When Jimmy Fallon hosted the Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live, it was one of the most perfect episodes that season. Fallon brought a holiday warmth and plenty of nostalgia for SNL years past that made for an Emmy-nominated hosting that would be hard to top. So when the host for this year’s coveted holiday episode was Martin Short, it was hard to predict where this could go. A comedic legend, especially one with such strong ties to SNL, can go either way. But Short brought a confidence and willingness to go all-out that made this another fine SNL holiday episode.
Starting out the episode was a very touching cold open which featured a children’s choir singing “Silent Night” in remembrance of those attacked in Sandy Hook. The opening monologue was pretty predictably musical, considering the host was Short and that the Christmas episodes usually feature singing of some sort. Short sang a version of “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” which focused on how this is the time of year when the most babies are conceived. Backed by Paul Shaffer on piano, Short walked down the halls of SNL, much like Fallon did last year. Also expected were the many cameos, which included Kristen Wiig, Fallon, Tom Hanks, Tina Fey, a llama and Samuel L. Jackson. But with the exception of Jackson, this was the last time any of them were seen in the episode.
Speaking of cameos, the first skit of the night brought back Alec Baldwin and his Tony Bennett impression as he hosted A Tony Bennett Christmas, with his brother played by Short. Jay Pharaoh made an appearance as Kanye West, but nothing here really stood out as that great.
Next came a visit to Kate Middleton’s OB/GYN, with Short as an outrageous British character trying desperately to make Bill Hader’s doctor laugh. This kind of ridiculous character is where Short shines, and he sold every line.
A recorded segment for a new play called You’re A Rat Bastard, Charlie Brown allowed the cast to show off some great impressions, like Jason Sudeikis as Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Pigpen and Martin Short as Larry David playing Linus.
Paul McCartney was, as always, amazing. That being said, he performed “My Valentine,” which he is still really trying to make more popular than it ever will be. You can’t get a McCartney performance, even on a holiday special, that doesn’t involve this song. His second performance, with the remaining members of Nirvana was also quite good. The new song “Cut Me Some Slack” is pretty great, but if you caught the performance of this during the Hurricane Sandy concert this past week, you basically saw the same performance.
Weekend Update featured two characters, one new and one quickly being dragged into the ground. First was Vanessa Bayer’s hilarious Jacob, a boy telling the story of Hanukkah that quickly ends up being a low-level roast of his family. This is a character that needs to come back, and sort of feels like something Fred Armisen would do, but Bayer is great here. Then there was the return of The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started Talking to At a Party. This is one of Cecily Strong’s best characters, but man, we’ve seen this about four or five times this season alone. There’s still humor there, but they need to stagger her appearances more.
Then came the return of my favorite recurring segment, What Up With That?. Nothing, and I mean nothing, in this world makes me laugh harder than Sudeikis’ character in WUWT, so it was great to finally learn his name is Vance and he’s a smoker who keeps getting red tracksuits for Christmas. Joining Lindsey Buckingham this time around were Carrie Brownstein and Samuel L. Jackson. This became probably the most popular WUWT? of all time after Jackson snuck obscenities past censors not once, but twice.
Probably the weakest and weirdest segment of the night was one involving Short and Armisen as two old friends meeting in a Restoration Hardware. There’s nothing really to it, and it just sort of unceremoniously ends.
The final bit of the night had Short and McCartney playing a duo of Christmas singers, Caleb & Monty. Short won’t let McCartney sing, but when Short’s character storms off, the set falls away to allow McCartney to perform “Wonderful Christmastime” with the children’s choir—a perfect ending to the holiday episode.
All in all, the holiday episode was more hit than miss, and Short elevated even the mediocre bits. It’s also rare that SNL can have an emotional opening, some hilarious skits AND a controversial outburst all in one episode. This was a great way to end this year of SNL.
Best Lines of the Night:
-Samuel L. Jackson says to DeAndre Cole what Lindsey Buckingham can’t on What Up With That?:
“I want to think my guest, the incredible Samuel L. Jackson”
“Sam, that costs money!”
-Cole knows the way to Buckingham’s heart:
“C’mon Lindsey, I’ll buy you a cookie cake with Santa’s face on it.”