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‘SNL’ recap: Kate McKinnon returns to ‘SNL’ with Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig

Kate McKinnon‘s first time hosting “Saturday Night Live” was a reminder that she left an off-kilter, screwball humor void when she departed in 2022 that has taken multiple cast members to fill. (Want me to name them? Sure: Sarah Sherman, Ego Nwodim and James Austin Johnson.) McKinnon’s monologue was paced and delivered as only she could do, and in sketch after sketch in her hosting turn, McKinnon showed why even those that don’t completely work benefit from her self-aware asides and “just overjoyed to be here” energy.

As if to hammer that point home, she brought with her two other women who made their marks on “SNL” as completely unique comic performers: Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. Rudolph and Wiig appeared as part of the monologue, but then popped up again in a sketch featuring ABBA Christmas songs and another that takes place on a very special farm (more on that one in a bit). Elsewhere, McKinnon played a Scottish Santa elf doomsayer who survives a whale attack, a mom who hates all the gifts she’s giving her kids, a grandmother in a sketch about a creepy toy pet named Pongo, a cat enthusiast at Whiskers R We, an executive at a company’s Yankee Swap party that goes wrong, and a young actor who is asked to cry in a Judy Garland film.

Saturday night’s show also served as a kind of “Barbie” reunion. A day after the movie started streaming on Max, McKinnon, who played Weird Barbie in the film, was joined by musical guest Billie Eilish, who performed the movie’s sure to be Oscar-nominated theme song, “What Was I Made For?” That song was introduced by McKinnon and “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig. Eilish also performed “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and appeared in several sketches.

This week’s cold open was a sharp turn from last week’s much-criticized take on the antisemitism hearings. Rather than focusing on politics or news, the 95th Annual Christmas Awards were a mock awards show full of made-up categories around Christmas presents and holiday family dynamics. It was hosted by Heidi Gardner and Bowen Yang, and it will remind fans of the “Las Culturistas Culture Awards” from the podcast Yang does with Matt Rogers. These Christmas awards didn’t feature as many references to New York’s LaGuardia airport, but it did include categories such as “Most Disappointing Gifts,” the best performance by a dad (Mikey Day) who got a bad gift from his son, and a brave man (Kenan Thompson) who answered the call in the category “Grandpa Needs Help in the Bathroom.” “I’m horrified to accept this award,” he said.

In her monologue, McKinnon expressed how weird it is to be speaking on stage as herself. “I don’t really like to talk in my own voice. That’s kind of why I got into this racket in the first place,” she said. She said since leaving the show, “I’ve been trying to assemble a human personality. So far, I have a hat.” She was soon joined by Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig, who sang with McKinnon briefly before the segment ended and the three danced joyously together.

Best sketch of the night: Stringing along a song at the Tampon Farm

McKinnon strummed a guitar and got folksy in this filmed music video for “Tampon Farm,” a place where, “The moon makes the menses, and the menses meets the fibers, and they sing.” The hilarious piece, which featured farmers pulling tampons from the fields like cotton crops, included Rudolph, Wiig, Eilish and even former “SNL” writer and “Girls5Eva” actor Paula Pell.

Also good: ABBA’s songs work as Christmas songs, too!

ABBA, the “Fleetwood Mac of cold weather,” are introduced by Johnson for a Christmas album commercial. It’s an excuse to put together a musical super group consisting of McKinnon, Rudolph, Wiig and Yang, all wearing brightly colored sparkly costumes, belting out holiday songs including “Santa Queen” and “Frostitita.” “Waterloo” is imagined as an over-Americanized “Barbecue!” It’s not very timely, of course, but Wiig and Rudolph singing in each other’s faces trying to crack each other up is its own Christmas miracle.

‘Weekend Update’ winner: This year’s Christmas Joke Swap gets even nastier

Nwodim had a great “Weekend Update” turn as “Rich Auntie With No Kids” (real name: Verdonda), but it was the joke-off between Michael Che and Colin Jost that pushed the limits of taste for another season. The premise is that each co-host writes jokes that the other hasn’t seen and has to perform, no matter how offensive the joke or how bad it makes the joke deliverer.

Che began the segment by introducing “Dr. Hattie Davis,” ostensibly a Black civil rights activist meant to sit next to Jost as he delivered some very racist jokes. (Try Googling her: an actor was playing this fictional activist.) Jost was cowed before he even started, but he went on, starting with a joke about a “Dodo I’d like to reintroduce to Africa” as a picture was shown of former President Barack Obama. Hattie Davis was not impressed. Jost got back at Che with a shocking Michael Jackson joke and an even worse one about the war in Gaza (Che was forced to tell Muslims and Jews: “Y’all need Jesus!”). But Che may have won the night by mentioning a topic that has been absent from “Update”: Jost’s marriage to Scarlett Johansson. Jost delivered jokes about needing drinks to get through his wife’s movies, concluding with a mock apology to his wife: “You’ve an even better Black Widow than Coretta Scott King.”

If you like jokes that feel like punches in the gut, this was the best Christmas “Update” ever.


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