Given the kind of week, month and year that it’s been, you can consider it a Christmas gift of sorts that “Saturday Night Live” largely avoided topical comedy in its final new episode of 2023. Or perhaps it’s an unusual choice for an episode hosted by Kate McKinnon, who impersonated dozens of politicians and celebrities in her time on “S.N.L.”, but didn’t reprise them this week.
Whether that’s naughty or nice, this “S.N.L.” broadcast (which also featured the musical guest Billie Eilish) began with a fake awards program: what else but the Christmas Awards, honoring awkward and uncomfortable events that occur when families reunite for the holidays.
Hosted by “two people from the E! network you’ve never heard of” (actually Heidi Gardner and Bowen Yang), the show quickly presented a trophy in the category of Most Disappointing Gift Given to a 10-Year-Old Boy. It was won by Gam-Gam (Chloe Fineman), who explained, “My grandson told me he wanted a Nintendo Switch. So I knew I had to go out and buy him Dockers pleated khakis with a sewn-in belt. A grandmother just knows.”
Other categories included Most Unwelcome Uninvited Guest; Most Unevenly Lit Tree and Best Performance. There’s no justice if that last award wasn’t won by Chloe Troast for a particularly confident rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” riddled with incorrect lyrics.
Opening monologue of the week
It’s been about a year and a half since audiences watched McKinnon, who had been a cast member for a decade, board an alien spacecraft and wave goodbye to “S.N.L.” At the time she said, “I always kind of felt like an alien on this planet anyway.”
Returning for her first time as host of the show where she once worked, McKinnon said the experience was extraterrestrial in its own way.
“I don’t really like to talk in my own voice,” she said. “That’s kind of why I got into this racket in the first place.” Since she left the show, McKinnon said, she has been “trying to assemble a human personality — and so far I have a hat, it’s a good hat, it’s a strong hat.”
When she appeared in other hosts’ monologues, McKinnon said, “I usually played the role of ‘freak next to hot person.’” So saying, she showed off pictures of herself doing just that alongside past “S.N.L.” hosts like Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Jim Parsons and Josh Hutcherson.
McKinnon added that she generally felt more comfortable wearing weird costumes, except for when she attended her junior prom. She shared a photo of herself from that event and described it as, “That feeling when your date shows up in a Ren Faire dress and is gay and is me.”
McKinnon also showed off the old ID photo she took on her first day at the show and welcomed her fellow “S.N.L.” alumnae Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. Her old colleagues said they spent a lot of time reading their Wikipedia pages which, they claimed, said Wiig had won 12 Grammy Awards and was dating Travis Kelce, and that Rudolph had won 29 Grammys and was married to Jay-Z.
“Do you ever check the name at the top of the page?” McKinnon asked them.
“I don’t think that’s a thing,” Wiig replied.
Super troupers of the week
Back in 1976, the “S.N.L.” creator Lorne Michaels famously offered the Beatles the whopping sum of $3,000 if they would reunite on his program, and he was not successful in his efforts. Now, 47 years later, would he get another pop supergroup — the Swedish quartet Abba — to reassemble on his show? No, he would not. But McKinnon, Wiig, Rudolph and Yang did their best to imitate Abba (and not laugh at each other) in this sketch presented as an infomercial for a (fake) Abba Christmas album. If you’ve ever warbled along to “Dancing Queen” a little too loudly, you’ll appreciate this affectionate satire of the band’s Scandinavian accents and their songs about underage protagonists. Mamma mia!
Holiday counterprogramming of the week
If you came to this week’s show expecting sketches about Christmas, you certainly had plenty to choose from, including a segment on a TV news broadcast about killer whales attacking elves at the North Pole; and another where McKinnon played a mother who’s especially insecure about the gifts she’d gotten for her family.
And if you were hoping for something totally random that had nothing to with the holidays whatsoever, there was this music video featuring McKinnon singing about — well, a pasture that grows a hygiene product you would not expect to grow anywhere. (If you were up early Sunday morning and wondering why the phrase “tampon farm” was trending on your preferred social media, now you know.)
Weekend Update Jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors, Colin Jost and Michael Che, riffed on the results of a defamation case brought against Rudy Giuliani and President Biden’s efforts to promote the Affordable Care Act.