Four years after leaving "Saturday Night Live," Seth Meyers returned as host and star in a series of sketches Saturday that largely underscored how good he was all those years here. Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin returned as President Donald Trump in a cold open that largely underscored his semi-urgent need to defuse a controversy — his comment last week that "black people really love" him and his Trump impression — before he launches his new ABC talk show Sunday.
Paul Simon, one of "SNL''s" rare trifecta guests (he's been host, musical guest and has played cameos), returned Saturday, too. He had nothing to underscore, except perhaps that he's Paul Simon, still great and still a legend. (And yes, a new album to sell too: "In the Blue Light.")
This was Simon's ninth musical guest appearance, a record, and arrived a month after the end of his farewell tour. He performed the chestnut "Can't Run But" to the accompaniment of three string players and a trio of wind instruments. You don't see that often on "SNL," if ever, and of course he nailed it. Simon also performed "Bridge over Troubled Water," then got a staff-delivered birthday cake (he turned 77 Saturday) after very nearly stealing the whole show.
Baldwin's cold open played off one of those gift-wrapped found-comedy routines that the White House and its current occupant so generously provide this show week after week — in this instance, Kanye West's unusual summit with President Trump in the Oval Office. With Chris Redd as a flawless Ye who prattled on, then concluded "I'm a stable genius, I've got a big brain and the best words," Baldwin/Trump then segued to an interior monologue: "He's a black me!"
That would eventually lead to the line designed to defuse that mini-controversy from last week, when Baldwin told the Hollywood Reporter "Ever since I played Trump, black people love me. They love me. Everywhere I go, black people go crazy!" Twitter ridiculed the ridiculous comment, and Baldwin needed a comeback. The cold open gave him one: As he wrapped it, he said, "Let's remember the big lesson from today, black people love me, they love me way more than they love Alec Baldwin..."
(Not bad. Controversy — such as it was — defused.)
Meyers — who remarkably has not hosted since leaving — appeared in virtually every sketch, as guest on "Bayou Benny's Liberal Lagniappe," a "progressive talk show" from way down on the delta; as a camper who relates the horrifying tale of a two-hour lunch with a 22-year-old aspiring filmmaker (played by Kyle Mooney); as Bill Cosby's (Kenan Thompson) cellmate; as the obnoxious dinner guest just back from "COOba" (Cuba); as a DUI stopped by pair of female police officers — Leslie Jones and "SNL" newbie Ego Nwodim in her first sketch — who sexually harass him.
There was also a pleasurable callback — his old "Weekend Update" "Really?!?" routine, that originated all those years ago at this very desk, with Amy Poehler by his side. (Before he was solo "Update" anchor, Meyers' co-anchor was Poehler).
All good, all funny. Meyers has been missed and Saturday showed why.