Plus, Alec Baldwin makes a cameo appearance!
It's SNL in Review time, Conehead Nation!
Timothée Chalamet made his hosting debut nearly three years ago, back in 2020. (Check out my recap here.) Now he returns, just as SAG-AFTRA and the studios have reached a tentative deal on a new labor contract that could see Hollywood up and running again soon. In fact, some tea leaf readers interpreted Saturday Night Live booking the likes of Chalamet, who has a big movie to promote, as a sign a resolution to the strike was looming. That Lorne Michaels is one savvy operator.
Of course, Chalamet is at Studio 8H to promote Wonka, the musical origin story. SNL is back to serving as a hub for stars looking to boost their corporate franchise movie product.
I spoke with former cast member Jeff Richards, who impersonates the original Willy Wonka on his podcast, prior to tonight's show. He says: "I just loved the first one so much, it was perfect as it was. Gene Wilder was so perfect and weird — funny and quirky. Just really fun to watch. I did see [Charlie and the Chocolate Factory] with Johnny Depp, which is good too. I wish they'd called it something else besides Willy Wonka. Because when you have the first one, you can't beat it. They tried to make it a little more strange with Tim Burton, a little more eccentric. But for Timothée Chalamet, Willy Wonka will always be Gene Wilder to me. I suppose every generation can get excited about the current one. Chalamet and Johnny Depp, they're throwing big guys, so I guess it doesn't really matter as long as you have the first. [Still] after the original, it feels like every other Wonka is like a step relative, a new stepdad. It's hard to accept the new step whatever. The new Willy Wonkas aren't the old one. Take it for what it is. Enjoy the new things about it, try not to be angry about what they did in the new one that they didn't do in the first. Whatever age you are determines the Willy Wonka you're most into, but I love the first one." (We will also get some thoughts from former cast member Patrick Weathers later in the recap.)
The musical guest tonight is Boygenius, a supergroup consisting of singer-songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus.
It's the third Republican presidential (a.k.a. the kids) debate – Lester Holt (Kenan Thompson) introduces the participants. Pretty awkward stuff with the exception of, maybe, Devon Walker's Tim Scott voice. Woof, no thanks.
But wait, there's a clever reveal: Donald Trump (James Austin Johnson) freezes the screen a la Ferris Bueller or Zack Morris to comment on the candidates. "Stuck on stage while I cook." He acknowledges the obvious: Ego Nwodim playing Vivek Ramaswamy is deeply off-putting. At first, I thought this was a lame and desperate casting by the show — turns out that is the point! It's meta, but I like the show holding its own mirror up, especially regarding these (generally) bad political cold opens.
Ron DeSantis is played (kind of) by Please Don't Destroy's John Higgins. Trump notes SNL thinks so little of the Florida Governor's candidacy they will not even commit a genuine cast member to play him. Ouch! This is pretty biting. Honestly, there's a lot of political commentary here, an opportunity to wax on the presidential race at large. I don't fully agree with the sentiments, but at least there's a real point of view in Trump's speech. And, really, this is less funny than it is a horribly bleak look at the state of play.
"That's a wrap on some of these impressions," he promises.
Chalamet comes out and sings a Wonka-inspired song about "shameless self-promotion."
He jokes about Hollywood returning to work — and includes a great cutaway to the SNL audience being made up of janky AI performers.
Former cast member Patrick Weathers commented: "I think the settlement and new contract negotiated for SAG-AFTRA is a big win for actors and for Fran Dresher. She's done an outstanding job as president and obviously has a good team. It's a win for talent, both facial and unseen. Now everyone, including lighting gaffers, carpenters, production assistants, wardrobe, hair and makeup artists, zombie extras, gun wranglers, and all who bring movies and TV to life or not can go to work again."
Marcello Hernandez then joins him to rap about having a baby face. Punkie Johnson impersonates Nicki Minaj. "I've had this face since Kenan & Kel," spits Thompson. Not sure we needed this? Guess the Wonka tune did not have a landing pad.
"Museum of Hip-Hop Panel"
It's the 50th anniversary of hip-hop culture, and we have a panel discussion! Nuna Buziness (Nwodim) joins Dr. Cornel West (Thompson), Rick Rubin (Johnson), Mary J. Blige (Punkie Johnson), and... the return of smokecheddathaassgetta (Chalamet). He appeared back in 2020 alongside Pete Davidson. Like last time, smokecheddathaassgetta is a SoundCloud buffoon, totally ignorant of the culture and its history.
His favorite rap of all time: The Nationwide insurance jingle. He is afraid of the Bronx. This is fine — especially if you want to see Kenan spank Chalamet!
