It was pretty easy to tell which parts of last night’s SNL worked and which did not, and it all had to do with whether or not Louis CK was involved. His episodes are almost always good, but this one was special.
Things started off with a meet and greet between Alec Baldwin’s Trump and his supports who try hard to remain enthusiastic about his presidency despite how difficult his various program cuts are going to make their lives. It’s an okay idea, but like a lot of this Trump stuff lately, it failed to go far beyond just that one idea. I like Baldwin’s gross, abject take on Trump, but the writing feels too reliant on his impression to carry these sketches.
This turned out to be a problem later in the show as well, with a double dose of Alec Baldwin as Bill O’Reilly interviewing a pre-taped Donald Trump. Baldwin’s O’Reilly impression is interesting, and the sketch was funny enough when focused on his sexual harassment woes, but once Trump appeared, everything felt flat, as though the technical marvel of having two Alec Baldwins on a live show was justified regardless of how funny it was.
But I’ll take a couple limp sketches when everything else is so good. Louis CK started things off with a bizarre (and somewhat long) stand-up monologue about racist animals and staying in motels. He’s one of the most reliant stand-up comedians out there, so sinking a large chunk of show time to this was a good strategy.
Things didn’t stop being great at his monologue, however. From his eyelash lawyer, to the birthday clown pre-taped segment (that kicker!), to his hilarious ice cream shop pervert, to the cracking up he and Kate McKinnon get into in the last sketch, each of Louis CK’s contributions last night were weirder and funnier than the show tends to get.
Which brings me to “Sectionals”, my favorite SNL sketch in a long time, one that almost felt like something out of the Mr. Show playbook. There’s not much to it, just Louis CK talking to the camera about how weird sectional couches are for a while. The real joke is the absurdity of it all - not just the various lines but even the sketch’s length felt like a gag - and I loved every second of it.
This wasn’t a tight episode. It had weird pacing and line flubs were all over place. But the laughs were there pretty much from the monologue on, which is more than you can say about a lot of SNL episodes.