Sometimes comedy is a breathtakingly intricate, delicate contraption, with carefully set up punchlines going off at precisely the right moment, like falling dominoes. Sometimes, though, it’s just an excuse to throw pies in someone’s face. Saturday Night Live took the brute force approach this week, casting host Melissa McCarthy as the big loser on a Press Your Luck–style game show with a dessert theme. You can probably see where this is going: McCarthy takes seven pies and one birthday cake to the face, plus air guns and water hoses. When it comes to pie volume, this is amateur hour: Laurel and Hardy used 3,000 pies to make cinematic pie fight standard bearer The Battle of the Century. But neither Laurel nor Hardy took 3,000 pies to the face themselves; their pie fight was a giant free-for-all. This one’s all Melissa McCarthy, and she makes every pie count.
The joke, to the extent there is one besides all the pies, is that McCarthy tries to maintain the sunny disposition preferred by guests on low-end game shows, even as it becomes clear that every choice she makes will end with a pie in the face. Nobody plays “trying to stay good-natured in the face of countless insults” better than McCarthy, and this sketch was tailor-made for her; witness her cheerfully telling the host her biggest challenge in the first round: “I would have to say the pies.” It’s almost a shame how perfect for the role McCarthy is—no one else would have leaned into the gag like she does, but it seems like this sketch would have been a lot more satisfying if they’d done it when Donald Trump was hosting.