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‘SNL’ Recap: Cecily Strong’s MVP Performance Tops An Instant Classic Episode

‘SNL’ Recap: Cecily Strong’s MVP Performance Tops An Instant
Classic Episode 1

I bet you’re wondering how I got into this situation, flipping the script completely on this weekend’s SNL Recap. _RECORD SCRATCHHHHH_

It all started way back in the final hours of Daylight Savings Time, 2021, when Cecily Strong wheeled behind the Weekend Update desk as Goober the Clown Who Had An Abortion When She Was 23, and only made more of an impression once Saturday Night Live returned from the ensuing commercial break three minutes later to find Strong anchoring a live “Wake Up Rhode Island” sketch alongside Kenan Thompson. There are MVP performances, and there is transcendence. I mean, if you’re not going to retire from the show after singing “My Way” while submerging yourself in a ginormous wine glass, then you better come back to the show on a mission. Mission accomplished.

By the time Colin broke the fourth wall to call Goober Cecily, or later, when she inhaled helium before revealing that she’d never had made it to SNL if she hadn’t had that abortion, you might have wondered if you were watching a caricature or something more symbolic in Cecily’s, er, Goober’s tale and how we even talk about and try to legislate a woman’s right to an abortion. This is most definitely personal for Strong. As a fellow SNL obsessive, Andy Hoglund, pointed out before the season began, Strong once worked for the Planned Parenthood office in Chicago.

Why all the clowning around? At one point, Strong claimed: “We’re gonna do fun clown stuff to make it more palatable!” But the metaphoric symbolism also helped illustrate the ridiculous of our current healthcare system and how we try to legislate morality, specifically when it comes to women who need abortions. That her Goober horn wouldn’t work (although they probably knew that already from dress rehearsal or even factored it into the bit) or that Jost’s mic became muffled midway through, no matter. We heard Strong loud and clear.

  • “The doctor asked if I got pregnant on the way over to the clinic, because I wasn’t very far along. That’s one of my favorite jokes to this day. I love that joke. Such a good joke. Not like a funny ha-ha joke. But like a funny ‘you’re not an awful person and your life isn’t over’ joke. The best kind.”
  • “And then years later, you’d be at dinner with a big group of clowns. One clown will go out on a limb and say she’s had an abortion. And then eight other clowns at the table will say they’ve had an abortion too, because that’s how common it is. And everyone’s excited and relieved to be talking about it. Then it’s like ‘wow, we kept the secret so long despite being so grateful it happened. Honka honka.”
  • “Colin, here is my truth: I know I wouldn’t be a clown on TV here today if it weren’t for the abortion I had the day before my 23rd birthday. Clowns have been helping each other end their pregnancies since the caves. It’s going to happen so it ought to be safe, legal and accessible. Not back to the alley. The last thing anyone wants is a bunch of dead clowns in a dark alley.”

And that wasn’t even the first great thing Strong pulled off in tonight’s episode! Let’s get back to the regular recapping, already in progress…

What’s The Deal For The SNL Cold Open For Last Night (11/06/21)?



Strong opened the episode, in fact, as her FOX News Justice with Judge Jeanine Pirro.

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Something seemed lacking at the start of it. Was this cold open too cold, perhaps? We definitely didn’t need Pete Davidson’s take on Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (although isn’t it about time SNL trotted out an impersonation by someone, anyone, of Joe Rogan?!?), and would anyone outside of Virginia recognize Alex Moffat’s take on Virginia’s Gov.-Elect Glenn Youngkin? Heidi Gardner’s overly concerned school parent got in the requisite jokes to mock white fear of a diverse America. But really, as I began to think SNL would’ve been much better off with an “Infrastructure Week” cold open, it turned out all of this blather was just a set-up for James Austin Johnson’s big debut of his Donald J. Trump impersonation. As much as folks on social media loved JAJ’s DJT last year, it’s that much more with the added hair and makeup budget, droning on about Dune. Although even just by re-introducing Trump to the SNL infrastructure, it also reminded me (and now you) of the mess surrounding Alec Baldwin and his accidental killing of his cinematographer last month.

How Did The SNL Guest Host Kieran Culkin Do?



Kieran Culkin wins our hearts and minds even as he connives as Roman Roy on HBO’s Succession, and he proved even more winsome as himself onstage with a sincere monologue that referenced back 30 years ago this month, when his older brother Mac actually hosted SNL and let kid brother Kieran join him for a few sketches.

He also shouted out his wife in the audience, then assured her and us: “Everything is going to be fine, because it doesn’t matter. Even if I do mess up and quote, ‘shame the family,’ thank you, we’re going to be great.”

