Louis C.K. Hosts a Slightly Dark, Very Artful ‘SNL’

©2017/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

To celebrate the premiere of 2017, his new Netflix special, Louis C.K. returned to Saturday Night Live for his fourth hosting gig – and he’s such a natural on the SNL stage, it’s crazy to think it’s been under five years since his very first visit.

As expected, the standup delivered an extended monologue full of new, semi-topical material, which was as solid as the batch of sketches that made it to air: a well-scripted handful of generally dark, but smartly artsy, scenes that C.K. clearly had a big hand in choosing. From a sad man whose love of sofas has driven his family away to a sad man who pays a child’s clown to perform for his 53rd birthday, C.K. effortlessly inhabits a collection of painfully real humans in awkward situations – his specialty.

Plus, this week delivered a double dose of Baldwin, as Alec returned to defend his comedy presidency (despite the actor making some dismissive and snarky remarks about fellow Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik, last week Comedy Central announced the upcoming debut of The President Show, a weekly address from Atamanuik as POTUS).

Of course, with C.K. steering the ship, and with SNL’s political voice leaning further left with each post-election episode, we expected a bit of edge this week – and the show didn’t disappoint, with a derisive jab at the genius behind Pepsi’s protest ad, a musical ode to the inefficacy of Facebook activism, and multiple punchlines pandering to the more middle-of-the-road viewers the show’s been attracting of late…

Trump’s People

…like, this cold open, in which our President attempts to relieve the stress of a rough week by surrounding himself with supporters, opting to conduct a town hall in rural Kentucky rather than face the critics waiting in Washington. When his supporters present very real problems with healthcare, social services, and preschool, Trump offers simple solutions: get rid of all the rules, and send everyone back to the coal mines. That’s what they want, right? Despite his complete failure to fix anyone’s problems, Trump’s small-town voters voice their unwavering support, because, after all, he is the president – and, as he insists, “I’m one of you, I’m one of you!” If saying that over and over made it seem true, then more sketches like this – that show how easy it is to turn him into a joke – must do something, too.

It doesn’t matter what you or I think, though, because this takedown got the ultimate approval:

Monologue

C.K. kills it straight from the top, with a ten-minute set I suspect would win over even the most uptight viewers (my barometer for accessible comedy is usually, “Could everyone in my family watch this without complaining?” and this felt like something my ornery grandfather, conservative mom, and I could all watch together and laugh at — though maybe, not at the same lines). C.K. starts off light, with a bunch of surprisingly accurate animal impressions, before diving into material on motels, entitlement, and bestiality (but it’s ok, because if you call it “making love” you can get away with anything).

The Lawyer

Justice isn’t really blind – especially when something’s so beautiful, it’s impossible to ignore, like this lawyer (C.K.) whose Maybelline lashes are so distracting, all it takes are a few flirty looks for a criminal (Pete Davidson) to crumble on the stand.

Hypnotizing!

Thank You, Scott

There are so many problems in this world – isn’t it crazy that they can all be solved by one man? No, not Trump, duh: Scott (C.K.), some guy who shared an article on Facebook and changed everything forever. This very Lonely Island-inspired jam, led by a rapping Mikey Day, celebrates the minimal efforts of armchair activists everywhere.

Soda Shop

What seems like a creepy story about a middle-aged married man asking a high school girl on a date ends up being, somehow, a kind of empowering sketch about a sociopath-slash-feminist (Cecily Strong) who gets off on manipulating the desperate affections of older men.

Pepsi Commercial

An excited young director on the set of his first big commercial campaign can’t wait to take all the credit for his concept – that is, until he calls home to brag, and everyone he knows is offended by it. And to imagine, if some eager Pepsi employee had thought to run their own script by a few trusted pals, poor Kylie Jenner wouldn’t have been bullied so hard this week.

Weekend Update

Jost and Che offer their takes on Trump’s Syrian missile strike, Jared Kushner’s travel attire, and the unexpected dangers of selfies:

And, to talk about a very unflattering statue of soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, famously horrible artist Cecilia Gimenez (Kate McKinnon) is in the studio:

The O’Reilly Factor

Baldwin’s back, with an even thinner comb-over wig to fully embody beleaguered Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. The controversial pundit is facing a sexual harassment suit, but you wouldn’t know it by watching his show: instead of addressing the scandal, Baldwin’s Bill presents a breaking story on an irrelevant Obama-related allegation, and he glosses over the revelations that his correspondents have all either quit or refuse to be in the same room with him. Nothing to see here!! Take another horse boner pill and forget all about it.

Birthday Clown

Seth the Birthday Clown (Bobby Moynihan) gets a grim surprise when he Ubers over to Ernie’s party: not only is the birthday boy not a tiny child, it’s not even a party, just one 53-year-old man so desperate to feel something that he’ll try anything, like throw himself a party, or hire a clown, or murder a clown.

Sectionals

Where most people’s couches end, yours can bend, and keep going – and that’s a mantra that, for some reason, has guided one man (C.K.) since childhood. So, he grew up and opened his very own sectional store, and filmed this commercial, right? Uh, no, actually he bought so many sectionals it ruined his life, and he just wants people to stop mistaking his warehouse full of life-ruining sectionals for some kind of store.

Bizarre, unexpectedly sad, and with an orgasmic performance from Aidy Bryant – a real triple threat of a sketch.

Tenement Museum

If historical reenactments were really accurate, they’d be horrifying, as evidenced in this field trip to a tenement museum where a pair of studied actors offer an unsettlingly faithful glimpse into a working-class Polish family’s home. To be fair, if schools don’t teach kids about our forefathers’ racism-fueled feuds — like the apparently vicious Polish vs Italian immigrant war at the turn of the century — they have to learn about it somewhere! This is a hilarious premise and, with its unbridled stereotyping and lack of historic PC, it’s a perfect 10-to-1 sketch.

But what really makes this one great is C.K.’s commitment to character – or, his commitment to having the worst Polish accent possible just so he could say “my wiiiife,” Borat-style, before breaking with obvious embarrassment but also a kind of glimmer of pride, AS HE SHOULD HAVE. It must have been a running thing all week, cause as soon as C.K. slipped into the accent during goodbyes (after a heartfelt tribute to Don Rickles), everyone, including Baldwin, lost it.

Etc

Get your shot glasses ready, cause Jimmy Fallon’s hosting next week, and you know what that means: an excuse to play the greatest drinking game ever, “Drink Every Time Jimmy Fallon Breaks”! Harry Styles will also be there, but if you’re actually playing along, you’ll probably be blacked out by the time he performs, so be careful.

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