Saturday Night Live opens with Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson and Bowen Yang enjoying some eggnog (laced with Xanax) at a Christmas party. They soon start crooning about how they each use the holiday as an excuse to keep from addressing the various personal issues, relationships, and world events giving them anxiety, including alcoholism, failing mental health, Elon Musk, Hitler (“Since when did Hitler come back … and why are his new fans black?”), handsy uncles, homophobic grandmas, Scotus decisions and more.
It’s damn near impossible to judge this cold open on its actual merits because a malfunction in the transmission has caused the sound to be totally out of sync (a quick perusal of Twitter assured me that this was a wide-ranging issue, rather than just my feed). But even with that caveat, it’s no great shakes.
Sixteen-time host Steve Martin and former cast member (and three-time host) Martin Short share the honor tonight. The friends and comedy legends smilingly needle and riff off each other (“Working with Marty Short is like World Cup soccer: I just can’t get into it,” says Martin) and promote their hit show Only Murders in the Building (“Our show is like Steve at the urinal,” explains Short, “it streams for 32 minutes.”). They also deliver the eulogies they’ve written for one another’s future funerals. Martin’s speech is brusque and mean (“Wow! Not a large turnout!”), while Short’s is bitchily passive-aggressive (“I know Steve is looking down on us right now, because he always looked down on everyone”). They’re eventually joined by the third member of their Only Murders family, Selena Gomez, who helps them sign off.
A new edition of the PBS kids show The Science Room sees Martin and Short’s friendly, nerdy hosts quickly lose their temper at two awkward and feeble-minded child guests (Strong and Mikey Day). If you’ve seen one Science Room you know what you’re getting, but the joy of these sketches is watching the hosts go apoplectic, and this one doesn’t disappoint.
In a new Please Don’t Destroy, Ben and Martin try to make John feel better about his break-up with girlfriend Chelsea (Sarah Sherman) by going scorched earth on her, recalling her as “stinky … like pond scum, like a sloppy pile of sewer run-off”. Things get awkward when John reveals that not only are they back together and engaged, but Chelsea has been in the room the whole time … as has her entire family via Zoom, as well as Martin, Short, and Michael Che, who fires Martin (but not Ben) for being so cruel. Just when Martin thinks things can’t get any worse, Chelsea’s terrifying dad (played by Sherman’s real father) shows up to brain him with a nightstick.
The Holiday Train is a musical parody of the Yuletide classic White Christmas. A group of strangers heading to Buffalo meet at a dining car. Three of them serenade the fourth member of the party with a song about their love of snow, before things take an unexpectedly magical and wacky turn. Everyone’s clearly having a lot of fun here, but it’s all a bit too disjointed.
Then, Martin’s mall Santa (who may also be the real Santa) tries to bring joy to the children waiting to meet him, only to be continually interrupted by Short’s furious helper dwarf, who viciously harangues the kids for their unrealistic wishlists. When a girl asks for Taylor Swift tickets, he screams at her “THEN GET A JOB!” Santa manages to calm him down by convincing him they can get everything done with the help of some speed. There’s not much to it, but Short thrashing about on his knees and screeching in a high-pitched voice makes for some good laughs.
Next, Short plays Ebenezer Scrooge in a new adaptation of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Waking on Christmas morning, he throws open his bedroom window to find a young orphan below. He orders the lad to go buy a big Christmas goose, but when he tosses down some gold coins, he accidentally blinds the kid. Martin’s Ghost of Christmas past joins him to help, but only ends up causing more bloody carnage, resulting in a full-on massacre. Gruesome, dark fun, this one.
On Weekend Update, Michael Che welcomes Mary Anne Louise Fischer (Ego Nwodim), “the most chaotic holiday shopper ever,” to the desk. The power-mad department store veteran shares cheat tips (“Did you know anyone could buy a neck brace? You don’t even need to go to a doctor. These things will make people stay out of your way. Everyone will think you’re wounded, but you’ll know your neck is strong as hell!”) and war stories (“I just got done doing three tours of Nordstrom Iraq!”). A reminder that Nwodim – who has been severely underutilized this season – is probably the strongest recurring Update performer.
The second guests are Kurt and Deb from Wyoming (Day and Chloe Fineman), whose new self-help book offers relationship advice for married couples, such as doing impersonations during sex. This is just a flimsy set-up for Fineman to run through a batch of celebrity impressions in the throes of orgasm, including Drew Barrymore, Anna Delvey, Meryl Streep and Scarlett Johansson (much to Colin Jost’s discomfort). The segment only highlights how weak a link Fineman is: she’s supposed to be the show’s star mimic, but her repertoire is severely limited (she’s done Barrymore and Delvey before) and, in some cases (such as Johansson), just not very good.
How to Treat Your Man is a late-night talkshow hosted by ladies’ man Minky Carmichael (Short), who offers advice to women on “How to get a man AND KEEP HIS ASS!” He holds court over his female audience until an ex of his stands up and reveals some strange and disturbing details on his penis. A classic energetic performance from Short that sees him flailing about like his life depends on it.
The show wraps with a trailer for Father of the Bride Part 8, in which Martin’s desperate character bemoans having to pay for yet another “expensive, Nancy Meyers-style wedding”. Short is back as over-the-top wedding planner Franck, while Kieran Culkin reprises his role as the baby brother, now all grownup and dealing with prostate issues. Gomez also shows up as herself.
While sure to provide a nice bit of nostalgia for people who grew up on Martin’s Father of the Bride, you must wonder what SNL is thinking bringing Martin, Short and Gomez together to parody a couple of movies that are nearly 30 years old, rather than the popular show they are currently starring in. Saturday Night Live’s refusal to center sketches around the projects their hosts are there to promote has been a noticeable and baffling trend over the last several seasons, and one can’t help but feel it speaks to an inherent laziness in the writing and production.
Regardless, this was a fun episode, and while it doesn’t rank among either Martin or Short’s best work on the show, it does sit near the top of the season thus far.