Once in a while, a performer does a thing that is astonishing, sublime, real, and of such a quality that it has to make their colleagues perk up their noses into the air and understand that a a new floor has been established in the expectations of their shared craft.
This was, for example, recognized as such when comedian Tig Notaro revealed a certain diagnosis to her audience.
This performance garnered praise from her colleagues, her audience, and generally. As The Guardian wrote at the time: “It’s a startling release; one that redefines the boundaries of what comedy can achieve.”
Or like Prince at the Super Bowl in 2016.
I feel that on this past SNL episode, long-running cast member Cecily Strong achieved such a moment with her appearance on “Weekend Update” as “Goober the Clown Who Had an Abortion When She Was 23.”
There is the brilliant absurdity of the personage of a clown there to discuss the matter at hand, and yet the absolute sense of it. Why does our society allow ourselves to be so held hostage regarding this topic that its mere discussion among polite company is rendered impossible? Then there is her demeanor throughout, the frustrated frazzle of it all. This clown’s next step may be to go outside and to light something on fire, and why isn’t every clown at that point now?
SNL doesn’t often endeavor to make statements as it does to achieve caricatures or to just be outright silly. Cecily Strong with this sublime appearance used the silly to punch hard. Any of her colleagues who don’t view this thing as the new benchmark for their craft, well, they’re doing it wrong.
Cecily Strong just played “Purple Rain” in a torrential downpour.
Last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live was surprising. It was you know, actually funny.
The cold open presented Trump in an “It’s A Wonderful Life” scenario. Matt Damon’s monologue was a great reflection from his early years trying to stay up late to watch SNL, a familiar memory. The first sketch was a well-crafted love letter to Monty Python’s “Upper Class Twit of the Year,” then a spot-on Christmas sketch. I’ll never understand how they can miss on all cylinders so often and then for an entire show get it completely right. But, suffice it to say, if you catch one episode this year, make it the one that aired on Dec. 15.
And I hate it when I like Miley Cyrus, but she was fabulous. Rare is the musical guest who eschews the backing tape, but Cyrus’ performances are clearly all hers. And especially touching was her version of “So This Is Christmas,” where near the end she brings the background vocals—which Lennon meant as the nut of the song—into the foreground. War is over, if you want it, war is over now. This, and realizing that Sean Ono Lennon is her accompanist, lends this performance some real gravitas.