"The Woman in Me: Auditions"
Michelle Williams recently generated headlines for narrating the audiobook of The Woman in Me, especially her impression of Justin Timberlake saying "Fo' shiz, homie!" This gives the show a platform for one of their long-running gimmicks spotlighting various cast member impressions, of varying quality. This is mostly a showcase for Chloe Fineman, with a few other performers joining in. Want to see Sarah Sherman try John Mulaney? Michael Longfellow as Bill Hader? It's here!
What I mean: Chloe is almost too precise and good at her roles, while everyone else is mostly doing mediocre characterizations.
Tracy (Heidi Gardner) left her Lululemon bag at the gym. She calls the Shred Zone and the muscleheads who work there (played by Chalamet and Mikey Day) — are incredibly stupid. "Your brain broke," she sighs.
It's a sci-fi dystopia, a grim landscape a la Dune. Earn (Chalamet) agrees to meet their opponent: His old Tiny Horse, now turned big. This is another 2020 re-up!
"It's extra bad in the future tonight," he sings. I like James Austin Johnson channelling Ian McDiarmid a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine.
Boygenius perform "Not Strong Enough"
This week, the indie rockers earned six nods for their debut LP, "The Record," including for Record of the Year (for "Not Strong Enough") and Album of the Year.
"Not Strong Enough" is a jam for sure. I love the show booking fun bands like this.
FYI — in 2021, Bridgers performed "Kyoto" and "I Know the End" during the Dan Levy episode and closed the performance by smashing her guitar on a fake stage monitor.
Colin Jost takes on the third presidential debate, while Michael Che goes in on the FBI investigation of Eric Adams. For the second time tonight, SNL attacks Joe Biden over his age. Yikes. Other topics include: the Titanic, elephants, and Domino's emergency pizza. (There's a great joke about Jared Leto.)
Crystal, Your Co-Worker Who's Extremely Busy Doing Seemingly Nothing (Heidi Gardner), returns to discuss the flexible work week. Classic Heidi. We last saw her in April. The punchline about why she's so stressed? She runs Britney Spears' social media accounts!
Another quickish Update!
"Troye Sivan Sleep Demon"
Sarah Sherman is being treated by Dr. Yi (Bowen Yang) for sleep paralysis. He triggers her hallucinations: It is the Australian YouTube twink-turned-indie-pop-star-and-model-turned-HBO-actor Troye Sivan (Chalamet). He is "gay famous" — but not like Nathan Lane — and trying to sneak his way into the mainstream. Sherman is stricken with fear and worry at first. but soon, she recognizes gay men are the only thing that turns her on. Saying that only encourages more Sivans to appear: Boygenius join to haunt Sherman. "Bye, diva!"
The crowd loves this!
Please Don't Destroy — "Jumper"
Our heroes are strolling outside 30 Rock when they encounter a suicidal man (Chalamet) who only cares about his music. He's been too much of a coward to share it with anyone, so they ask him to play a couple of songs in an effort to keep him from killing himself. The music is bad, like it was made by a frog. His band name is Hamas.
Not their best! They manage to acknowledge their own growing popularity and work at SNL near the end here.
Boygenius perform "Satanist"
A nice post-punk rock, '90s grunge-inspired banger. Julien Baker wrote "Satanist" after watching the documentary "Hail Satan."
A guitar gets thrown at the end of the performance. Surely safety precautions were taken.
"Little Orphan Cassidy"
We are at an old-school orphanage, and Cassidy (Chloe Troast) is not getting adopted.
She calls on her imaginary friend Mr. Moon (Chalamet) and wonders what is wrong with her. She sings an open-hearted lament about her insecurities and truths. Mr. Moon is increasingly alarmed: "My concerns are really valid." Like the 2009 movie Orphan, she is not a child at all.
Troast has an amazing voice and presence here. She's justified her place in the cast with this one, for sure. "What is it about me?" she belts. She's a sociopath, clearly! Fun.
"Calm Sleep Story"
Chalamet is recording a calming sleep story… about a dog pooping in a garden. His producers (Andrew Dismukes and Punkie Johnson) are goofy. It's a classic "angry loudmouth"-style role for Dismukes.
Wow, cameo alert: Alec Baldwin spoofs his rage-filled reputation. And, uh, this is quite the move on the show's part… given Baldwin's ongoing legal issues, no?
—Well, how do we feel? Vote here!
What did *you* think of the Timothée Chalamet SNL?
— THE “SNL in Review” Experience (@SNLinReview) November 12, 2023
—Thank you to Jeff Richards and Patrick Weathers for their thoughts tonight!
—Chalamet is a goofy host who seems game for anything. In the goodnights, he salutes the crew and celebrates the return to work for the industry. He also says happy birthday to Leonardo DiCaprio.
—Alec Baldwin LOL. Hmmm...
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