saturday night live
Steve Martin & Martin Short
Photo: NBC/Will Heath/NBC
At the risk of being a basic Grinch, the vibes were off on a Christmas saturday night live hosted by two of America’s most beloved comedians.
The issue wasn’t Santa Claus-adjacent, and had little to do with Steve Martin or Martin Short, whose off-the-charts chemistry elevated their joint monologue to an all-too-early episode peak. Perhaps the problem was that the accommodation saturday night live is simply a solo sport. It’s not that the show hasn’t tried to do doubles before. Several times, in fact. The Smothers Brothers did it. Ditto the Bridges brothers, Beau and Jeff. Many married couples have also done so, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman at Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. (Let’s face it – it was the only way Nick Lachey could host SNL, and it’s still weird that this happened. Good for him, though.) Steve Martin and Martin Short even hosted together once beforealongside Chevy Chase, to promote their 1986 comedy, three amigos, which I’ll take every opportunity to let people know was written by the amazing trio of Steve Martin, Lorne Michaels and Randy Newman. (Yeah, this Randy Newman. I guess the other two must have had a friend in him.) Anyway, it doesn’t matter if a voice actor’s stunt has worked on the show before, it didn’t happen this time.
Part of the problem is that the SNL the staff have recently done an incredible job of getting the best out of every guest. Show veterans like Dave Chappelle and recent episodes of Amy Schumer were deeply steeped in their hosts’ established sensibilities, while Keke Palmer’s debut outing was tailored to her particular talents. Individually, Steve Martin and Martin Short have distinct energies and deep shoals of character that could be harnessed to SNL gold as the pair enjoy the late-career success of their hit Hulu series, Only murders in the building. As the host duo, however, what they primarily bring to the table is Martin2’s chemistry, honed over some 40 years of friendship and creative collaboration. He’s an invaluable asset, which is why this team seems like such a slam dunk on paper. Unfortunately, it’s an asset that better serves both parties in a vehicle like their 2018 Netflix special, An evening you will forget for the rest of your liferather than a showcase of overall sketches.
I hate to say it, but: bah, humbug.
Here are the highlights:
Given the palpable affection these two old pals have for each other, the only sensible thing they have to do with a double monologue is to engage in a vicious flame war. Martin intentionally skims Short’s lines, their comedic timing is so precise they can elicit laughs anti-Hourly. The roasts are brutal, and they just keep coming, all leading to the gruesome specter of the couple giving premature eulogies at each other’s funerals. If someone could turn the “Oh, Steve!” with which Short launches each of his lamentations, I would appreciate.
The one live skit in which the two actually worked together as a proper team offers insight into how this episode could have succeeded more beyond the monologue. (I’m going to need a post-mortem to explain how We Were Not Short as Jiminy Glick interviewing Steve Martin as himself. Seems like a no-brainer.) It may be a reheated Bad Santa routine, but Short’s exciting Sprinkles the Elf bounces off Martin’s mall Santa nicely, and the perhaps off-the-cuff moment when Sprinkles forgets he’s not supposed to have legs is a gem.
Another banger of an all-around “weekend update”. The hot topics were intertwined, and when a dark joke about exploitation at the heart of the World Cup baffles the studio audience, Colin Jost fake-exasperated”I didn’t! gets a bigger laugh than most other jokes. Ego Nwodim stops by the desk to play a chaotic holiday shopper who simultaneously embodies both the pain of holiday shopping and those who create that pain. And while it’s hard to imagine a more random excuse to hang out Chloe Fineman’s Expert Celebrity Impressions that a woman who vocally cosplays as Drew Barrymore et al. in his marital bed, it’s just as hard to imagine not laughing at Meryl Streep shouting “I’m done?” after sex.
There’s no better proof of a mediocre episode than the fact that this sketch is among the bright spots of the evening. Everyone involved agreed to drop the requirement to put both hosts in everything for a single sketch, and somehow what they landed on was How to Deal Your Man with Minky Carmichael. A misogynistic talk show host loved by women? Haven’t we suffered enough from this in real life? I was confused watching at first, but this one is a producer. There is no discernable reason why the set directly references The Arsenio room show, for example, or why studio audiences prefer early ’90s Benneton streetwear, and yet they do, and we’re all the better for it. Jen Fonger-Bhang (Heidi Gardner), Martin Short’s DJ and hypeman, Minky, with “Hit it!” is a bit funny, but his inexplicable switch to “Slam it!” halfway through the sketch is much funnier. And while Minky’s comeuppance isn’t exactly a surprise, the mysterious disfigurement of his penis that’s causing it certainly is. (“Oh no, what was there to close?” Punkie Johnson asks about Minky’s trash, and I never want to know.)
HBO Max had a hit earlier this year with a father of the bride to restart in which Andy Garcia enters the lead role. It was the only way to resurrect an IP that had been stagnating for nearly 30 years for precisely the reasons this sketch works – because the bride from the previous series is now in her 50s. The writers have a lot of fun with the conceit of this supposed seventh sequel, with the trailer’s narrator unsure if the accent used by Short’s character Franck is “still correct” and forgetting (along with the rest of between us) that Succession Star Kieran Culkin was also in these films. Also, it must have been fun for Bowen Yang to play BD Wong here after playing Wong’s son in Awkwafina is Nora from Queens for two seasons, although he didn’t have much to do in the sketch.
• Cold opening “Blocking It Out for Christmas” That’s how I learned that R. Kelly had attempted a comeback with an album titled I admit it. Unfortunately, I already knew that Hitler was back.
• The science rooma recurring sketch last seen in Jason Sudeikis’ 2021 episode, stuffed with an extra joke at the top with: “PBS Kids – 3:30 p.m. Curious George be on the same old bullshit.”
• Bravo to the real father of Sarah Sherman for his appearance in a video please don’t destroy. He definitely looks like a father not to be laughed at.
• Somehow the idea of bears pretending to be humans in order to see the snow, but getting too sleepy to go through with it warmed my heart a bit. If the setup for this deeply strange sketch seemed familiar, however, maybe you half remember a family vision from long ago from the 1954 musical, white christmaswhich he faithfully recreates.
• Between the musical interpreted by Will Ferrell Fiery and this ultra-violent sketch of Scroogewe live in a mini-golden age of unconventional interpretations A Christmas Carol. Also, it looks like the culmination of mankind longtime obsession with if drop a penny tall buildings could kill a person.