Saturday Night Live: “Kerry Washington/Eminem” (Episode 39.05)

TV Reviews Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live: “Kerry Washington/Eminem” (Episode 39.05)

I was sort of surprised last week when Saturday Night Live didn’t even address Kenan Thompson’s comments about how there aren’t any black women on the cast. What surprises me just as much is that this week’s host Kerry Washington is only the third black woman to host so far this decade, after only Gabourey Sidibe and Maya Rudolph. Not only was it great to see SNL start off this week by addressing this problem, but it also brought about one of the best hosts this year in Washington.

The aforementioned skit referenced just how difficult a position SNL has created for themselves, as in a Obama state dinner sketch, Washington would have to play Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce. I loved the actors breaking character to ask “Kenan won’t do it?” and then having a cavalcade of white cast members show up doing Matthew McConaughey impressions. A message claiming that SNL will try to solve this problem in the future, unless of course, they fall in love with another white guy first, was followed by Reverend Al Sharpton stating, “what have we learned from this sketch? As usual, nothing.” I’m glad the show addressed this, but let’s hope they don’t just take it as a joke and ignore it for season 40.

Washington’s monologue had her solving the SNL cast’s problems Olivia Pope-style, trying to take care of a unwanted picture of Bobby Moynihan eating an entire cookie cake in bed with his sleeping girlfriend and helping Thompson find his keys, even though being covered in someone else’s blood should have maybe been more important to him.

Now I’ve never really loved Nasim Pedrad, but man, after these last two weeks and her post-monologue skits, she’s really won me over. This week she plays Heshie, a moderately successful person from Yemen who has become a motivational speaker. She has the help of her son doing sound effects and Washington as her assistant. It’s basically Pedrad doing wild movements to weird sounds while giving medicare advice, but she sells it hard.

SNL’s latest iteration of their Lonely Island-free digital shorts was a parody of the Ylvis video “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” that actually worked stronger than it probably should. You have Jay Pharaoh asking the question, “what does my girl say?” as Washington questions the ladies on his phone.

The weakest part of the night were the few sketches before Eminem’s first song. First was the return of “How’s He Doing?,” but it’s been a while. There’s not much new here, as the panel continues to praise Obama even though the black approval rating is at an all-time low of 93.6%. After was Miss Universe Moscow 2013, where new countries were competing, such as Miss Moldova, who thought she had already won; Miss Bolivia, who has a nose covered in cocaine, and Mrs. Greenland, since she’s the only woman in Greenland.

Then came Eminem. For “Berzerk,” he was joined by Rick Rubin behind the turntable and I assume the backing track that Eminem occasionally couldn’t keep up with. For his second song, “Survival,” Rubin was replaced by Skylar Grey and the whole proceeding went a bit better. But Eminem’s performance can best be explained by this tweet from Eugene Mirman:

Weekend Update was strong, as it seems like they’re trusting Cecily Strong behind the desk much more. She had what I believe is her own first guest, with Kate McKinnon as Angela Merkel, who’s worried that Obama spying on her phone may have caught her in a bad time in her life, when she’s Googling things like “is toe hair normal” and “Jason Segel no shirt.” Thompson brought back his Charles Barkley impression but brought in Pharaoh as a cross-eyed Shaq. This was a great night for the two of them, but playing off each other during Weekend Update might have their best bit.

Of course it’s not SNL without a game show parody, this time a show called “Cartoon Catchphrase,” in which Aidy Bryant uses a phone-a-friend to call her husband Duane and finds him cheating. But as the other contestants call their friends, Duane keeps popping up. It’s a nice twist to the usual game show bit the show always does.

I didn’t mind the return of Principal Fry, whose catchphrase “attention teachers and students” still gets me every time, especially when Pharaoh loses it. Having Thompson pop up again as the angry gym teacher also didn’t hurt.

The night ended strong with “Date or Diss,” a parody of the awful people and awful dating shows on MTV, nailing the outrageous self-confidence that the worst people MTV could dig up have. A nice little button to the skit was when the two losers instantly got their own MTV show titled Bitch Apartment, where the duo drink and scream until of them dies.

The final segment of the night was another digital short starring Kyle Mooney as a worker at a ice cream parlor who can’t comprehend the customer’s horrible joke. It’s probably the weakest of the three Mooney-centered skits we’ve seen so far, but at least it’s showing us what he can do as a new cast member, which can’t really be said about most of the rest of the new cast.

Washington was a great first-time host, and with this and last week’s shows, Saturday Night Live demonstrated it doesn’t have to constantly fall back on its corral of recurring characters to be funny. Now as far as not having any black female comedians, I think Kenan has an appropriate solution.

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