This past week basically wrapped and hand-delivered itself to “Saturday Night Live” — although “SNL” has been known to return-to-sender on occasion. But not this Saturday’s grrrl-powered edition, with Tiffany Haddish as guest host and Taylor Swift as musical one. Sexual harassment was subtext and pretext, the yin, the yang, the meat and potatoes, the alpha, the omega — from the cold open (Roy Moore) to “Weekend Update,” with a whole episode best summed up in one razor-sharp line from co-anchor Colin Jost: “A good reason to stay inside — It’s twenty degrees and everyone you’ve ever heard of is a sex monster.”
There were other good reasons to stay inside and watch this episode. In a spirited monologue, Haddish told us exactly who she was, why she was here, and why that Alexander McQueen white dress wasn’t going anywhere. (The star of summer hit “Girl’s Trip” did neglect to remind everyone that she also played Nekeisha on “The Carmichael Show.”). Swift performed a couple of songs from her new album — “Ready for It,” released in September, and “Call it What You Want” — reminding everyone in the process why she’s still one of the biggest pop stars on the planets and why “SNL” is still, after all these years, the best place to remind everyone of that.
There was also a terrific digital short that captured some “fresh new ideas presented by fresh new faces” — famed Democratic ones, exulting in last Tuesday’s gubernatorial victories in a few states which obviously proved that “America loves us again!”
Kate McKinnon reprised her always pitch-perfect Hillary Clinton who we learned was especially reinvigorated after last Tuesday, by proclaiming the wins also give “another chance for me! Just one more chance! And maybe another one after that.” (Oh, and another fine reprisal: Larry David as Bernie Sanders who got the last word on last week’s much, umm, discussed concentration camp monologue joke, saying the reborn Democrats will attack people “who don’t say things that are politically correct, or make jokes about concentration camps. That guy should rot in hell.” )
But the best stuff came out of that hand-delivered package. Never or almost never a show driven by rage, “SNL” is all about the slow burn. Sometimes the result is juvenile, sometimes on the mark. With sexual harassment as this week’s dog bone, “SNL” covered the full spectrum. Mikey Day’s Roy Moore in the cold open wasn’t particularly convincing as a senate-candidate embroiled in an underage sex scandal. But his Howdy-Doody cowboy costume sure was.
Beck Bennett’s Mike Pence: “It’s hard to believe you’re not into young girls when you dress like Woody from ‘Toy Story.’ ”
McKinnon topped off this open with her Jeff Sessions, and the one and only line that really drew any blood: “So many men out there acting like monsters,” she/he drawled. “Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, the president.” She paused, then addressed a stuffed possum: “Daddy? Has this been happening forever? Have I both fostered AND benefited from a culture of systemic oppression?”
“Weekend Update” covered the rest of this week’s harassment news, and for the most part effectively. Jost couldn’t let go of the Roy Moore cowboy outfit, of course, but at least got off a nastier (and funnier) line than the one from the cold open: “With his naughty little cowboy outfit, he’s like someone who shows up at Westworld and says, ‘hey, can someone show me where the middle school is?’ ”
You may have sensed — or feared — that “SNL” would find Moore an easy target while pulling its punches on Louis C.K. You were very nearly correct. But “SNL” did at least land one clean (sorta) blow on him too. Jost: Moore’s apparent failure to follow the Ten Commandments is so hypocritical that we’re left to wonder what could possibly be next? “The guy who is always joking about masturbating but wasn’t joking about masturbating?” (Cut to a shot of Louis C.K.)
But the best part of “Update” was the visit by one Claire — Cecily Strong — of the NBC HR department, offering her annual “guideline seminar on harassment,” and thereby proving that “SNL” can be at its funniest when it’s most serious. Completing a list of workplace do’s and don’ts — not nearly as outrageous as you might imagine, especially now — she wrapped with this: “I’ll be back next week and the week after that, forever and ever, because all of this isn’t just a (new) scandal and didn’t start just last week. It’s actually reality for half the population...”
And with that, she took a long, deep swig from a Purell hand-sanitizer bottle.