It was just over a month ago that “Saturday Night Live” said farewell to the Trump era, and what followed was perhaps the most historically significant hiatus in the show’s history: In the weeks that followed, America has seen a riot that breached the Capitol; the second impeachment of former President Donald J. Trump; and the inauguration of President Biden. How does a late-night sketch comedy show even begin to process this?
“S.N.L.” raised the curtain on 2021 by asking “What Still Works?”, a question posed in the title of a would-be talk show hosted by the cast member Kate McKinnon. “It’s a new year and we have a new president so some things should work,” she explained. “But do they?”
Her first guest was Cecily Strong playing Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican congresswoman from Georgia who has embraced false conspiracy theories on subjects like the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and endorsed the execution of Democratic politicians on social media before she was elected to Congress.
“You represent the U.S.,” McKinnon said to her in disbelief. “People can Google you and it’ll say she’s a real member of the U.S. government?”
Strong replied, “That might not be the first thing that comes up, but yes.”
McKinnon conducted further interviews with Pete Davidson, playing a man who called himself Derrick Boner and who was identified as the new majority shareholder of GameStop; and with the Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey (Mikey Day) and the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg (Alex Moffat), who were asked how banning spreaders of misinformation had affected their social sites.
Day replied, “Not well. It seems to have forced those people onto darker, scarier apps where their delusion and bloodlust can run wild.”
Moffat added, “Fundamentally, Facebook still works. Not only does it help form communities online, it has helped people meet and connect in real life. For example, at the Capitol.”
McKinnon also spoke with Kenan Thompson, playing O.J. Simpson, who recently received a vaccine for COVID-19.
A flabbergasted McKinnon said to him, “Among the first 3 percent of all Americans given the vaccine was O.J. Simpson.”
Thompson threw up his hands. “Hey, guilty as charged,” he said. He paused, then added, “About the vaccine.”
Finally, McKinnon interviewed the guest host John Krasinski, who was playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who has been friendly with Trump in the past.
McKinnon lavished praised on Brady for helping to lead his team to the Super Bowl and asked if many Americans would be rooting for him next weekend.
“Almost no one,” Krasinski said.
McKinnon said that she, at least would be supporting him, and added, “It’s not like you’re a weird Trump guy or anything, right?”
Rather than answer the question, Krasinski stood up from his chair and said, “Thanks for having me.”
Southern Hospitality of the Week
“S.N.L.” reckoned with Georgia’s newfound status as the state that gave Democrats control of the Senate in a sketch called “Blue Georgia.”
It was set in a down-home cafe where the menu now features avocado on gluten-free toast and a plant-based Beyond-meatloaf; where customers and employees give their pronouns when they introduce themselves to you; and where everyone looks forward to sitting out on their solar-heated porches, sipping lemonade through reusable metal straws. And if you’re looking to wash up in the men’s room, you’ll have to find it back in 2015 — the cafe’s got an all-gender restroom now.
There Goes the Neighborhood of the Week
What starts off looking like a friendly game night among neighbors in a suburban Covid pod gradually falls apart as its participants are arrested by the F.B.I. for their participation in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Reacting to the shock of his fellow attendees, Beck Bennett, who played the first of several guests to be hauled away, said he had participated in the riot “because I care about our nation and its Constitution — so I wiped jelly on a statue and put Pelosi’s phone down my pants.”
“What else was I supposed to do?” he asked. “The guy I wanted to win didn’t win.”
Weekend Update Jokes of the Week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on the Capitol riot, the stock market and the Biden presidency.
Jost began by saying:
Well, guys, a lot has happened since our last show. Some of it was good. The inauguration, that was nice. Christmas, I liked Christmas. And hey, now the terrorist watch list includes white people. So yay for diversity. It’s important to see yourself represented. And of course it’s been a big week for my favorite store at the Staten Island Mall, GameStop. Because a group of guys on Reddit figured out a way to get rich off GameStop while bankrupting a bunch of hedge funds. If you don’t understand how that works, it’s a lot like — and I’ve been waiting so long to reference this — the 2013 magic-themed heist movie “Now You See Me.” It’s about four outsider magicians who use the power of illusion to rob banks. And tonight, if we could all rally together to make “Now You See Me” the No. 1 movie on Hulu, that would be as unlikely as GameStop being the No. 1 stock in America.
President Biden signed an executive order urging U.S. agencies to buy American-made products. Unfortunately, the only products still made in America are tactical gear for white militias and student loan debt.
Weekend Update Deskside Bit of the Week
Since its release earlier this month, the Netflix documentary series “Pretend It’s a City,” starring the irascible civic commentator Fran Lebowitz and directed by Martin Scorsese, has been a source of pleasure for some and a bone of contention for others.
It’s also irresistible source material for Bowen Yang and Kyle Mooney, who showed up on Weekend Update as Lebowitz and Scorsese — Mooney, wearing a pair of fake eyebrows, was mostly there to offer overly enthusiastic laughter while Yang spun off esoteric witticisms like “I’ve been so bored at home I was about to get married to my cuff links” and “Gender doesn’t exist anymore. You know why? Ed Koch died.” Only in New York, kids, only in New York.
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