And pretty great we were! Culkin starred in four bangers, all airing before the first musical break. What they had in common? You know that idiom about going back to the drawing board? When you do that as a writer, you might find some timeless premises already written on the board.

Two memorable sketches found their hooks in very relatable situations, while two others relied on cinematic tropes. Let’s run you through all four.

First, anyone can identify with trying to cancel or even change your service with your cable provider. SNL had Kieran receiving his “call-back” from Spectrum Cable’s customer service department, only to keep getting transferred to less and less helpful employees, several of whom kept trying to upsell his service instead of cancelling it for him. SNL has more cast members this season than ever before, and too many of them showed up here. But if you hoped to see Aidy Bryant, this was your only chance. Strong provided the hold narration while the SNL cast and crew shuffled through. Of course, Bowen Yang would be the Final Boss or the floating-head “nexus” of Spectrum. The whole thing might’ve gone on too long and seemed a bit old, but that’s also kinda how it feels to be hold with your cable provider, right?



This was followed by a pre-taped bit produced in the style of a typical movie heist. Only this time, “The Thief” (Chris Redd) doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift?! Neither “The Mastermind” (Kieran) nor the client’s representative (Heidi) can talk him through the lesson over the phone, no matter how confident Redd’s thief may have been.



The live “Men’s Room” kept things very basic at first, playing off the awkwardness of co-workers making conversation while standing next to each other at the urinals. Spotlights allow the inner monologues of Bowen, Chris, Kieran and Andrew Dismukes to let us know that even they don’t know “why are we not ourselves” in this situation. Alex’s character presents a solid twist. Yet somehow the excitement of Tracy Morgan’s surprise cameo, emerging from one of the stalls, threw everything off, including the ending.



You might look at the pre-taped film, “The Jockey,” and think of it as existing in the same universe but farther along the timeline from last year’s “Tiny Horse.”

And yet. This short takes a wild turn when we spot Kieran as the titular jockey, riding his horse as if it were a surfboard, and offering the cliche opening monologue to a 90s movie, asking us to ponder how he found himself in that situation. Turns out he’s not only an emergency jockey, but also the singer for a pop-punk band? Because the 1990s?!



How Relevant Was The Musical Guest Ed Sheeran?

Has there been a later introduction of the musical guest than 12:19 a.m. EDT? Just curious. Can someone please get me an answer to this, stat! So to speak. Anyhow. Ed Sheeran proved his relevance by disclosing he’d caught COVID-19 just after NBC announced two weeks ago that he’d come back for another visit, so that’s a helpful reminder for all of us. By the way, what are the safety protocols inside 30 Rock again?

It’s giving me the “Shivers!”



The thing I noticed/realized about Sheeran even years ago on one of his previous SNL performances is that this Brit definitely has a handle on what’s popular in pop music. I’m not so sure I always have the best sense of Sheeran’s own POV, but he can deliver the riffs and beats that everyone will bop along to, as he proved once again with these two singles from his newest studio album, “=”



Which Sketch Will We Be Sharing: “Dionne Warwick Talk Show”



So many share-worthy sketches tonight, so this space is reserved for Dionne Warwick, and Dionne Warwick only. But also her impersonator, Ego Nwodim, and the other unnecessary impersonations and cameos that killed time before we got to see Warwick meet her maker. Or vice versa? You know what I’m typing.

Who Stopped By Weekend Update?

Before Goober’s show-stopping performance, we welcomed Ice Cube (Kenan) to the Update desk.



In real life, Ice Cube recently turned down a movie project, or walked away from it, over vaccine mandates. Oh, Hell No! No, that’s also the title of the movie he would’ve starred in with Jack Black. Kenan’s lumberjack take on the rapper wanted to fill us in on what other movies we won’t get to see him in thanks to his anti-vaxx stance, but he didn’t want to tell us why he’s unwilling to get vaccinated. He will, however, call Michael Che “Bozo” over and over again. So he got that part right, at least.

What Sketch Filled The “10-to-1” Slot?



At 12:55 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (limited time offer!), we’re treated to a new “a please don’t destroy video,” their third of the season — wherein Ben Marshall and Martin Herlihy attempt to console John Higgins about his breakup with his girlfriend. Only when John calls “Angie” to reconcile, all he can muster are swear words cussing her out. The premise heightens when Ben, then Martin, attempt to talk to Angie over the cell phone. It all culminates with Angie herself (Sarah Sherman) busting through their SNL office door to bust some heads.

Who Was The Episode’s MVP?

Cecily Strong. I already told you up top. Scroll up and start from the beginning if you need to. Actually, you do need to. Truly transcendent.

Next week, Jonathan Majors hosts, with musical guest Taylor Swift!

Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.

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