Cameos! Cameos! Cameos everywhere! Billy Porter, Woody Harrelson and Lin-Manuel Miranda all showed up in this week’s “Saturday Night Live” cold open, which sent up this week’s CNN town hall on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues featuring Democratic presidential candidates. Porter played an M.C. of sorts who introduced the candidates with his typical energy.
The first to take the stage was Chris Redd, who portrayed Senator Cory Booker, the Democrat from New Jersey, who told the audience, “My girlfriend was in ‘Rent’ so yeah, I get it,” a reference to Booker’s significant other, the actress Rosario Dawson. The forum went quickly, with each candidate getting a moment or two — the rare merging of speed dating, comedy and politics. The next to get lampooned was Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind. Buttigieg was again played by Colin Jost, who rarely appears in sketches. In response to an audience member who asked about being “gay in the right way,” Jost said, “There’s no wrong way to be gay. Unless you’re Ellen this week.” This reference was to the daytime television host, Ellen DeGeneres, who recently received flak after being spotted at a football game with the former president George W. Bush.
The highlight of the sketch came when Kate McKinnon reprised her role as Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat of Massachusetts. She recreated a viral moment from the forum parodying how Warren would handle someone opposed to same-sex marriage. (At the forum, Warren had a snappy answer: “Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that. And I’m going to say, then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that. Assuming you can find one.” McKinnon had more comebacks at the ready: “I would say, sir, ‘Tell me your bus stop, because I want to know where you get off.’ What else? ‘If someone doesn’t want to serve gay people at their small business, I bet that’s not the only thing that’s small.’” There was more where that came from.
Miranda showed up to play Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio. (This came after an outcry over a previous “S.N.L.” sketch about the Democratic field, in which Castro was left out.) Miranda, a former “S.N.L.” host, started his cameo with, “Well, first of all, gracias. As a Democrat, I want to apologize for not being gay, but I promise to do better in the future.” The sketch was capped off by Harrelson returning to play the former vice president Joe Biden, as he did when he hosted the season premiere two weeks ago. Harrelson sent up Biden’s, let’s say, questionable recent attempts at recall on the campaign trail in response to an audience member’s inquiry: “I’m glad you asked that question and let me answer by telling you a false memory.”
A Gritty ‘Sesame Street’? No, Thank You.
“S.N.L.” trained its sites on the recent dust up over the new Todd Phillips film, “Joker,” which tells the origin story of Batman’s most famous archnemesis. In this case, the show reimagined Phillips telling the origin story of another beloved misanthrope: Oscar the Grouch, as in, the one from “Sesame Street.”
David Harbour, this week’s host and one of the stars of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” played Oscar, a down-on-his-luck garbage man who just wants to live in a can, man. There were several brilliant details in this digital short: Bowen Yang playing Guy Smiley of “ABCDEFG News.” Mr. Snuffleupagus, portrayed by Kenan Thompson, who apparently runs a prostitution ring on Sesame Street. Bert (Mikey Day) and Ernie (Alex Moffat) being mugged over a rubber duckie. All good stuff.
Weekend Update On — What Else? — Trump
Jost and Michael Che, the hosts of “Weekend Update,” took their usual aim at President Trump, and particularly focused on the arrests of two associates of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, this week. But they found some time to tee-off on other topics as well.
“Giuliani’s two associates are also very successful entrepreneurs. Igor, the handsome one, owns a club in Ukraine that’s called Mafia Rave, which I think counts as a full confession.” — Jost
“First of all, bravo to the casting agency that found these two thumb breakers. They look like they use vodka as cologne. These guys have definitely worn track suits to their daughter’s wedding. I know these are easy jokes but I’m surprised these guys were helping the president and not — I don’t know — helping George Costanza get that Frogger machine across the street.” — Che
“Trump then explained withdrawing troops from northern Syria, saying that we didn’t need to defend our Kurdish allies because ‘They didn’t help us in World War II.’ But with World War II, it’s kind of hard to know who Trump means by ‘us.’” — Jost
“Joe Biden for the first time called for President Trump to be impeached and removed from office after he realized finally that the ‘Joe Biden’ Trump keeps attacking was him.” — Jost
“The owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars announced that he will be a majority investor in a new 24-hour news network aimed at African-American viewers. Unfortunately they’ve named it CNN-Word.” — Che
Nonpolitical Sketch Of the Week
Gosh, the last sketch of the night had everything: a solid premise — “Dog Court.” A great lead character with Cecily Strong playing a Judge Judy-type, presiding over a courtroom that adjudicates canine cases. Lots of cute dogs. The works. And finally, unexpected bit of live TV mayhem, when at one point, Strong held on unruly pug in her hands that didn’t seem to want to be held.
Somehow Strong stayed in character and did not break. It was some of the most impressive work of the night.