middle school style, the Koohl makes everyone look real badass while they shit and gives them the confidence they need to overthrow Moffatt. I like imagining the writers trying to come up with the weirdest possible ways to work in product placement – hope Kohler was happy with this one!

Why Is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot?

It’s always adorable and in-jokey when cast members play themselves, like in this sketch where Beck Bennett hosts a game show trying “to get to the bottom of something that’s been throwing [him] for a loop all week”: exactly why all the women on the show have been freeeeeaking out over Cumberbatch, a man who’s (arguably) not “conventionally handsome” but who has legions of obsessive female fans. Fishing for compliments, Bennett compares his own sexy headshots and shirtless pics to goofy photos of the actor, but contestants Vanessa Bayer and Aidy Bryant get can’t-remember-words-level flustered by the Brit every time. Bennett’s on the verge of a meltdown, til Cumberbatch compliments him and he finally gets why gracious charm can be so damn hot.

Office Hours

A romantic philosopher (Cumberbatch) hits on, then emotes all over, a supremely disinterested student (Pete Davidson) who responds to his teacher’s floral advances and poetic musings with glassy-eyed, monosyllabic indifference. Davidson skateboards and farts all over the place as Cumberbatch assigns deep moral meaning to his every move, playing off his general tendency to portray overly analytical and verbose academics (Sherlock, Alan Turing, Dr. Strange).

Surprise Bachelorette

Weekend at Bernie’s meets meets the World Series when a well-intentioned granddaughter (Cecily Strong) throws a surprise bachelorette party for her engaged Granny (Bryant). Overcome by shock, Granny’s heart stops, but nobody notices as they outfit her in tacky accessories and welcome a pair of construction worker strippers (Mikey Day and Cumberbatch), who grind all over Granny’s lifeless body.

MAJOR props to Bryant for barely cracking a smile, even when Cumberbatch shoved his nearly bare crotch into her face.

Just when it seems like someone’s about to notice poor Granny’s predicament, it’s cameo time: Chicago Cubs Anthony Rizzo, David Ross, and Dexter Fowler appear (in the tiniest white shorts) for a little celebratory twerking.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost and Michael Che cover Hillary’s emails, Melania’s anti-bullying campaign, and the KKK’s newsletter, among other things, on this week’s Update. And, in a sassy but still very sincere moment, Che and Jost remind us that, no matter, how we vote, we’re all still dealing with the same problems.

Chuch Lady (Dana Carvey, duh) drops by to weigh in on the election, make a whole lot of gay jokes (take that, Colin Jost and Westworld), and sing a few verses of “What A Wonderful World.”

In a nod to the show’s close ties to Chicago (scores of cast members have been plucked from the city’s stages over the years) and perhaps to appease beloved former SNL-er Bill Murray, Update ended with another song, a performance from a very special barbershop quartet: Cubs Rizzo, Ross, and Fowler, and Murray, who sing a round of “Go Cubs Go” that gets the whole audience clapping along.

Gemma and Ricky

Cecily Strong revives her forgettable British airhead, Gemma, this time alongside Cumberbatch as Criss Angel doppelganger Ricky, a “rock and roll mentalist”; the pair crash Bayer and Kenan Thompson’s Atlantic City date night, botching some magic tricks and singing a horrible song in this scene that feels much longer than its 4 short minutes.

Criminal Mastermind

Racing to diffuse a bomb, two agents (Bennett and Moffatt) must answer a series of riddles posed by the world’s least intimidating criminal (Cumberbatch). Desperate to be taken seriously as an evil villain, he defends his methods to his apathetic co-criminals (Strong and Kyle Mooney), who are more interested in Stranger Things than setting off bombs.

Meeting with Mr. Shaw

This sketch has all the elements of a perfect 10-to-1: a simple but insane premise (two businessmen score a meeting with a wealthy benefactor who turns out to be literally a bronze eagle statue in a suit), an out of character host role (Cumberbatch, the eagle in question’s assistant, maintains a one-sided conversation with his silent boss throughout), and delightfully bizarre details (“Let me collect my things,” he says as he leaves, ducking into a closet to retrieve a child size flipper and a soccer ball).

Etc

  • I’d definitely watch Gimme Gimme Da Money Please Please I Want Da Money Please, which pops up as a fake GSN promo in the “Why Is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot?” sketch. Same for Am I Hotter Than Kyle Mooney?
  • Beyonce and Jay-Z were in the studio this week to catch Solange, and they were clearly very excited to hang with Leslie Jones:

Yuuuuuuuuup!!

A photo posted by Leslie Jones (@lesdogggg) on

  • Next week: DAVE CHAPPELLE hosts for the first time ever, returning to sketch for the first time since 2006, when he famously left his own Comedy Central show. This is VERY EXCITING and A BIG DEAL and WE CANNOT WAIT to see what happens!

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