SNL Ranked: Tracy Morgan Makes His Delightfully Triumphant Return
This weekend doesn’t just mark Tracy Morgan’s highly-anticipated return to SNL — after suffering injuries in a much publicized car accident last year, Morgan took some time off from the public eye to recuperate, only recently returning for an appearance at the Emmys and his first stand-up gig in over a year. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about Morgan’s return, and I can’t even imagine how nervous / excited he feels. But his return is most definitely a triumphant one, albeit with a few forgivable hiccups and only one truly mediocre sketch. Read on for our ranking of this week’s SNL sketches from best to worst.
Democratic Debate Cold Open (Rudnitsky, Killam, Mooney, McKinnon, Baldwin!, David!)
Obviously Alec Baldwin and Larry David steal the open — who could be better cast as Bernie Sanders than Larry David? Can we elect Bernie Sanders on the strength of getting to see Larry David play him for the next four years? We haven’t seen much of Rudnitsky yet, so it’s good to see him here, and Mooney does something a little different from his usual schtick.
Trivia: when Larry David wrote for SNL from 1984 to 1985, he was only able to get ONE sketch on the air. What a time to be alive.
(And that was an A+ joke about The Wire, by the way.)
Good Morning Song (Killam, Morgan, Bryant, Rudnitsky, Moynihan, Bryant, Strong, Zamata
This old time-y village musical featuring Morgan as a character who makes inappropriate observations and inquiries of his pleasant neighbors could have used some more rehearsing. That said, I love it in spite of itself, and Morgan’s juvenile utterances about horse urine and breasts absolutely worked on me — even more so, Killam’s revelation that he’s been sleeping “with this boy-child.” It’s hardly the most put-together of this week’s sketches, but Morgan, Killam and Strong in particular really nail it.
Family Feud: Extended Family (Thompson, Jones, Pharoah, Zamata, Morgan, Strong, Bayer, Rudnitsky, Che)
Oh thank goodness. When SNL throws out a Family Feud / game show sketch it always feels like a last minute idea to fill time and blow off some celebrity impressions. But this week brings the rare occurrence: a real family on Family Feud, with Jones playing a recently divorced middle-aged mom and Morgan playing her remarried ex-husband on the opposing team with his new family. There’s some hilarious familial drama, and it’s delightful how much it overjoys Thompson’s goofy Steve Harvey, inspiring some of his best one-liners yet.
Weekend Update (Jost, Che, FEY!, Thompson, Morgan)
More back and forth between Jost and Che is always a good thing, though I’m not sure they’ll top the bit about gun control from last week before the end of the season. Jost’s joke about prisoners fighting wildfires in California might have gotten the biggest laugh from me of the night…
Until Tina Fey returned to the Update desk, praise hands emoji, “100-year-old sex-monster,” hallelujah, amen.
Thompson also drops by as Che’s neighbor Willie, and to be honest, Willie is sort of the optimistic inverse of Pharoah’s Update character from last week, and while he’s hardly my favorite, Willie brings Morgan’s Woodrow back to SNL — with his lullaby! Seeing Woodrow and Willie side by side, you can see how Thompson’s character is somewhat informed by Morgan’s Woodrow, which makes it click a bit more for me.
I’m a little disappointed that they didn’t have Moynihan’s Riblet on to discuss this week’s new movie release, Steve Jorbs. What a missed opportunity.
But can Tina Fey come back now? Thanks.
Yo! Where Jackie Chan at Right Now? (Morgan, Thompson, Pharoah, Mooney, Moynihan, Bennett, Zamata, Davidson, Jones)
This is…I’m not sure what this is. The silliest idea of the night, that’s for sure, but it gives the cast an opportunity to do their most random impressions, like Zamata’s “lady from Carmen Sandiego,” and Mooney’s skateboarding Bin Laden. And I’m always a sucker for an Owen Wilson impression, even — and maybe even especially — if it’s not that great. This whole “Where Jackie Chan At” talk show idea is dumb in a pretty charming way, and it’s all worth it for the “Jackie Chan trap” sight gag at the end.
Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet: A Beaver and a Camel (Morgan, Davidson, Bryant)
Morgan is back, and so is perhaps his most memorable SNL character. Morgan is obviously great at playing endearingly regressive, mentally stunted types, like Fellow, who’s kind of a proto-Tracy Jordan. Morgan slips right back into Fellow like he never left, but I can’t tell what’s more impressive: Morgan’s performance or the fact that Aidy Bryant came out with a camel.
Monologue (Morgan, Baldwin, Fey, Krakowski, McBrayer)
He’s back! Morgan jokes about his accident and his mental capacity (it was never at 100 percent, anyway) before giving us a “flashback” to a “prothetic” 30 Rock episode with an assist from Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer — can we just bring 30 Rock back? I’m not sure if I’m more emotional about seeing Morgan back on SNL or seeing Tina Fey in a Liz Lemon blazer again. And how about that Smash promo in the bottom left? Remember Smash?!
Mitchell’s Fake Cocaine (Mooney, Bennett, Davidson, Bayer, Thompson, Jones)
Kyle Mooney has a man bun. This is not a drill. But hey, this short commercial is simple and silly, though not quite as absurd as we’ve come to expect from Mooney and Bennett. Fake cocaine to hide the fact that you’re pooping in someone else’s bathroom is kind of absurd, though, and even more absurd is the fake poop spray to hide the fact that you were doing fake coke to hide the fact that you were pooping. On paper, it’s ridiculous, but I wish this one pushed things just a little further.
Standoff (Killam, Zamata, Morgan, Pharoah)
This week’s short presents a pretty outdated comedy concept: Zamata assumes Morgan’s character is a thug who was leering at her, but it turns out he’s actually gay? And all he ever wanted was to dance? SNL did this much better last year with Kevin Hart in the Bushwick, Brooklyn short.
Astronaut Jones: The Martian (Strong, Killam, McKinnon, Morgan, Lovato)
Hey! Astronaut Jones is back, too! I almost forgot about him, and…now I see why. He’s probably Morgan’s least effective recurring character of this type, though he’s still charming and thankfully the sketch is quite brief. The end credits are always the real payoff, though they weren’t enough for me for some reason.
That’s it for this week! SNL returns on November 7 with (allegedly) Donald Trump and Sia!