SNL Ranked: Miley Cyrus and Her Wackiness Don’t Do Much for the Season 41 Premiere
SNL is back! Season 41 kicks off with famed tongue-wagging pop star Miley Cyrus pulling double duty as both host and musical guest, and regardless of how you feel about her music career, the last time Cyrus hosted was a total delight. New featured player Jon Rudnitsky makes his debut in the premiere, which leans heavy on the political content and offers a decent — though not nearly great — first outing for the season. Read on for our official ranking of this week’s sketches!
The Squad (Bayer, Bryant, Bennett, Thompson, Killam,
This season’s first fake trailer is for a dystopian YA movie (directed by Alfonso Cuaron, no less) that envisions a near future in which everyone in the world joins Taylor Swift‘s Squad (aka her friends who often show up on stage during her concerts, aka lots of famous people). This is the most accurate depiction of what happens when you slowly give in to Taylor Swift since the SNL Swiftamine ad. Special points to Killam’s Warriors homage and “I think she used to be a model, but now she acts.”
Hillary Clinton Bar Talk (McKinnon, Strong, Cyrus, Killam, CLINTON!, HAMMOND!)
Hey, it’s Hillary Clinton herself, playing a bartender at the watering hole where McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton is drinking to cope with the campaign trail. Although Real Clinton is obviously reading the prompter the entire time, she’s otherwise very natural and charming. Particularly amazing: the moment when McKinnon’s Clinton insists (with a cute wink) that Real Clinton could have helped push for gay marriage sooner. Also, when Real Clinton mimics Donald Trump. Also, when Darrel Hammond’s Bill Clinton pops by. I could deal with four years of all of this.
Katz’ Deli (Strong, Jones, Cyrus, Bayer, McKinnon)
Vanessa Bayer finally shows up for the first time since the monologue! The women play friends out at Katz’s Deli for lunch, each taking a turn trying to replicate Meg Ryan’s “orgasm” scene in When Harry Met Sally, with Jones feeling a bit out of place among her So White friends. But when Jones gives it a go, she really shines, and I like the idea of these goofy women thinking Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm was more realistic than Jones’ intensely hilarious and way-more-real performance of her personal sex life, filled with busted condoms and awkward interruptions.
Abilify for Candidates (Strong, Killam, McKinnon, Moynihan, Cyrus, Bennett, Thompson)
This is so, so, so much more entertaining than the Trump cold open. SNL’s first fake ad of the season is for Abilify, used to specifically treat those Republicans who have deluded themselves into running for president. It’s the sort of absurdity that works because it has a ring of truth — imagine being the wife of Rick Santorum when he says “I believe I can be president.” Or just watch this hilarious ad. Also, has Beck Bennett lost a bit of weight? He’s lookin’ pretty good.
Weekend Update (Jost, Che, Mooney, Davidson Jones)
Alright, our first Weekend Update of the season! As our former SNL reviewer Mike Ryan pointed out on Twitter, it seems like Jost is speaking more slowly and deliberately. He’s always had an issue with loosening up. “Human Lorax” is the absolute best description of Bernie Sanders. Man, SNL has so much to cover now that it’s back: the Pope’s meeting with Kim Davis, the current run-up to the elections, water on Mars, etc. etc. There are some great punchlines tonight, but man, Jost is snoozy, like he’s talking down to a group of small children.
Kyle Mooney reprises his Pope Francis from the opening monologue — he’s not a normal Pope, he’s a cool Pope. There’s a smidgen of Bruce Chandling in there. Pete Davidson drops in to give the resident young person perspective on our current crop of presidential hopefuls, and he slides right back into that chair with effortless hilarity. Davidson has more energy than Jost and Che combined.
And finally, relationship expert and national treasure Leslie Jones pops in to do her thing and mack on Jost. I love her realness.
American Voices (Jones, Mooney, Zamata, Thompson, Cyrus, Strong, Pharoah,
SNL imagines an alternate history in which a black woman named Ruby Nichols hosted the first late night talk show back in the ‘50s — obviously, it’s loaded with racial humor, but Jones sparkles as always. This could have been a little funnier, but it offers a bizarre segue into what comes next.
Millennials (Killam, McKinnon, Rudnitsky, Thompson, Davidson)
Hey remember last season’s millennial workplace sketch? The one where Cecily Strong kept talking about how she couldn’t even? This is pretty much that all over again, but a little better — Cyrus has some amazing lines and reactions. Have the SNL writers seen “PubLizity” from Kroll Show? Because this is also pretty much that, but not as good. Lots of unintelligible vocal fry. Some of the dialogue is great, but repeated selfie jokes feel too easy.
(Note: I actually thought that iPhone commercial with Bill Hader was an SNL thing and I got very excited and then very quickly disappointed.)
Monologue (Cyrus, Ensemble)
Miley Cyrus is wearing my grandmother’s old-timey swimming caps as a costume. Also, hey, did you know that she smokes pot? What a wild revelation. Cyrus’ task in the intro is to sing “My Way” over a “montage” of all the things SNL didn’t get to make fun of in its off-season, like Kim Davis, Pizza Rat, the Ariana Grande donut-licking incident and Jared Fogle. Bryant’s Davis and Moynihan’s Fogle are real standouts, while I particularly appreciate “That twerp who raised the price of AIDS medication.” Does anyone even know that guy’s name?
Donald and Melania Trump Cold Open (Killam, Strong)
Killam has officially been given the task of portraying presidential “hopeful” and misogynist wacko Donald Trump for the foreseeable future, and his first outing is solid, though this cold open in which Trump and his wife Melania discuss his views (and Melania outs him for saying crazy things for attention) is a little underwhelming. I’m sure once we get into the swing of things Killam will warm up a bit more. I do hope Strong’s Melania sticks around — “He’s just like everyone else. He puts his hair on one strand at a time.”
Miley Wedding Tape (Mooney, Killam, Cyrus, Moynihan, Bennett, Pharoah)
…What is happening?! Right after the American Voices sketch ended abruptly with an “off air” signal, we go into a home video of Mooney and Cyrus’ weird ghetto goth wedding…which is then interrupted with a sketch within a sketch where a frantic Mooney is freaking out because Cyrus is forcing him into marriage. You would think Mooney’s specific, absurd sensibilities would jell together nicely with Cyrus’ provocative wackiness, and you would be wrong. I am the biggest Mooney / Bennett fan, and this was…not very good.
’50s Dance (Cyrus, Ensemble)
New featured player Jon Rudnitsky makes his (speaking) debut in this Grease riff set at a school dance in the ‘50s in which the flirtatious but wholesome songs are interrupted by Cyrus’ bombshell dropping some tough rhymes. This is fine, but feels very outdated — it would have worked better back in the ‘90s.