Carey Mulligan hosted this week’s better-than-usual episode of Saturday Night Live, which started off with a great cold open and stayed funny, thanks to a couple of solid ad parodies. The cold open, which for once did not depend upon impressions of celebrities or politicians, saw SNL return to the question of whether or not it is possible for Black people to be cynical enough about the possibility of racial progress in the United States. This has been rich territory for the show in the past—see, e.g., the terrific Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock sketch about the 2016 election returns—and this week’s version worked nearly as well, thanks to great work from Kenan Thompson and Ego Nwodim.
Actresses like this week’s host Carey Mulligan—i.e., women with British accents who appear in period pieces—inevitably acquire an aura of elegance and refinement in the United States, and Mulligan’s best sketches of the night played around with that reputation. It’s a scientific fact that nothing is less elegant or refined than irritable bowel syndrome, which means she was perfectly cast in the night’s first parody ad:
After playing against type in the IBS ad, Mulligan returned to form in a trailer for a lesbian period drama called Lesbian Period Drama, which is exactly the type of project you’d expect her to appear in. (For what it’s worth, Mulligan’s most recent sepia-toned period piece, The Dig, is not about a lesbian relationship.)
So one thing about that sketch is that Portrait of a Lady on Fire is an amazing movie, and SNL’s attempt to evoke its score has nothing on the original. On the other hand, the details are fantastic, from the doctor prescribing “seagull sounds, gray air, and long, rocky walks” to the obligatory drawing scene.
Mulligan wasn’t part of the evening’s silliest sketch, in which Bowen Yang stopped by “Weekend Update” as the iceberg that sank the Titanic. He doesn’t want to dwell on the past, though:
Finally, musical guest Kid Cudi joined Chris Redd, Pete Davidson, and surprise guest Timothée Chalamet for a tribute to flutes in rap music:
We live in an extremely strange country on an even stranger planet, but for the last four years, Trump’s Cavalcade of Republican Weirdos has been almost all the air out of the room. As this week’s cold open shows, however, SNL can make better jokes about the problems this country is facing when they don’t have to make room for a prosthetic-powered uncanny valley version of Rudy Giuliani or whoever. Better still, that leaves more time to joke about the real issues, like flutes in rap music. Now if they’d just give Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett a dedicated weekly time slot for their parodies of 1990s TV shows, we’d really be on to something.