Momentum matters and Saturday Night Live is running into a Winter Olympics-sized speed bump following two of the better episodes of this season a mere three weeks after returning from the mid-season/holiday break. But while Melissa McCarthy once again blended seamlessly into the cast for her third go-around as host to help send the show out for its month-long hiatus on a high note, Seth Meyers’ memorable exit from the Weekend Update desk will likely be all that anybody is talking about this morning.
Before we get to that, though, let’s pay proper respect to the rest of the cast and McCarthy as she once again throws herself into the show, fully committing to a parade of sadly similar but wonderfully broad and rough-around-the-edges characters. The best of them? Sheila Kelly – a repeat character from McCarthy’s hosting stint last season that stars in an absurdly funny and exaggerated take on last week’s Rep. Michael Grimm saga wherein McCarthy terrorized reporters, bystanders, police, and security cameras as a furious member of Congress.
McCarthy also did a pitch perfect job as a revamped divorced woman that befriends Aidy Bryant’s Morgan only to trade up to Cecily Strong’s Kyra in the “Girlfriend’s Talk Show” sketch.
Apart from McCarthy, this week’s standouts also included Kyle Mooney’s successful port of his “awkward interviews” YouTube videos which are a refreshingly bizarre take on “Man on the Street” segments, Taran Killam (who took the lead in the “Super Bowl Halftime Show Musical” sketch and did a nice job riffing on the Atlanta winter storm breakdown during Update), and Jay Pharoah.
Earlier this season, it seemed like Pharoah was still struggling to find something to do on the show besides impressions that were shoe-horned into a sketch, but after successfully converting his Kanye impression into the recurring “Waking Up with Kimye” sketch and top-lining digital shorts like the “H&M” rap and the “What Does My Girl Say” song parody, Pharoah has advanced.
Tonight’s “28 Reasons to Hug a Black Guy” video with Keenan Thompson and Sasheer Zamata is another step in the right direction as the trio educated a classroom about Black History Month. Beck Bennett and Mooney were seemingly brought in to be the next Lonely Island gang in terms of video shorts, but while they have been awfully hit or miss (though not without a passionate and developing fanbase), Pharoah seems to be SNL‘s most impressive digital shorts player/creator right now.
Speaking of The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg made a return appearance to SNL alongside Amy Poehler and Bill Hader (as Stefon, Seth Meyers’ husband who was typically fall-on-the-floor hilarious and possessive of Meyers) and, of course, co-anchor Cecily Strong at the Weekend Update desk to say goodbye to departing anchor Seth Meyers. It’s fitting that Meyers – who so often played straight man to some of the best recurring SNL characters of the last decade on Update – tossed the spotlight to everyone else on that stage while he got slightly emotional.
Heartfelt exits that are this grand aren’t necessarily the norm on SNL, but since Kristen Wiig’s extremely sentimental (and marvelously done) exit and Hader, Fred Armisen, and Jason Sudekis’ last show last season, perhaps Lorne Michaels has softened.
Besides that, Meyers has been with that show for 12 years, working as head writer and Weekend Update anchor for much of that period. In many ways, he is now the last graduate of that era as he heads off to host Late Night. He might not be the best Update anchor that there has ever been, but Meyers is certainly someone who slides in beside Chevy Chase and Dennis Miller on that segment’s Mount Rushmore.
Meyers’ smart yet non-condescending tone, his sharp yet never cruel sense of humor, and his steady hand will be missed. Again, from “Drunk Uncle” to “Stefon” to “Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy” to “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party” – and dozens of one-off characters – Meyers has been in the center ring, keeping the show alive.
When SNL returns on March 1st, Meyers’ absence will trigger this transitional season’s final stage because the safety net is gone. But while Strong and head writer/new cast member Colin Jost’s Weekend Update and the growth of Killam, Strong, Pharoah, Kate McKinnon, and players like Noel Wells, Bennett, and Mooney are things to get excited about, gaining some momentum and consistency (both onscreen and in the writer’s room) has to be the chief goal when SNL begins its dash toward season’s end.
That’s not just for the sake of the show and its fans, but out of respect for Meyers, whose most lasting legacy may be that of consistent dominance.
Saturday Night Live returns March 1st, 2014 @11:30pm on NBC.