Saturday Night Live, Season 41, Episode 6, “Matthew McConaughey/Adele”
Airs Saturdays at 11:30 pm ET on NBC (East coast version watched for review)
The Host: If you don’t watch SNL for the chance to see Matthew McConaughey have a prolonged conversation with a dead turkey he’s using as a puppet, why are you even here? Part of the appeal of SNL is to see how far a host will go. Some stick right in line with their public persona, others are more willing to get weird. This is McConaughey’s second time hosting the show, but the first since the McConaissance, and he is perfectly comfortable playing weirdos tonight, most likely because he has spent the past four years playing weirdos to much acclaim. None of his character work tonight gets as dark as Killer Joe or Rust Cohle, but it isn’t hard to see Dallas from Magic Mike and the guy making noise at the Amtrak proposal being plucked from the same character tree. McConaughey’s charisma never derails any sketch, and sometimes it’s the only thing keeping a sketch going, like the “Right Side of the Bed” sketch. But if the only thing a sketch has in its favor is a vaudeville act with McConaughey playing straight man to a turkey, that’s an easy plus.
Musical Guest: Did any of you know Adele is a good singer? Because Adele is a good singer. There’s no frills to her two performances tonight: Just her, center stage, a partially lit group of musicians backing her up, and her voice belting out to the rafters of Studio 8H. If her voice weren’t so commanding, her style would be called naked, because there’s rawness in her emotions even if her voice is like glistening brass. It’s a talent that more people would hate her for having if she weren’t so magnanimous about all her fame and success. Any Adele set has become essential viewing at this point, and tonight is no exception.
Best Sketch: Nothing is bad; nothing is great. The Adele Thanksgiving pre-taped segment is the one thing to absolutely seek out from the show, because watching a family arguing over ideology slowly transform into a reaction of the “Hello” video is like mixing comedy chocolate with comedy peanut butter. But this is a section about sketches, so a sketch must be featured. Luckily, there’s one that’s at least thematically similar: “Should You Chime in on This?”. It makes sense that, so close to Thanksgiving, SNL would structure multiple parts of the show around people talking out their ass about topics they know next to nothing about, and making it explicit robs “Chime in” of the kind of wacky power the Adele segment has. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still fun to watch Kenan in game show host mode berate straw doofuses about their ignorance. It’s a little low simply because it doesn’t shade the so-called idiots in any meaningful way, but sometimes one just needs a little formally consistent dessert, and “Chime in” has this is spades.
Worst Sketch: “Right Side of The Bed” has its third incarnation on the show tonight, and it still doesn’t make sense. This must be somebody’s darling and no one is willing to kill it. Taran and Cecily’s characters’ entire dynamic revolves around a closeted gay joke that never escalates in a meaningful way, and the joke of their morning show’s guest, always played by the SNL host, never getting to do their segment is never particularly funny. It worked best with Martin Freeman, as he plays befuddlement and frustration better than anyone. But even with the logic issues, viewers still get to see McConaughey ham it up with a turkey, and that is ridiculousness enough in a vacuum to work, so seeing it brought to life is pleasant and good for a few belly laughs.
Weekend Update: Update has been more hit-or-miss lately in a way the format of the segment couldn’t really sustain. It’s ok if a couple of the one-liners don’t land if the panelists are good and each anchor has at least one A line, but that hasn’t really been happening. Luckily, tonight’s Update works. None of the jokes really fall flat, and Jost even gets a reaction of shock with a Jared Fogle joke, which is always a good thing for update Anchors to have in their toolbox. The best moment is when Jost and Che bring back the bit were they each tell a joke the other wrote: Jost and Che have good chemistry, and it’s at its best when they’re mildly antagonistic with each other, so this segment allows each a blatant opportunity to screw with the other guy, and it gives Update a nice sprinkling of tension. The panel is also occupied by old standbys, as Vanessa Bayer plays an overly theatrical child and Kenan brings back his David Ortiz impression. Both characters are of the classical SNL construction, in that they focus on one aspect of the character – the kid’s inflections and Ortiz’ Dominican roots – follow it, and distill it down to its most wacky incarnation; Kenan’s delivery of “smidgen of pigeon” encapsulates this ideal perfectly.
Other Notes: Next new show is the first Saturday in December, with host Ryan Gosling and musical guest Leon Bridges. SNL is really set to end this year with a bang, as Chris Hemsworth and the team of Fey/Poehler are all lined up to perform.