Steve Martin and Martin Short’s Holiday Laughs
Kieran Culkin and Selena Gomez surprise as Martin & Short revisit “Father of the Bride,” put a hilariously dark twist on “A Christmas Carol” and roast each other on- and off-script all night long!
This was an interesting one for us as we fully expected comedy royalty like Steve Martin and Martin Short to bring out some of the funniest “Saturday Night Live” sketches seen in a long time. They did that — but they also did the exact opposite.
We’ll have to give full props to whoever arranged the night, because they top-loaded the hell out of it. Every single sketch up to “Weekend Update” was a winner, and some of them were easily among the best holiday sketches the show has ever done.
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It was only after that things went off the rail. And you’ll notice we said “up to” the fake news, because this was inexplicably the worst “Update” of the season, coming off a great outing last week. The guys themselves gave us one rather terrible segment and one strong segment, but both of their guests were huge disappointments.
We also found it interesting that everything about this episode screamed that it was the Christmas episode right before a holiday break, but there’s another one coming next week. Maybe Steve and Martin wanted to do a holiday one, so we’re just going to get two in a row.
We got some of the best Christmas sketches we’ve ever seen out of this unexpected choice, so you won’t see us complaining. We also got surprise guest appearances by Selena Gomez, which was pretty unexpected, and Kieran Culkin, which was more of a surprise (but makes sense in context).
As usual, we’re ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Monologue, Cold Open, “Weekend Update” and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. We’ll skip the musical guests, because they’re not usually funny — unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
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We’re not sure why Martin Short would do the Ed Grimley dance for this character considering Ed Grimley was one of the characters he did on this show, and the audience was clearly recognizing those moves. Other than that, though, the character was okay. The sketch got way too repetitive and didn’t really pick up until Cecily Strong came in to interrupt his “How to Treat Your Man” talk show audience chat by revealing that she’d dated Minky himself — and wanted to talk about his dinky. Martin was great in responding to this, completely changing character. It got a little better from there, but kind of fizzled out again at the end.
Father of the Bride Part 8
Interestingly, we weren’t getting any reprises of characters Steve Martin or Martin Short ever did during their time on “Saturday Night Live,” but we did getty a pretty funny fake sequel to their shared “Father of the Bride” franchise. Even Kieran Culkin, who played kid brother to the titular bride, came back for a fun cameo as his adult self acting like a kid. Chloe Bennett was a little too manic as Diane Keaton (we know, we heard it, too, when we wrote it), and the piece didn’t really have anywhere fresh to go but it was worth it for the disclaimer cutaway about Marton’s odd European accent and his critique of pretty much everything on Heidi Gardner’s (standing in for Kimberly Williams) body at 52 years old getting ready for her eighth wedding. After introducing all the players, it kind of fizzled out with nowhere to go.
After a streak of strong outings, it was inevitable that Colin Jost and Michael Che would falter a bit, and this was it. There were some decent enough jokes, but certainly not the shockingly brilliant ones we’ve been getting used to enjoying. They tackled Brittney Griner, Krysten Sinema, the World Cup and even Trump’s weird Constitution talk and the funniest thing that happened was Jost trying to drop a “honey” in a story about a woman wanting to refuse to build a website for a gay couple. Oh honey, don’t do that.
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Ego Nwodim as a frenzied holiday shopper had potential in the concept phase, but the execution was a mess. She could have been a little more erratic and dangerous in her delivery, but even that wasn’t the biggest problem. The material just wasn’t strong enough. Honestly, as much as we already know about holiday shopping, this had to be a lot more unhinged than a fake neck brace and grabbing a shirt out of another shopper’s hands to work.
After that tepid guest, the boys came back much stronger for their second half with some great jokes about Chris Christie’s niece being a mess on a Spirit Airlines flight (and not the usual Spirt jokes, either) and the woman who brought buckets of feces to the police (even if they clearly didn’t read past the headline on that story. Still, when they connected it to a Starbucks bathroom, we were dying.
For about the first half of this piece, it was just an excuse for Chloe to trot out some of her admittedly stellar celebrity impressions. We’d have rather her not do Drew Barrymore and Anna Delvey right away, though, as we’ve already seen those on here. Meryl Streep was okay, but we definitely perked up when she said she was going to go into Scarlett Johansson. It was especially awkward because she apparently does these voices to spice up the bedroom with her husband, played by Mikey Day. The second half with him doing cartoon catchphrases was even less funny, closing the door on one of the weakest “Updates” in a while.
