Will Ferrell, the Consummate ‘SNL’ Pro
Was it ever in question that a Will Ferrell episode of Saturday Night Live was going to be good? Ferrell was good on SNL for seven years, then was a good host. Three times. This was good TV done by competent people who are good at their jobs. Even the animal actor seemed like a pro that was kind of over the whole live TV thing.
Possibly because the writers knew they had an old pro helming the show, this episode of SNL tackled more #MeToo content than… I don’t know, just off the top of my head, the James Franco episode did. From a deodorant made especially to prevent the predator sweats, to how troubling older art can feel in today’s climate, to someone finally talking about Aziz on comedy television, this episode was unafraid to — if not actually take a stand on these issues — at least acknowledge that other people are talking.
Dubya is back, and he’s dumber than ever. To comment on his current status as “not the worst president in recent memory,” Will Ferrell brought back his George W. Bush to remind us all that he still sucks. “Who’s got two thumbs and created ISIS?” he asked. “This guy.” Some part of me had forgotten Bush’s malapropisms, so I really appreciated how this sketch was peppered with them. Little goofs-within-goofs. But did we really need the All in the Family parody at the end? 1) The Simpsons did it, and 2) Stop making Leslie Jones read cue cards as a character. She has so many other strong suits.
Ferrell is so excited to be on stage at Saturday Night Live for the first time! He hit his head a little while ago, and don’t worry about it! Hey, what’s that ringing sound? Let’s do a song! Obviously this sketch was toilet dookie because it namechecked Vulture as the SNL reviewer of record. Jkjk this was great. But can we get an audience Q&A up in this bitch? Almost every non-standup monologue this season has been a songologue. Even Will Ferrell in his head-injured state commented on it.
Hotshot Air Force pilots Wild Card, Sidewinder, Viper, and Clown Penis meet over the Korean peninsula to do some wicked air stunts. How was this the first sketch of the night? How was this not the 10-to-1? It is too silly for before midnight. “When an enemy sees me on his tail, I want him to feel the same way that you’d feel if a clown showed you his penis: confused, unsettled, and most of all, very, very scared,” says Clown Penis (Ferrell). “Rest assured, if you see a clown penis—either me or an actual clown’s penis—this just ain’t your day.” Everyone’s even-keeled pilot voices are a great counterpoint to the absurdity of what’s actually happening in the sketch. Even when accidentally flying into “where space starts,” Clown Penis is unflappable.
What if Vanderpump Rules was about three dudes and their movie plans instead of about cokeheads trying to talk about coke without saying the word “coke?” Another in Kyle and Beck’s reality TV spoofs, where the action is flat and much of the comedy comes from the exacting replication of a TV genre. Not to be confused with Kyle and Beck’s sitcom spoofs, where the action is flat and much of the comedy comes from the exacting replication of a TV genre.
As Dave Holmes pointed out on Twitter, it’s hard to improve on the original viral video. Ferrell and Kate McKinnon’s Maine accents are very fun, and it’s nice to see McKinnon’s fake neckpiece make another appearance. In the end though, it’s all about silly nonsense words. There is no greater pleasure on this earth than people in wigs saying nonsense words and/or “butt.”
I’m not sure which is worse: white beatboxers or militant atheists who shoehorn the whole “no God” thing into every discussion. This sketch lambasts both! Two Southwest Airlines (#spon) flight attendants have made a very fun rap about plane safety, but their coworker keeps dropping bars about how death is final and there’s no afterlife. This would be the most anxious flight of my life, and I was once on a plane where the in-flight movie was Apollo 13. I feel like the writer of this sketch was trying to draw some sort of parallels about the comforting lies we tell ourselves both in life and on planes, but it never quite got there. I could have used one more sentence about how the cushions are a flotation device that you’ll never get to use because you won’t survive impact, and then death is a sleep from which there is no waking. You know, comedy!
Next: For Men
A fake commercial for a deodorant specifically designed for sexual predators who haven’t been outed yet. It’s crazy how easily this form of toxic masculinity can slide into the hyper-butch commercial genre, isn’t it? The details of this sketch really make it. Before you even know what the product is, Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon are whispering about Will Ferrell in the background. Alex Moffat as the actor accused of assault is a perfect encapsulation of every dirtbag who won’t even admit their wrongdoing but still wants to be a fake ally: “Lots of women are brave but this one is um, a liar. And, no comment.”
Ferrell brought back one of his recurring Update characters, the guy with a voice immodulation disease. It was a risky choice, as making fun of the differently-abled isn’t as easy as it was in the carefree ‘90s. This version of Jacob Silj is clearly faking his disorder for attention, which makes it okay: “Voice immodulation syndrome has been diagnosed in over 0 people in the United States alone.”
Heidi Gardner brings us yet another hyper-specific, shaky-voiced character. Bailey Gismert is a 14-year-old YouTuber who thinks women shouldn’t be directors. The tattoo choker was a great touch. When asked if she liked Armie Hammer’s performance in Call Me by Your Name, Gismert says gets way defensive. “Just because I’m friends with a lot of guys doesn’t mean I like him,” she says. “I try to be friends with girls, and I get along with guys better.” Gardner is a full-body performer. I have tried to stop myself from crying the same way Bailey does, and I could watch it all day.
It wouldn’t be a Will Ferrell episode if everyone didn’t break at least once. Ferrell and Cecily Strong play reality TV personalities who come back to Flagstaff to reconnect with old buds. Unfortunately, they’ve gone full “Holly-woo-woo,” in Ferrell’s words, and can’t be at a barbeque without hurling weight loss wine at people or threatening to hit someone with their dog. That dog, you guys. That dog is a star. It was so placid and had a great hairdo and I just love this dog so much.
Most middle-class Americans are allergic to two things: gluten and honesty. This fun dinner is completely ruined when Heidi Gardner brings up Aziz Ansari. The issue of affirmative consent divides friends, marriages, and makes one woman straight-up vanish into another dimension. Every person tries to start a sentence, only to be chided with a “careful…” at every word. I don’t know why everyone’s accents got 80 percent fancier when they said “careful,” but I loved it.
An office worker cannot get over the faux pas of mixing up Cracker Barrel and Crate & Barrel (#spon?). I also didn’t grow up near either Cracker Barrels or Crate & Barrels, and I too lash out when I’m feeling vulnerable, so this was very relatable content for me. Part of me wonders if Ferrell taking the jug of water from the office set was planned, or whether it was a desperate grab for more laughs. I hope the latter, because I want my entertainers to give 110 percent and pour water all over electrical equipment for my amusement. Dance for me, puppets!
Chucky Lee Byrd
A 5-disc box set from the “Poet of Teen Love,” non-teen Chucky Lee Byrd. As the hits keep coming, the teens Chucky Lee falls for get younger and younger. Chucky Lee Byrd is obviously based on Jerry Lee Lewis and his 13-year-old cousin bride, but it would honestly be harder to find a rock and roll pioneer that wasn’t a perv. Elvis started dating Priscilla when she was 14, and first gave her speed when she was 17. And don’t get me started on Chuck Berry’s potty cams. The present may seem full of monsters, but it’s got nothing on the past.
Photo by Will Heath/NBC.