The host for Saturday night was Canadian dreamboat Ryan Gosling, who is best known for memes in which he says “Hey girl” and won’t eat his cereal, and also for being an accomplished actor. Gosling first made a splash as Noah Calhoun in ninth grade sleepover staple The Notebook, then went on to gain acclaim and awards buzz for roles in films such as Half Nelson, Blue Valentine, and Drive. He’s an interesting and fairly versatile actor who consistently comes across as charming (and did I mention DREAMY?), so while it’s a bit of a surprise that this is his first hosting gig, it’s a very welcome one.
Cold Open: A Christmas message from Donald and Melania Trump. In the opening sketch of the night, Donald and Melania Trump give another message to America, a recurring bit this season with diminishing returns. When we first saw it in the season premiere, Taran Killam’s and Cecily Strong’s eerily accurate impressions felt fresh and charming, but especially in the aftermath of Trump’s unearned hosting gig, they don’t quite have the same bite. This one had a few strong lines like Melania wondering, in relation to Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to give away the majority of his money to charity, “If you give away all of your money, how are you going to stay married?” Overall, though, it was a fairly mediocre outing. C+
Monologue: After Ryan Gosling claims to be from New York City, Mike Myers shows up on stage to convince Gosling that he shouldn’t be ashamed to be from Canada, leading to the two singing an aboot-riddled Canadian Christmas carol. Ryan Gosling’s Brooklyn-esque accent has long been a head scratcher, and it was endearing to see him make fun of it a little, as he recounted his warm memories of “grabbing a slice of ‘za with his bros” before Cecily reminded him he was actually from Cornwall, Ontario. Admitting he’d like to keep his background quiet because “not everybody’s a big fan of immigrants right now,” Gosling was greeted by Mike Myers in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, and the two sang a Canada-themed Christmas song together. Though it has been well documented that musical monologues are far from my favorite SNL crutch, this one worked out all right, mostly because it was led up to with some solid jokes, like Gosling apologizing for lying to Myers: “I’m sorry.” “Saw-ree?” “I’m so-ree.” Okay, maybe the jokes were a little obvious, but something about Canadian accents is inherently funny to me. There are only so many jokes one can make about Canada, but the monologue stopped just short of beating the dead horse, and made for an upbeat and fun start to the show. B+
Settl: A new dating app is designed for women who have moved beyond the search for the perfect man and are ready to find pretty much any man at all. This one receives top marks just for the Vanessa Bayer monologue, “I already bought my wedding dress, so I just needed a groom. I joined Settl, and went on tons of okay dates. That’s how I met my Henry. He may drive a SmartCar, but he’s a manager at Petco, and he even has a 401k! We’re getting married in April, which is before my sister,” delivered in a perfect monotone. Overall, Settl was a funny concept that could have gone a route that felt cliche or even mean, but stayed within its lines and remained funny throughout, with great smile-through-the-pain performances from Bayer, Sasheer Zamata, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones. One of the best commercial parodies in a while. A
NSA Alien Investigation: After a trio of small town friends are abducted by aliens, two agents from the NSA question them about their experience. Two of the abductees recount a beautiful and affirming experience, while the other claims to have had a much less emotional incident, made up largely of peeing in a bucket in front of, then being groped by, her captors. This one was a highlight due largely to McKinnon’s typically hilarious performance, which got strong laughs from not just the audience, but Bryant and Gosling as well. Everyone loves a good SNL cast breaking moment, at least when it just happens once. That was not the case this episode! More on that later.
