Proving that she can act – in spite of everything else, including her own punchline – Stormy Daniels appeared on the cold open of “Saturday Night Live,” which returned from hiatus with a bang, or a few of them.
In one of the most ambitious opens since a certain attorney general was rendered a shoulder troll, this one featured not only Daniels, as herself, but Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump, Jimmy Fallon as Jared Kushner, Ben Stiller as Michael Cohen, fraught attorney for President Donald Trump, and Martin Short as Dr. Harold Bornstein – a once seen, not easily forgotten Bornstein too.
Viewers at home got this star salad via split screen.
Of course Alec Baldwin as Trump – whom he only plays begrudgingly and intermittently now – was back too. This open could obviously not have worked without him:
It begins with an on-screen Coen-Brothers-esque advisory – “The following is based on real events” – and then descends into a Coen-Brothers-esque mock nightmare, of jumbled phone calls, and idiotic legal gerrymandering. (In other words, it may not actually be based on real events, but it certainly seems like it could be...)
Stiller’s Cohen finds a pay phone – yes, there are a couple left – and punches in POTUS’ number. Trump cheerily asks, “How you holding up in prison?” Cohen explains that they need to get this problem about Daniels all sorted out, and Trump advises, “Get Rudy Giuliani on the line. He’s got the sharpest legal mind since my cousin Vinny.” Cohen then promptly calls the wrong number – Bornstein’s.
In a bizarre and, let’s assume, complete coincidence, the last time Short was on “SNL” was in 2015, when Trump himself hosted one of the more controversial editions in show history.
Cohen finally reaches Giuliani – Kate McKinnon – in what may be, after only about thirty seconds on-screen, possibly her most memorable impression of the year, maybe the most memorable impression since (even) Justin Bieber. Her Giuliani, appearing on a Fox News show, was a cramped human spindle, with a locked arm, and unfathomably shiny bald head and who got the most memorable line of the open: “Guys, I’m supposed to do 20 more talk show appearances and I’m trying to make it an Advent calendar – revealing one crime at each show...”
Cohen then tries to get the president back on the line. But only after accidentally speed-dialing his way through Omarosa Manigault (Leslie Jones), Mike Pence (Beck Bennett), first lady Melania Trump (Cecily Strong), Ivanka Trump and Kushner does he finally reach an impatient Donald: “Where the hell were you Michael? I’m supposed to be meeting with my new chief strategist, Kanye West.
“Call up Stormy and fix this once and for all.”
Trump: “Come on, Stormy, everyone knows it’s just an act.”
Daniels: “...in adult films, we’re not really known for our acting.”
She suggests he resign. He suggests not. Then...
Trump: “Come on, we’ll always have Shark Week. I solved North and South Korea, why can’t I solve us?”
Daniels: “I know you don’t believe in climate change, but a storm’s a coming.”
Ba dum 2.0
A good cold open? A very good one, in fact the best one of the year. Even the Coen Brothers might agree.
Now, stray thoughts on the rest of the show:
Donald Glover as host: Glover joked in his monologue that he's not really a “triple threat” but a mere “threat,” but he was wrong – triple is about right. He dropped a new song, as Childish Gambino (“Saturday”); dropped a new video (a wild, surreal "This is America," his first video in a couple of years); starred in every sketch; and a solid digital short too, entitled “Friendos” – a spoof of Migos, as the three hardcore rappers work out their psychic issues concerning a certain ice-cream-colored “Lambo” in front of a shrink. And extra credit for that oddball sketch in which he played one Raz P. Berry, a singer in a raincoat who mistakes a bar patron (Cecily Strong) for his girlfriend, Jade. As the Nerdist points out, this was a deep dive into deep – AKA obscure – '80s culture, as a spoof of the song, “The Rain,” by Oran “Juice” Jones. It was in fact a perfect spoof – google the 1986 single and see if you don't agree. (And extra extra credit for his Lando Calrissian, wondering why there are only about two black people in the original “Star Wars” cinematic universe.)
Weekend Update: Not a good night for Rudy Giuliani on multiple fronts (see: Cold Open) and it got worse during "Update," when co-anchor Colin Jost referred to his “Kings of Dementia Comedy Tour,” while adding that he's now on Trump's team “and Rudy immediately tackled his own quarterback.” Jost also cited the odd use of the word “funneled” by Giuliani, referring to the payments made to Daniels: “Dude, 'funneled' is not a word innocent people use when typically talking about money. No one says, yeah, my grandma funneled me five dollars in my birthday card.”
Best sketch: “A Kanye Place.” Consider the structure of this nearly-perfect five-minute long conceit, a sendup of "A Quiet Place." During the past few weeks, Kanye West has said and done things that made you blurt out to whomever is within shouting distance, something to the effect: “Did you hear what Kanye just said/did/tweeted?” “A Kanye Place” simply wondered,what would happen if every time someone yelled this out, they were then immediately consumed by a monster? In the sketch, a group of friends are rapidly depleted as they 1.) discuss the Chrissy Teigen/John Legend feud; the fact that Jesse Tyler Ferguson ended up at Teigen's baby shower; and the additional fact that West actually wrote the word “poop-di-scoopty” in a song, even if West was trolling everyone. Just a flat-out great sketch.
BOTTOM LINE Best episode of the season, so far.