Saturday Night Live: Adam Driver hosts a third time and outdoes himself

Zach Vasquez

Saturday Night Live returns from holiday hiatus with Republican Senators Mitch McConnell (Beck Bennett) and Susan Collins (Cecily Strong) discussing their desire for a fair impeachment trial, one which would ideally contain “no witnesses, no evidence”. They’re quickly joined by Trump’s defense attorney Alan Dershowitz (former cast member Jon Lovitz). Despite their protestations, he compares Trump to some of his famous former clients: Jeffrey Epstein, OJ Simpson, “accused wife-murderer Claus von Bülow”.

Suddenly, Dershowitz suffers a heart attack and wakes up in Hell, where a star-struck Satan (Kate McKinnon) fawns over him and introduces him to some other famous damned souls, including the guy who invented Baby Shark, the character “Flo” from the Progressive insurance ads, Hell’s IT guy Mark Zuckerberg, and, most importantly, Jeffrey Epstein (host Adam Driver). Asked what he’s been up to since his murder, Epstein responds “just hanging”!

For the first time in almost two years, Saturday Night Live finally delivers a great cold open. The always excellent Lovitz deserves the lion’s share of the credit – his flamboyant non-impersonation of Dershowitz is a joy to watch. That said, the writing throughout is top-notch. Hopefully, this signals a turnaround in the overall quality of the cold opens.

Adam Driver, who has quickly become a favorite returning guest, hosts for the third time, coming off a big year in his career. Simultaneously relaxed and relentlessly funny, this is a great showcase for Driver, whose weird and slightly menacing charisma is reminiscent of champion SNL host Christopher Walken.

The show proper hits the ground running with Sleepover, in which Driver plays a suburban dad who confronts his teenage daughter’s friends during a sleepover in order to find out which one of them tried flushing a sanitary pad down the toilet before causing $10,000 worth of damages and attempting to cover their tracks. The culprit is clearly Megan (McKinnon), a pathological liar with a Mark Harmon fixation and debilitating periods that result in “cramps, medical farts, violent sexual hallucinations”. Hilarious from top-to-bottom, the sketch also boasts some seriously great blocking from McKinnon and Driver.

A sequel to the exceedingly popular Star Wars: Undercover Boss sketch from Driver’s first hosting gig, the villainous Kylo Ren once again goes undercover among his First Order subordinates. This time, he’s disguised as Randy, a new intern who awkwardly responds to everyone with the refrain “OK Boomer” before inevitably murdering them at the slightest provocation. It actually surpassed the original.

In Del Taco Shoot, Driver plays the fast-food chain’s director of marketing, who’s overseeing a new commercial. Along with the commercial’s director (Bennett), he berates an actor (Kyle Mooney) over his reading of the line “Aw man, I’m all out of cash!” This results in Mooney dropping trousers and pulling his shirt over his head “like Cornholio,” while the three of them furiously recite the line over and over. It’s all so simple and hilarious that it nearly becomes disorienting.

In Science Room, Driver plays a gentle, Mr Rogers-like children’s TV show host pushed to his breaking point by his young guests (Cecily Strong and Mikey Day). Their highly inappropriate tangents about orgasms and idiotic answers to simple questions send him into a violent fit. It’s followed by a music video for the R&B ballad Slow, sung by Keenan Thompson, Chris Redd, Halsey (the night’s musical guest and a former host herself), and a ridiculously baritone-voiced Driver. Both sketches are short and sweet, both end with killer punchlines, and both leave us wanting more.

Clad in a rhinestone-studded bustier and cowboy hat and riding a mechanical bull, Halsey performs You Should Be Sad.

Colin Jost and Michael Che kick off Weekend Update with coverage of the Senate impeachment trial. Che admits that he hasn’t watched one minute of the “four-day long power point presentation,” explaining, “this is supposed to be Trump’s punishment, not mine”.

In Medieval Times, Driver plays a method actor employed as talent by the family entertainment restaurant. He’s supposed to be performing as the noble Red-and-Yellow Knight in the staged duel, but his deranged commitment to his role horrifies and offends his coworkers, even as it wows at least one increasingly drunk audience member. No one is better at playing comedically unhinged than Driver, his performance here a thing of beauty.

A parody of the new Netflix series, Cheer, contains some great rapid-fire screwball and slapstick from all involved (including Halsey), although some of the jokes and reference may go over the head of those not familiar with the show (or at least that was my experience), but it’s still a solid sketch on the whole.

In the final sketch of the night, Driver and Strong play two ketchup bottles who are about to be “married” to one another, until a series of shocking reveals and betrayals turn the whole thing into a demented soap opera. It’s as stupid as it sounds, but that’s not a bad thing. Driver’s ability to deliver several long tongue-twisters throughout is worthy of special recognition – the guy is a true natural.

Halsey closes out the night with her guitar ballad Beautiful Stranger. Given that SNL rarely ends with the second musical performance, one wonders if Driver was telling the truth in his monologue about running out the clock in order to axe the final, problematic sketch. If so, good on him.