‘SNL’ MVP: This One’s for the Theater Kids

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Anna Kendrick is best known for two things: singing (on Broadway and in movies like Camp and Pitch Perfect), and playing aggressive straight arrows. In a way, she was doomed the minute she walked onto the SNL stage. What to do for the monologue? How ‘bout a big, bombastic musical number! We’ll give you a couple sketches where you sing too, Anna! Aside from that, look forward to a bunch of bit parts playing lamewads who are quickly interrupted or dismissed!

Kendrick did fine work on a generally lackluster episode. She sang, she danced, she kept her cool when the tech crew screwed up a music cue, she made it work even when the material wasn’t up to much. And…well…the material wasn’t up to much this week. There were some nice recycled sketches though, like the return of Les Jeunes de Paris, always good material for a performer like Kendrick and deeply missed these last months!

Another returning favorite, Fox & Friends, tried to squeeze a bunch of things together to limited effect, with Kenan doing a decent Neil deGrasse Tyson imitation after a few minutes on Obamacare. This was probably Bobby Moynihan’s best work of the night (his George R. R. Martin impression on Update, disintegrating beard and all, was also solid).

As the new cast has settled in on SNL, one of the fun side effects has been the boom in original material, as a lot of the old recurring bits had to be tossed with the exiting veteran cast members. But a lot of the cast has been around long enough now that inertia is starting to set back in. I don’t hate Principal Frye—in fact this was one of the more solid sketches of the night—but I don’t know that we really need to see him again. Jay Pharoah is worthy of a larger repertoire than just impressions and this.

2nd Runner-Up

Joe and Connor aren’t around this week, so I’m running the show here. That means Brooks Whelan gets nowhere near this list for the cute standup bit that he did on Update—you don’t get to be a cast member for doing standup on Update twice a year! I enjoyed Taran Killam as ever, but his showcase sketch outside of Les Jeunes was Big Joe, which I laughed at, but had to admit was mind-blowingly dumb. So this one goes to Kyle Mooney, that’s right, you heard me, Kyle Mooney! Because “Flirty” was another in a long line of digital shorts he’s made that I really appreciated and think set a new, exciting tone for SNL’s future. Also this was a weak night and I laughed at this sketch.

1st Runner-Up

Oof, this was tough. Mostly because there was no obvious standout here. But first runner-up goes to Aidy Bryant, largely for her work as Ursula in the Little Mermaid spoof that, of course, has been excised from Hulu because that thing liberally quoted from a hugely popular Disney movie. Aidy was also in that horrible “Dongs All Over the World” thing that I’d rather forget, but her contributions to everything were generally strong. In the absence of the Little Mermaid sketch, I present to you this cut sketch about the show Zap! which is not bad:


Yeah, yeah, it’s Kate McKinnon again. Look, when an episode is mediocre, she’s pretty much going to run away with it, because Kate McKinnon is a pro who is reliably very funny (exception: any time she spoof a Latina actress). This week her big sketches were the cold open, a relatively dry takedown of GM’s evasiveness that she nonetheless murdered, and her Update bit as Angela Merkel, always one of her best roles. I would watch a spinoff TV show about Kate McKinnon’s lonely Angela Merkel navigating the world of geopolitics.

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