Saturday Night Live: Elvis’ Austin Butler Says Hello While Cecily Strong Says Goodbye

tIn its timeslot last year, the Covid pandemic forced Saturday Night Live to cancel its planned Christmas episode and temporarily throw a special without an audience or most of the cast. Despite the current covid uptick, things are back to normal at studio 8 Hours this holiday season.

We kick things off with a message from former President Donald Trump (James Austin Johnson), who unabashedly cracks down on his ludicrous new line of NFTs, which “looks like a scam and in many ways it is.” Trump shows off the various “trade cards” that see him dressed as an astronaut, romance novel cover model, and Jessica Rabbit, before giving a free rambling associative summary about A Christmas Carol (“I was visited last night by three ghosts, including, in fact , I think it would be four if you count Epstein”), Ron “DeSanta”, and Avatar.

Looking beyond parodies of Trump’s latest gambit, it’s surprising that SNL could extract any extra humor from it, but through the sheer force of Johnson’s impersonation and delivery, they managed.

Austin Butler makes his SNL debut as host. The Elvis star recalls being homeschooled as a child (“So I Was Also Weird”) and how he would make silly noises — like Gollum — to make his mother laugh, explaining that it was his desire to entertain her that broke her out of his shy shell and led him into acting. He talks emotionally about his mother, who has since died, which makes his opening lovely, if not particularly funny.

The Phrase That Pays is a word puzzle game that basically shows “wheel of fortune, but without the wheel”. Dim Butler’s contestant manages to correctly guess both long and complex answers on the first try, much to the irritation and bewilderment of the other contestants. The entire scheme is built around this one joke, with no building or payoff.

The Christmas Epiphany is a black and white holiday tale akin to It’s a Wonderful Life meets Revolutionary Road. A lovelorn Butler takes a drunken stroll through snow-covered streets and ends up staring out the window of a suburban home. While the sight of domestic bliss he stumbles upon brings him to tears, his drunken presence frightens the family inside. This leads to an argument between the parents in which deep resentments and buried betrayals emerge. Things fizzled out pretty quickly, but Andrew Desmoux and Heidi Gardner are pretty good as an unhappy couple.

In a commercial for marzipan, it sees matchman Kenan Thompson and a group of “odd English kids” attesting to their love of “mostly pralines”. The cast is putting it through one of the most unbearable sketches of the season so far.

Next, Butler gets all out as a member of a Jewish retirement home who has gathered for a performance by his favorite star, the Jewish Elvis (Sarah Sherman), who inserts so many high-pitched vocals for King’s songs (“He’s a bit of a sing-along, but they’re mostly moaning”) that drives the audience of owners Blue hair to madness. Butler is wonderfully selfless here, and his antics are a lot of fun, but it’s Sherman’s physical Looney Tunes-like performance that elicits the biggest laughs.

In Weekend Update, Colin Jost welcomes Krampus (Bowen Yang), the diabolical Santa who eats babies. The horned beast talks about the stress he faces at his job and talks about people who dress like him (“My culture isn’t your costume!”), while dropping bogus quotes from the likes of Brene Brown, SZA, and his therapist Ghislaine Maxwell. It’s a standard yang character, but with a lower frequency, which makes it more tolerable.

He was followed by Pat (Gardner), Ghost’s great-aunt, a heavy-drinking Southern vamp from a Tennessee Williams play. Ostensibly there to dispense with etiquette advice, she spends her time molesting her servant Mickey Day and flirting with Ghost. It’s an enjoyablely messy and sinister segment that makes the most of Gardner’s camp’s broad sensibilities.

In case the hot mess wasn’t enough, Cathy Ann (Cecily Strong), the white trash princess who lives hard, follows suit. She’s there to say goodbye, as she faces a life sentence for the various offenses she’s admitted to over the years: “drug use, trespassing, destruction of property, cracking, impersonating a police officer, methamphetamine and crack…” As he continues, it becomes clear Increasingly that is a farewell from Strong herself, whose departure from the show was announced earlier in the day.

At a company holiday party, a white elephant gift exchange becomes tense when a co-worker who works hard butler “steals” his adorable gift of an ashtray. Others try to move on, but he just won’t let go. Just as things are getting better, with Butler really selling his anger, he turns to a pointless letter from Santa Claus to end things.

A Christmas message from Jennifer Coolidge (Chloe Fineman) sees the famous actress excited about many Christmas presents. As with most of her celebrity impressions, Feynman often misses the mark.

Then, a new Please Don’t Ruin skit sees Ben, John, and Martin pitch their terrible idea for Plirt – “the world’s first T-shirt made of 100% real plastic” – to a very confused Butler, hoping to make an investment. With some help from Lizzo, who also happens to be dating Martin, they finally have him. PDD remains one of the highlights of the show, but the glamor and surrealism seem to have been toned down a bit this season in favor of celebrity cameos.

The episode ends with a fitting send-off for Strong, given by the choking Thompson. Butler introduces the role of “informal Elvis”, who performs for a blue Christmas alongside Strong and the rest of the cast. It’s a well deserved and poignant farewell for one of the show’s best and most reliable cast of the past decade. Her absence will certainly be apparent when the show returns next year.

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