McKinnon’s cigarette ash-flicking character’s recounting of her time with the aliens started crazy (“They were uh, gray with big fat eyes and little mouths. They just stared while I peed. I don’t think I was dealin’ with the top brass.”), then only grew nuttier with time, ending with her description of being returned to Earth by dropping “down seven feet on the roof of a Long John Silver’s,” her pants thrown separately into the nearby woods. McKinnon embodied this strange woman with perfect vocal tics, posture, and mannerisms because she is a gift to SNL and to us all. A-
Santa Baby: A married couple sweetly attend a Christmas party at the home of their new neighbors. But when their neighbor mentions to his son that Santa may be dropping by to visit, the couple lose their minds at the opportunity, and the situation devolves into a cinematic scene of debauchery and hostage-like control of their fellow party guests. I can barely even describe what happened in this sketch, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love it. It was delightfully weird and a perfect showcase for Gosling, who struggled a bit tonight with live acting but who we know to be an excellent film actor. When Beck Bennett’s neighbor character gently broke to Bayer’s Gina that Rudolph wasn’t there that night, and Gosling replied, “Then how the f**k did Santa get here, David?!” I laughed out loud at the same time as I wondered if Quentin Tarantino were watching, writing a role for Gosling in his upcoming film Drugs and Sex and Guns, But in a Kind of Ironic Way: Your 19 Year Old Nephew’s New Favorite Movie. By the time Bennett’s David came back down the stairs looking both dejected and terrified in a Santa suit, this sketch had cemented itself as one of my favorite pre-taped sketches of the season. It’s fun when SNL gets outwardly weird and cinematic like this, and they picked a great host to do so with. A-
Birthday Party: Newly thirteen-year-old Taylor celebrates her birthday with a group of friends, but the party goes downhill when her friend Melanie won’t stop flirting with Taylor’s father. If Aidy Bryant only played preteen to teenage girls on this show I wouldn’t complain; she taps into the weird parts of early adolescence impressively, as seen in Girlfriends Talk Show and with the character of Melanie, who we’ve seen before in last year’s Drake episode. Of course, Melanie isn’t exactly an every girl, what with her overtly sexual flirtation with her friend’s father and her weird life stories including giving everyone in her class ringworm, killing so many fish her mother won’t let her get new ones, and always riding in a car seat facing backwards. But Bryant gives her the manic energy of a thirteen year old, and she sells a part that could have gone full creepy but ends up mostly just funny, if in a deeply unsettling way. B+
Weekend Update: This was a solid outing from the Update team. Jost and Che’s back and forth bit worked a little better this week, with them keeping it short and including great lines like Jost’s address to President Obama: “You can’t use big words like existential. We’re not in a philosophy class. We’re a country that’s about to be four deep in the Chipmunks franchise.”
This Update edition brought along a new character in Cecily Strong’s Jill Davenport, a writer for Glamour magazine who was purportedly there to discuss gadgets to get your guy for Christmas, but instead spent her whole segment flirting with Colin while adamantly claiming she was not flirting with Colin (Oh my God! She has a boyfriend!). This character could have felt like an ugly referendum on women, but making Jill a writer for Glamour was a great call; it drew attention to the absurdity of the kind of person those magazines encourage women to be, and Strong sold it.
We also got an appearance from secondhand news correspondent Anthony Crespino, who brought along his personal thirdhand news correspondent, Angelo, played by Gosling. This was one of Gosling’s better live performances of the night, and his energy played super well off of Bobby Moynihan as Crespino. A-
GQ Interview: Ryan Gosling returns to his hometown of Cornwall for an interview with a writer from GQ, only to have his skinny and vocally high-pitched high school bully show up at the bar where his interview is being conducted, forcing him to sing and dance. If that description sounds a bit confusing and disjointed, then it’s a good description of this sketch. It felt like the whole thing was in service of a joke that never got explained. Why did Kyle Mooney’s voice sound like that? Why did he take such issue with Ryan being a singer and dancer? Was his high pitched voice and repulsion to men dancing supposed to indicate that he was gay and if so ugh, really guys? And why was Gosling breaking again in this of all sketches? I mean, heaven bless this sketch for giving us Ryan Gosling dancing, but in every other way I’d be happier without it. D+
