This weekend, “Saturday Night Live” added one more question to the four that are customarily asked at a Passover Seder: Why wasn’t this sketch chosen as the cold open?
You had to wait until just before midnight for the topical, politically themed satire that usually kicks off an “S.N.L.” broadcast — this one featuring the host, Maya Rudolph, in her recurring role as Vice President Kamala Harris. Her task? To M.C. a Passover meal intended as a call for unity.
“This has been a difficult year for all of us,” Rudolph's Harris said. “But I really do feel that we are about to see some light. And what better night to celebrate a new beginning than Passover — or as my adopted people call it, Pesach.”
Rudolph explained the four questions that would be asked at this particular Seder: “How’s school? Did you eat? When are you giving me grandchildren? And what’s with the haircut?” Then she introduced the man she described as “my rock, my everything, my Semitic smokeshow, my stepbaby-daddy” — Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, as played by Martin Short.
In customary “S.N.L.” style, they were joined by various cast members playing prominent political figures, including Aidy Bryant as Senator Ted Cruz, who brought Israeli-flag cupcakes and pigs in a blanket. (“Well, we can’t have pork or bread, so thank you,” Rudolph told her.)
Chloe Fineman appeared as Ella Emhoff, the second daughter, model and fashion designer. “Am I breaking your eyes?” she asked. “Good. You may think I look insane, but I assure you, I’m the most normal looking girl in Bushwick.”
Kenan Thompson arrived, playing Senator Raphael Warnock, and was asked by Rudolph to make certain that Georgia remained a blue state.
“That won’t be easy,” Thompson said. “They’ll do everything they can to keep Black people from voting. We wouldn’t vote on anything if they had their way. Not even ‘American Idol.’ Jennifer Hudson would have been knocked out in the first round.”
The group was then joined by Alex Moffat as President Biden, a role he had played on only one previous occasion, in December. In this appearance, Moffat portrayed Biden as brimming with confidence after his first formal news conference on Thursday.
“It was so easy,” Moffat said. “A lot of critics thought I wasn’t mentally prepared enough but I think I” — he paused here to look at a note card — “proved them all wrong.”
Moffat then informed Rudolph that he was giving her the responsibility of handling immigration conditions. “Thank you for the opportunity,” Rudolph said dryly. “Such a fun, solvable problem.”
Moffat also reintroduced his colleagues to his not entirely tamed dog Major. A few prerecorded growls played, and that was Short’s cue to wrestle gamely on the ground with a stuffed dog.
Beyoncé impersonation of the week
If you’re going to bring Maya Rudolph back to “S.N.L.”, you’d better have her play Beyoncé Knowles-Carter in preposterous circumstances. This time, that setting was “Hot Ones,” the streaming talk show in which celebrities answer questions while trying to eat spicy food.
Mikey Day played the role of its host, Sean Evans, and even he seemed confused as to why Beyoncé would appear on the program. “I feel you,” Rudolph said. “I still can’t tell if this is beneath me. But my sister Solange loves this show, so I said I’d do it.”
Rudolph didn’t answer many questions, but she did successfully embody an overheated Beyoncé, sweaty and with tears streaming down her face after sampling a sauce that was too hot even for her.
Music video of the week
Now that more than 39 million Americans age 65 and over have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), what are they going to do with their new status?
Why, rap about it boastfully, of course.
As Chris Redd raps in this video, playing one such cocky vaccinated senior:
Baby boomers, greatest generation
Got all the money, now we got the vaccination
Crashed the economy three whole times
And when it comes to the vax, we’re the first in line
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che riffed on possible new White House efforts at gun control after shootings in Atlanta and Boulder.
Well, this week kind of felt like Biden on those stairs. You thought it had to get better, but then it repeatedly got worse. In the wake of the Colorado and Atlanta shootings, President Biden called for universal background checks for gun purchases. And background checks are a great start, but shouldn’t we also do current checks? Like, what are these guys up to now? How much “Call of Duty” are they playing? Have they recently DMed a girl “hey” 30 times? Or, how about this: If you want a gun, the gun store has to talk to at least five people from your life who agree it’s a good idea for you to have a gun. It’s not really that much to ask. You’ve got to list three references on an application to work at Foot Locker.
“And Republicans,” he added, “please stop pretending this is a Second Amendment issue and just admit:
You love guns more than people you don’t know. These are your political ads; look at them: [Here a composite image appeared of several Republican figures posing with guns] “You look like you’re running for president of ISIS. If you actually cared about the Second Amendment, you’d also care about the well-regulated militias part. And I don’t know if you noticed when they almost hung you two months ago, but our militias aren’t super well-regulated.
Che picked up the riff, replying: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just bought a gun last summer when all those white kids started talking about getting rid of the police.”
He then switched gears to Biden’s news conference, saying:
President Biden gave his first press conference, which lasted for over an hour. Wow, shout out to Fixodent! At the conference, President Biden was asked if he plans to run for re-election in 2024, which is probably the nicest way to ask him if he plans on being alive in three years.
Weekend Update deskside segment of the week
Though Bowen Yang is often seen here playing characters like the Chinese trade minister Chen Biao, this week he appeared as himself to address recent efforts to reduce anti-Asian hate and attacks. Yang read from what he said were calls to action he had seen on Instagram, with titles like “Six ways you can check in on your A.A.P.I. friends and tell them they’re so hot,” using the abbreviation for Asian-American and Pacific Islander people, and “Call your Senators and demand that they know about the lesbian characters in Sailor Moon!”
Acknowledging that he had no easy solutions to these problems, Yang asked, “What can I say to help how insanely bad things are? If someone’s personality is Punch an Asian Grandma, it’s not a dialogue. I have an Asian grandma. You want to punch her. There ain’t no common ground, mama.”
All work and no play of the week
If you’re a fan of precise parodies of Stanley Kubrick films, or you just like seeing past “S.N.L.” stars reunite with their former castmates, there’s something here for you. In this filmed segment called “The Maya-ing,” Rudolph goes wandering through Studio 8H as if it were the Overlook Hotel from “The Shining.”
But no one gets his brains bashed in with a bat — it’s just a clever opportunity for Rudolph to cross paths with old pals like Tina Fey (playing the ghost of an original “S.N.L.” writer) and Rachel Dratch (as herself, in a bathtub). Enjoy your stay, Maya, forever and ever and ever.
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