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The Holiday Train
A sketch building to an unexpected climax that definitely had some fun to it, but probably more enjoyable than anything was the fact that this piece featured two veteran comedians in the host and the two most veteran cast members in Kenan Thompson and Cecily Strong, and all four of them broke at one time or another. Admittedly, they’re take on “Snow” from “White Christmas” had some pretty absurd lyrics, but it was their little mistakes in the delivery that kept cracking them up. It was an infectious kind of silly that kept the humor up during the relatively dry set up to that fun twist we teased (and won’t spoil here).
This Way to Meet Santa
We were going to call out Martin Short’s elf for showing us his real legs hiding behind the fake feet on his knees, but it quickly made sense. His characterization of Pringles (ahem) Sprinkles the elf was hilariously cranky, terrorizing all the kids and even snapping at Steve Martin’s Jolly Old St. Nick! We also kind of got the sense that Martin was ad-libbing some of his antics — including standing up — with how Steve masterfully tried to play it off. The sketch took a darker turn toward the end, proving that it helps to have master comedians on hand to ensure each sketch knows how to end the right way at the right time.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the painfully stupid and painfully honest teen duo that always brings the hosts to the edge of despair and outrage on “Science Room” played by Cecily Strong and Mikey Day. They are so incredible at delivering these lines with their teen angst and awkwardness. We were enjoying the silliness of their answers, but lost it when Cecily answered that something small can “still feel good for the girl?” It was all so inevitable with these recurring characters, but it’s always fun to hear what they come up with next before it all goes to madness.
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Cold Open: Blocking It Out for Christmas
A refreshing non-political opening instead featured an original song all about unhealthily pushing away your mental health until Christmas. It’s in the details delivered by all of the players that this piece really came together. We also appreciated that we normally get these in pre-recorded music videos, but this one was done live to open the show. Everyone was in great form with some very funny lines that only got better when Sarah Sherman asked what happens when January rolls around. Already, we think this is going to be an instant classic that hits the “SNL” Christmas specials for years to come..
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About halfway through the rant about how awful Chelsea was, we saw the punchline coming. We were a little disappointed that the guys were so obvious with the setup to this piece thinking it wasn’t going to go straight into the avant garde absurdist humor they’ve become known for. We shouldn’t have worried. They took a tired premise to so many beautiful places, randomly including Sarah Sherman, Chloe Bennett, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Michael Che and even Sarah’s real dad (per the credits) to leave us someplace that is comedically exhausted and satisfied.
Monologue: Steve Martin & Martin Short
When you have two comedy legends who’ve been performing together for years hitting the stage together, you get exactly this — and it was great. Of course they basically took the entire time they were up there to roast one another, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Honestly, watching them just riff like this made us realize that these are the two guys who’ve had the best chance of successfully reviving the variety format. They’re so easy with one another, they can ad lib like nobody’s business, and they can make even the corniest scripted moments come off fun.
The bulk of this monologue felt like just the kind of skit you might get in the middle of one of those classic variety show, with both of them bring out the eulogies they’d pre-written for one another. As you might imagine, they were absolutely brutal in the best possible ways. We like to imagine they didn’t know what the other had written beforehand. It may or may not be true; they’re too good at what they do to reveal that. There’s a reason they’re still at the top of their game after all these years. And that’s not even getting into the fun cameo at the end.
A Christmas Carol
The too-clever bumper was completely unnecessary after the deliciously twisted and unbelievably funny carnage that ensured when Martin Short’s Scrooge tried to share his changed ways with the townsfolk below his bedroom window. Just when we wondered how much further they would go, they went so much further. Honestly, this ranks easily as one of the funniest holiday sketches they’ve ever done on this show. Unbelievable gore and blood might seem a surprising blend with this Dickens classic, but every note of this pre-recorded piece was pitch perfect.
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK
This was an interesting night, because the hosts are such capable performers, they carried some of the sketches almost entirely by themselves (and rightfully so). Some of the performers barely featured at all or were relegated to smaller supporting roles. In fact, only five of them had substantial nights: Cecily, Chloe, Ego, Mikey, and Sarah.
Ego was tied for the most sketches with Sarah, but her biggest showcase piece was a massive disappointment. Sarah continues to be given more and more opportunities to try different things, but she randomly decides to overact in some of the sketches and it doesn’t always work. Still, it’s huge for her that she’s getting to do so much in her second year. Meanwhile, Chloe and Mikey were consistently strong, as expected, but were overshadowed by one strong personality.
For us, we have to say that all-star of the week was Cecily Strong, who managed to make the most out of every single appearance she had. In two of those, she was showing off her impressive singing pipes, while she always cracks us up in the “Science Room” and she was great as the woman who dated Martin’s Minky Carmichael.
“Saturday Night Live” returns next week with host Austin Butler and musical guest Lizzo.