Nespresso: A recreation of George Clooney and Danny DeVito’s Nespresso commercial, in which DeVito expresses increasing confusion over why Clooney is making him jump through so many hoops just for a cup of coffee. Honestly, I’d never seen nor heard of this commercial until I googled it after seeing the SNL parody of it tonight. It just seems like a pretty random choice; the original ad wasn’t that weird, and doesn’t seem deserving of such a meticulous mocking. It was a pleasant enough fake commercial, and Killam’s Clooney and Moynihan’s DeVito were more than serviceable impressions; I’m just not sure it was worth making a near shot-for-shot remake of. C
The Wiz: In a deleted scene from NBC’s live performance of The Wiz, the Scarecrow from West Oz gets lost in East Oz, where the stars of The Wiz discuss the differences between their two neighborhoods. Two good things about this sketch are that Ryan Gosling does a bizarrely spot-on impersonation of The Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow and also that he managed to finally not break in this one. But also, he may have managed not to break because this sketch wasn’t particularly funny. I laughed when the Scarecrow tried to touch Dorothy’s hair (“Don’t.” “Yup.”), but not really at any other point. It was a funny concept that could have gone places, but it mostly stopped short before it could get anywhere interesting. C
Santa and the Elves: Santa’s elves fail at making their toys, and when Santa calls them on it, they beg him for punishment in inappropriate ways. Oh, boy. We saw these elf characters when Louis C.K. hosted last season, though that time they worked for a shoemaker. They made me uncomfortable then, and they make me uncomfortable now. I will admit that some of Kenan’s weird wobbly physicality made me laugh a little, and Gosling fit into the sketch well (also, surprise, he broke again!) but I wasn’t exactly clamoring for these guys to come back. These elves must have their fans if they’re showing up a second time, but between the two sexualizing Santa sketches of the evening, I much preferred Santa Baby. C
Quotes, Extras, and Final Thoughts
- Trump puts Santa on the naughty list for being a “foreigner who works one day out of the year and gives away handouts”
- We’ve established that Ryan Gosling is a beautiful man who will probably look good in anything, but his suit for the cold open sort of made him look like a fresh-faced young man going to the bank for his first big loan.
- Speaking of clothes, Leon Bridges is stylish, y’all
- Speaking of Leon Bridges, THOUGHTS ON THE MUSICAL GUEST: I hadn’t heard of Leon Bridges before tonight, which probably makes me uncool. But after he performed I looked him up and bought his album so maybe now I’m cool? Either way, I am buying what you’re selling, Leon. THIS HAS BEEN THOUGHTS ON THE MUSICAL GUEST
- “Mike Myers! Where did you come from?!” “I live backstage.”
- Things I learned today: Mike Myers is a pretty good tap dancer!
- Ryan Gosling on what he was wearing when he woke up in the spaceship post-alien abduction: “It was like a blanket made of love.” Kate McKinnon on what she was wearing: “I had the shirt I came in, but my pants weren’t on, so my full coocoo was out. I was full porky piggin’ it in a drafty dome”
- Melanie’s opening pickup line to Taylor’s dad consists of the following: “I’m so old now that my mom lets me shower all by myself, cause now she trusts me to wash everywhere but between me and you, most times I just get in there, pee, and then get right out. I guess you could say I’m a dirty girl.”
- Update jokes were killin’ it this week. Some highlights:
- “You sound less like the black President and more like the black guy in a horror movie. ‘Hey, don’t worry about ISIS. You guys stay here, I’m gonna go check on that ruckus in the basement.’”
- “On Thursday a gang of black people who were allegedly under the influence of narcotics murdered two high-ranking community leaders on television, this according to the Fox News recap of The Wiz!”
- “Kylie Jenner is being criticized for a photo shoot in which she dressed as a sex doll in a wheelchair. But you know what they say, dress for the job you want.”
- On a new study that shows the male and female brain are largely identical: “In fact, the only way you can tell the difference between the male brain and the female brain, is that if you look very very closely, the female brain ALWAYS BE SHOPPIN,’ am I right?”
- On a new dating site that matches up Disney fans: “It’s the perfect way for a lonely Cinderella to meet her, at best, Pumba.”
That’s all for episode seven! Tune in next week to see THOR HIMSELF host!