It’s too bad that SNL can’t have comedians host every weekend. No offense to Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, or Felicity Jones—who all performed perfectly well in comedy’s highest court—but no one does it like the pros. Aziz Ansari, Melisa McCarthy (next hosting May 13), Dave Chappelle, and last night’s host, Louis C.K.; those are the shows you want to tune in for.
Louis’s finest moments were, unsurprisingly, in his monologue, which began with a two-minute bit on animals.
Here’s how good Louis C.K. is: he started with a “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke. No one has ever made that joke work in the history of people telling jokes, and yet he turned it into a thoughtful, ribald sequence that played with race, discrimination, ignorance, urban living and the fact that chickens deserve to be paranoid because “the murder rate for their species is 100 percent.” One of the most fun parts of that bit was watching Louis move like a chicken; his head bob, shuffle, and bemused look brought the bit to new heights. Louis is a wonderful mimic and physical comedian; he doesn’t get enough credit for that (and he gets plenty of credit).
Another funnyman, Alec Baldwin, did triple duty on Saturday night, playing Trump in the cold open, and then Bill O'Reilly and Trump again, in a single sketch that sent up both men’s sexual harassment histories (it’s worth mentioning here that Louis C.K. is also the subject of rumors about his own sexual impropriety).
Perhaps the best sketch of the night played with a similar trope: Louis, in a perverted Pop Tate turn, played the owner of a ’50s ice cream shop, determined to get a teenage girl to ask him to the Spring Fling. Less successful were a court case that focused on a single gag, Louis’s long eyelashes, and a commercial where he played a man obsessed with sectionals. But the show scored high marks with a pointed send–up of Pepsi’s disastrous protest ad, where we watch the ad’s creator, played by Beck Bennett, realize his idea is utterly tone–deaf while it is being filmed.
The episode closed with Louis displaying one of his less heralded talents: accents. He and Kate McKinnon played actors at a tenement museum, playing turn-of-the-century Eastern European immigrants. The jokes were supposedly about how racist (against Italians) these actors decide their characters should be, and how inappropriate that is in front of the students watching them, but the biggest laughs came from Louis and McKinnon’s inability to keep a straight face. Louis’s pitiful Polish twang—something between Borat and the whiny, effeminate go-to he uses to mimic most humans, including himself—reduced him and Kate McKinnon to open laughter. It was a mess, but it was a beautiful mess.