Etched by Sketch: SNL Season 44 Episode 1 (Adam Driver)

Original air date: 9/29/18

Cold Open — Kavanaugh Hearing

Grade: B-

  • Jokes depend on a lot of inside information, difficult to follow if you didn’t watch the hearing closely
  • The Damon walk-on was good…his acting was much more dedicated than most cast members
  • Writing was pretty tight, but at times almost too writerly. However, Damon sold the lines very well
  • The Senator impersonations/lines existed almost purely for setup, really not much there
  • Second beat with Aidy as the prosecutor drags a little, preaching to the choir at times
  • The Rachel Dratch cameo was kinda pointless?
  • Hot crowd, they were hanging onto every line
  • Energy/laughs cooled down when they moved away from Kavanaugh
  • They really tried to pack too many real life references into an overstuffed sketch
  • The good makeup/impersonation of Lindsey Graham by McKinnon goes wasted with weak writing and lower than usual energy by McKinnon — they played this portion way too conservatively when the real life version was far crazier

Monologue — End of Summer

Grade: D+

  • Kind of a dry concept, just a parade of cast members in order to get applause
  • Adam does a decent job and was game, but writing is so limp that there’s really nothing to it at all
  • Feels like a leftover concept after something better didn’t work

Fortnite Squad

Grade: C-

  • Decent intro, clear setup with a couple early laughs in there
  • Mikey Day does a passable job as a Fortnite sim, decent physical humor
  • Really not much here, dialogue is pretty sparse and too reliant on Mikey to do his thing, which doesn’t carry the sketch
  • No second beat
  • The costuming was probably the best part of this
  • What is the point of this aside from a goofy physical showcase for Mikey Day?

A New Kyle

Grade: C

  • Decent concept, but seems a little simplistic
  • Seems like this should have been a big showcase sketch for Kyle and a chance to really make a statement for the season
  • Pointless Wendy Williams cameo
  • Wrote the sketch into a corner, should it really have ended like this? Took a weird turn, in a bad way
  • I get falling on a banana peel as an IRONIC joke, but that doesn’t make it a GOOD joke. Lazy writing
  • Ending just kinda hits with a dull thud

Coffee Shop

Grade: C-

  • This is a recurring sketch, but I feel like there’s room to replicate it without getting stale…yet
  • Kind of a complicated setup, took them a while to get to the meat of the sketch
  • Halfway decent lines in there, Cecily given some room to run and maximizes her opportunity
  • Laughs getting lost in the wordy setup…lines coming too rapid-fire to land properly
  • Just kinda blah

80’s Party

Grade: C-

  • Unimaginative takeoff of those freeze frames at the end of teen movies like Animal House, Can’t Hardly Wait, etc
  • Easy to predict a lot of the fates before they even flashed up
  • Tried to draw a line to the #metoo movement, but seemed half-assed. Didn’t quite get there
  • The concept is admirable, but too 1-note to really make a statement
  • Not awful

Weekend Update (Excluding Desk Pieces)

Grade: C

  • Softball jokes about Kavanaugh, playing too hard to the crowd
  • Political jokes were weak, weak, weak, all around…like jay leno jokes with a kick
  • The Gritty joke was good

Weekend Update Desk Piece #1: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Grade: C+

  • McKinnon’s impersonation on point as usual
  • Physicality was there, writing is so-so
  • A little overwritten, too long, should have cut the Riverdale tangent

Weekend Update Desk Piece #2: Serena Williams

Grade: D+

  • Too meta, no point to this thing really
  • At least it was short

Weekend Update Desk Piece #3: Pete Davidson

Grade: B

  • Hits himself pretty good, self deprecating humor on point
  • Really good line delivery, a rarity for Pete
  • Sacrifices a lot of personal/private info for laughs, like a true standup
  • I’m usually not a huge fan of Pete, but he really delivered here. This was the best part of the show up to this point
  • RIP their engagement

Career Day

Grade: A

  • Dedication by Driver is off the charts
  • Writing is concise, clear, punchy, tight
  • Straight up rip off of There Will Be Blood, but who cares, this is fire
  • Amazing delivery by Driver, this is 100% him and the writer (Eli Coyote Mandel)
  • The bird bit sends this thing over the top
  • Melissa did a great job in a small supporting role
  • Easily the best sketch of the night

Neo-Confederate Meeting

Grade: D+

  • Extremely awkward, everyone is uncomfortable saying these lines
  • Ok, I get it…trying to draw lines that intentionally or not invoke racism across the north as well as the south
  • Are they saying that Vermont are also full of racists, or they just happen to be white? What’s the motivation here? Sketch is not clear if it’s trying to be satire or just get a couple of quick laughs at the sake of Vermontians. Trying to play it both ways and succeeding at neither
  • Audience is confused near the end…are we supposed to feel sympathy for the KKK or something?
  • Writing was all over the place, not good at delivering whatever message it wanted to deliver

Average grade of all sketches: C

A little more about…

Me.

My name’s Dean, and I’ve been a fan of comedy ever since I can remember. I started watching SNL in the early 90’s. Since that time, my tastes in nearly everything have changed, but watching SNL has always been at least a tangential part of my life. I was always aware of who was in the cast, and would catch at least a handful of episodes per season, watching them with a critical eye but judging with an even hand. I read Live From New York, the seminal oral history of SNL, with fervor, and can trace the stars in the cast through the changes in my life.

I’ve never been the type to view past SNL seasons with rosy nostalgia, nor cast dispersions on current seasons. Obviously, some casts and seasons had better results than others, but above all, Saturday Night Live is a show made up of individual sketches. The strength of those sketches mirror the strength of
the show. Well-written and well-performed sketches make great episodes, and great seasons. To me this is common sense, but throughout the decades reviewers repeatedly ignore this fact, as if each show or cast was created in a bubble.

Each week I read reviews that attempt to review the show as a whole, calling out highlights and lowlights of sketches and performers. In an era where SNL uploads (nearly) every sketch they perform to YouTube, attempting to review the show in this fashion is an antiquated notion, and betrays the spirit of the show itself, which is a vaudevillian escapade of performers, sketches, bits, jokes, and general smart-assery. Each sketch has a soul. Each sketch has the potential to be great. And each sketch deserves its own review, even a brief one. It is my goal to grade each sketch in each show individually on an A-F scale, and to be as precise with my wording as possible. I grade on a slight scale. SNL works within many limitations, mainly time, money, and space. It is my duty to keep these limitations in mind while writing, and determine how good or bad the sketch actually was, not how good it could or should have been.

Each review will conclude with this section, titled “A little more about…” While I keep my individual sketch reviews brief, this is the section that allows me to dig deeper about what I think did or didn’t work about an individual sketch. It will usually cover (in my judgement) the best or worst sketch of the
night, but often I may use it to discuss larger issues about the show, or thoughts about sketch itself, or perhaps even comedy-related thoughts that this episode triggered in me.

At times I may use harsh language, especially if a sketch offends my comic sensibility. You will probably disagree with me, maybe quite often. But it is my promise to judge each sketch closely. I will review each show of this season (44) and may work backwards in seasons if the desire and demand is there.
This is a project that I have considered for quite some time, and I am ready to give it my all.