From Mark Zuckerberg to President Donald Trump — or Trump to Zuckerberg — “Saturday Night Live” found the world’s two easiest dartboards on Saturday’s return from a two-week break. Alec Baldwin, who essentially comes to the show under duress these days, was as expected, but the pleasant surprise was Alex Moffat’s impression of the Facebook overlord. With honking geek laugh along with an image that cannot now nor ever be unseen (“I sleep easy at night upside down in my pressurized sleep egg”), this Zuckerberg joins the pantheon of memorable “SNL” villains. In all, this made a bad week for Zuckerberg just a little bit worse.
Cardi B — who revealed her baby bump during the show, finally confirming pregnancy rumors — did whatever it is she does so well. Her first album arrived Friday, and her official NBC residency began Saturday (she’ll return Monday to co-host “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”) Her performances were compilations, or medleys, of B hits, but the attire stole her part of the show, notably an all-consuming feather boa.
The other big star, guest host Chadwick Boseman — who is late to this party, and joked about that in his monologue (“only two months after ‘Black Panther’ came out” — felt mostly underused or misused. Even if Boseman does do a particularly good R. Kelly, we could probably have slept better without that “Favorite Disney Princesses” sketch. And there must have been a point to the fireman sketch but it was too late in the show to bother to figure out what that was. (It involved dogs and dolls, but the punchline following the endless setup was as weak as you feared.)
Here are some key show elements, with grades:
COLD OPEN It’s impossible to watch a Baldwin/Trump impression now without at least acknowledging the personal sacrifice — Baldwin’s — that comes with these. He hates doing this, and it’s easy to see why: The cartoon voice, and gestures, the lame lines, easy targets, standard jokes about reading, or Trump’s presumable (and presumably well-documented) inability to widen his attention span beyond that of a gnat. That was all there in the cold open — a riff-off of Trump’s Baltic state presser last week. “God I hate this,” he said, which was a joke, but really wasn’t. “Oh my God, I’m already so bored.” Which was another, or not. Reading private notes off of a prepared statement (“Do not congratulate Putin”) is now a standard late-night joke. Actually congratulating Putin — he did — is as well. “Borat, you want to take that one?” he directed that funny question to the Latvian president.
But “no one’s ever been tougher on Russia than I am, including Hitler” came under the “Too Soon — ALWAYS too soon” heading. Really.
BLACK JEOPARDY “Black Jeopardy” — or “where the prize money is paid in installments” — was the obvious, easy and ultimately perfect venue for “Black Panther’s” T’Challa, who stumbled through various categories before he finally landed on the idea that it’s best to establish the terms of an answer before actually answering it. In response to “White People, for 400: Your friend Karen brings her potato salad, to your cookout . . .” T’Challa first had “a few questions. This woman is Caucasian and has her own recipe for potato salad? Ah, I understand. It is noble she should volunteer and although I have never had potato salad, I sense this white woman does not season on her food, and if she does with only a tiny bit of salt and no paprika and adds something unnecessary like raisins. So something tells me I should say . . . ”
Aw, hell yes. A winner.
WEEKEND UPDATE/ZUCKERBERG The Cambridge Analytica fiasco — more than 87 million users scraped at last count — followed by the Russian troll farm attacks have made Facebook and its peerless leader the virtual world’s premiere target, but until last night, “SNL” hasn’t really turned this into its own personal shooting gallery. But better late than never: Moffat’s impression — a first for him — was the perfect take-down, with the chipmunk gestures, vacant eyes — or “shark eyes” — and a facility for Facebook-speak that verged on doublespeak. He was a character straight out of “1984,” with a facility for language that chills as opposed to enlights. He was turned into a bloodless drone who self-humanizes with bad jokes — “poke, poke, poke! Remember that feature? It was flirting for cowards” or “my bad! But on the other hand, FarmVille!”
He apologized, but of course didn’t: “Sure, I still have all your photos, your memories, your unspoken thoughts and fears. But, America, look at me in my shark eyes when I say this — that, on behalf of everyone on Facebook, I’m sorry. On opposite day!”
A clean “SNL” score.
BOTTOM LINE With some exceptions, this was maybe not your most memorable edition, but at least there was enough going on here to make it an interesting one.