Maya Rudolph-Hosted SNL Eschews Stormy For Silly

Come on: admit it. Your money was on Saturday Night Live opening with Stormy Daniels spanking a satin-pajama-ed Donald Trump with a copy of Forbes magazine.

No more guaranteed big-laugh comedy scene could be delivered to the writers’ room if it arrived on a Lake Tahoe hotel dining cart.

But no. The show’s producers and writers wanted no part of that, deciding instead that the country needed a total respite, something to take their minds off things like no end in sight to brutal violence in Gaza, that criminal trial of a former President/candidate over sex with a porn star, and the news that another candidate’s brain was eaten by worms.

Sure they could have found a few laughs in some of that—and they did, but only for Update. For the rest of the show, the answer was go silly and go silly big.

And that meant Beyonce swallowing hand lotion, a Please Don’t Destroy guy swallowing a cell phone and cavemen grunting in British accents.

The show’s intentions were announced overtly in the cold open, which was, instead of a satire off the headlines, a sweet (with a dash of humor) celebration of Mother’s Day, populated, as SNL has done several times in the past, with the real Moms of many of the cast members. 

Keenan Thompson opened the Mama Parade by declaring:  “With so many upsetting stories in the world right now, we thought we’d take a break from the regular cold open and hear some heartwarming stories from our Moms instead.”

And the moms were truly heartwarming and cute, and even effective at selling a few of the gags—including some jokes that didn’t make it into the Tom Brady roast. Chloe Fineman’s Mom seemed to genuinely enjoy hers: 

“Tom Brady’s marriage ended so quickly I thought it was your Dad.”

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Fortunately, the show had a beloved performer from the past serving as host, the great Maya Rudolph, and she was not only game for everything, she pulled most of the calculated silliness off. Well, a good percentage of it anyway.

That Maya is SNL royalty was obvious from the effusive greeting she received from the audience, a long ovation that sounded genuine and seemed to thrill her. 

And she immediately justified it with a big, broad song and dance number:  “I’m your Mother,” which included numerous references to SNL iconography, including The Coneheads, Baba Wawa, Debbie Downer, Gilly, the Sweeney Sisters, Mary Catherine Gallagher, and one of her own classics, Donatella (Versace.)

Speaking of classics, Rudolph kicked things off with a callback to the last time she hosted the show in 2021 and portrayed Beyonce paying a visit to the heavily spiced YouTube talk show, Hot Ones

Rudolph-as-Beyonce’s Hot Ones return really set the slapstick tone for the episode by including not only a glass of milk thrown in host Sean Evans’ (Mikey Day) face, but also a wild lotion-in-mouth moment, which Rudolph “milked” for every ounce of sight-gag humor.

She elevated the subsequent Please Don’t Destroy short well above its usual standard, playing an Instagram character named “Unessa Confidence” who works on young men’s “esteem issues.”

But nothing defined the night’s silliness theme better than the “British Cavemen” sketch, one of those bursts of mindless creativity that make you wonder at what hour this idea was hatched, and what condition the writers were in when they hatched it: Various cast members grunting nonsense words in cockney accents, highlighted by the “peacocking” appearance of “amicus Mick Jaggerus.”

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This was not a few minutes comparable to the low comedy of Shakespeare, but at least nobody was thinking about Gaza.

For those with an appetite for something with a bit more bite, Weekend Update dived headfirst into the current swamp of topical material. Which included plenty of Stormy Daniels.

She described sex with Trump, which Colin Jost found “so disgusting the sky turned green.” 

She got into bed with Trump to advance her career “like every Republican.”

And (the best) she agreed not to describe Trump genitalia in court “after she was offered hush money by the jury.”

Of course the RFK brain worm got plenty of attention, because Sarah Silverman, paying off her mother’s prediction, played the worm in an extended bit, sipping in a brain shake and (as Silverman always does) insulting Colin Jost.

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And Update wouldn’t be complete without at least one gratuitous, non-sequitur joke, in this case about the most popular baby names for boys this year being Liam and Noah. “Great,” Jost said, “another generation of pussies.” 

The silliness returned, with bad intentions, in a sketch about a diva actress failing to get through a coffee commercial because her incessant drinking of it gave her unremitting flatulence. Nothing says silly like extended jokes about flatulence. 

This episode’s last couple of bits broke a recent string of strong comedic finishes, but certainly not for Rudolph’s unflagging effort. She has lost none of her performing chops.

Next week the season finale with Jake Gyllenhaal as host, and likely a few cameos. The fact that there were none at all tonight was another signal that Lorne Michaels has enormous faith that Maya Rudolph can carry a show.

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