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‘SNL’ Recap: ‘Baby, I’m Keke Palmer.’ Keke’s Having A Baby!

After two Saturdays off for the Thanksgiving break, the cast and crew of Saturday Night Live returned to 30 Rock for the first of three new episodes to round out 2022. They came back with an added sense of purpose, thanks to their special guest host manifesting success and then some! They took plenty of big swings, and while a few missed, they also hit plenty of homers.

What’s The Deal For The SNL Cold Open For Last Night (12/03/22)?

The biggest miss of the night came early, as the cold open felt as lackluster as the Republican campaigns for the U.S. Senate themselves. Geez. When Kenan Thompson’s Herschel Walker couldn’t identify GOP Sens. John Cornyn (Mikey Day) and Marsha Blackburn (Cecily Strong), most of America watching along was wondering, too. Not even James Austin Johnson’s Mitch McConnell could breathe enough life into this premise, of trying to rally Walker in a last-gasp pep talk before the Georgia runoff election. They could’ve just had Kenan read Herschel’s very real stump speech about werewolves and vampires and called it a sketch. Somehow, they chose to put in more effort for less of a result instead. Kind of like the actual campaign? So that’s kinda funny, but not in the way they intended.

How Did The SNL Guest Host Keke Palmer Do?

A star is born, and soon, too shall a star’s unborn child!

Keke Palmer made a gleeful pregnancy reveal during her monologue, and demonstrated throughout the episode that she has the chops to run the late-night gauntlet with the best of them at SNL. As she said in her monologue, she’d dreamed of performing on this show since she was a child actor, and wondered if she’d be a Maya Rudolph, Eddie Murphy or Kristen Wiig type. Wonder no more. Being herself proved more than enough.

The 1984 soap opera sketch relied a bit on tone and a lot on the sight gag of employing obvious stunt doubles for the catfight between Cecily’s and Keke’s characters, with the delicate staging and camera cuts back and forth between the real cast members and the fakes. Who were the doubles? Might it have been even funnier if the stunt doubles were cast members, too, who felt all the actual pain? Oh well. It still felt slightly playful the way they played it.

The show has enjoyed good fortune during the holidays with themed group-effort music videos, and “Cuffing Season” was no exception, as Cecily, Keke, Ego Nwodim and even Punkie Johnson expressed their desire for some big old boys to keep them warm through the winter.

Then came a live PSA by the “United Tingz of Aubrey,” in which Ego, Punkie and Keke were joined by Sarah Sherman, Chloe Fineman, Heidi Gardner and a bevy of female extras, all with sob stories about encountering Drake only to wind up being used as references in his songs. Ego almost broke midway through, but Keke got the best of it, playing herself so she could claim that “In My Feelings” ruined her life because she’s Keke, “just not that KiKi!”

At employee training for the Hello Kitty store in NYC includes fun facts from Cecily and Molly Kearney which don’t sound fun at all to trainees played by Bowen and Keke. Marcello Hernandez and Sarah seem willing to go with the flow. For Sarah: “It just seems like an insane place to get high.” Just to make it weirder, a bunch of costumed Times Square folks enter the store to defend the weirdness, exemplified when the Hello Kitty character removes her head to reveal she’s Natasha Lyonne playing herself in the costume!? Now I want to see a sketch that explains what happened in Lyonne’s career, circa 2022, to make her take a gig as a costumed character in Times Square.

This week’s best effort in presenting SPONSORED CONTENT as just a regular ol’ sketch comes courtesy of Arby’s 5-for-$10 roast beef sandwich deal. The customers (Mikey, Keke, Cecily and Bowen) can’t make economic sense of it. And Kenan as Arby’s actual voiceover actor Ving Rhames doesn’t have answers, unless changing the subject to Taco Bell’s $5 box or Wendy’s 4 for $4 deal helps any.

The writers worked Keke’s pregnancy into two of the sketches. Live onstage, she’s getting an ultrasound from her ob-gyn (Cecily), only to discover her twins in the womb (Bowen and Sarah) are so active they can even get hold of a phone to order a Filet-O-Fish through Seamless? Like the soap opera sketch, this one finds Keke and Cecily playing straight against the physical cutups of another duo. Unlike that sketch, this time we know and can better love the duo doing all the act-outs and sight gags.

And just to show how much of a triple threat Keke is, we got to hear her belt out “O Holy Night” in this schoolgirl choir sketch alongside Molly, Cecily, Ego and Sarah.

How Relevant Was The Musical Guest SZA?

SZA returned for her second stint as the show’s musical guest. The Grammy-winner’s latest single, “Shirt,” has garnered over 60 million streams worldwide since its release six weeks ago. That music video included a snippet of her second single, “Blind.” She performed both songs on the show, and announced the full album will come out Dec. 9.

Which Sketch Will We Be Sharing: “Kenan & Kelly”

Finally, the Kenan & Kel reboot fans have been clamoring for, but with a twist. Or two. Or more! First, this pre-taped short finds Keke tricking Kenan into the project, as she’s playing Kelly in this reboot as his new sidekick. Devon Walker tries to make an impression with his own Kel impersonation. But then the real Kel Mitchell shows up, and runs into the arms of his beloved companion…the orange soda refrigerator. During the behind-the-scenes bits for this short, Kenan quips that Keke put her pregnancy into the plot because she’s angling for an Emmy.

Truth be told, this whole episode should get her an Emmy nomination.

Who Stopped By Weekend Update?

Here’s an update on Update: Just when you think the live studio audiences couldn’t love Colin Jost any more than they already do, this week’s audience cannot get enough of him, roaring when they first see him alongside Michael Che, then delivering an even bigger response when Jost introduces himself.

As for the cast members stopping by…

Michael Longfellow continues to make his presence felt with sit-down stand-up bits as himself. This time, he’s here as a child of divorce to talk about dealing with holidays when your parents have split. Turns out his parents split before he knew them as a couple. Bigger surprise: When Longfellow reveals that his dad is a divorce lawyer now, who met his current wife thanks to a case he tried?!?!

The permanent horror on Sarah Sherman’s face as she plays Trish Dale, the Peppa Pig Fan Club President outraged by the show’s introduction of a new polar bear character with two dads, is just amazing as h-e-single-c-single-k. Her obsession with the imagined “anal entering” is a bit much, obviously, but the way she commits to the bit. The way she forces you to go along with her. The way she commands your attention. Just w-single-o-w.

What Sketch Filled The “10-to-1” Slot?

At 12:57 a.m. Eastern, we’ve got Ego and Keke as flight attendants with leis on, logging their millionth miles as attendants, which means they’ve earned themselves rich bonuses! Only problem for the passengers is the TMI they receive afterward. How can they have worked on a plane that’s flown that many miles, crashed that many times, still has a “whites only” sign on the lavatory, and a pilot with a ripe old birthday mid-flight??? Somehow it didn’t feel crazy enough for the final sketch of the night, but the chemistry between Ego and Keke makes you want to know more about the backstories of their characters as these flight attendants, doesn’t it?

Who Was The Episode’s MVP?

Cecily Strong and Bowen Yang definitely dominated in terms of screen time this week, but Sarah Sherman continues to shine brighter than the rest of her talented cohorts.

Next week, Steve Martin and Martin Short return to host with musical guest Brandi Carlile!

Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. Based in NYC but will travel anywhere for the scoop: Ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.