Saturday Night Live holiday episodes can normally come full of celebrity cameos, Christmas cheer, and varying degrees of actually funny sketches. And though a few former SNL cast members appeared (and the now annual Christmas cameo from Paul McCartney occurred), the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler-hosted episode relied more on the comedic chemistry of its guest duo, rather than overindulging in throwing famous faces at the show every few minutes.
And because of that focus, the show was much better for it, delivering a strong episode, a rocking musical guest, and just enough supplemental Fey and Poehler friends to make the night feel like the special occasion it was to have two of Studio 8H’s greatest back in those hallowed halls.
Sure, Weekend Update could have used more of the hosting duo returning to their former gig (though it was likely a conscious decision either on their part to leave it to the current team or from the producers to not have them overshadow Colin Jost and Michael Che). And some sketches definitely dipped into the territory of being enjoyable because of how great Fey and Poehler are and not for how funny the sketch actually is.
The night was still full of hilarious sketches, returning favorites, and plenty of Bruce Springsteen, so read on for some of the night’s best moments, like…
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Meet Your Second Wife
“Meet Your Second Wife” walks the fine line of being darkly comedic or spilling over into horrifically offensive territory. And while the set-up sounds primed to go wrong (adult men are introduced to their future second wives, underage or unborn girls who they will marry years from now, while their first wives are in the audience), it’s executed with the exact reactions to make the horrible idea of such a game show hilarious. All of the men are unaware at the start of the show’s purpose and are then shocked and horrified as they find out the true, unseemly nature of it all. Throw in the wives’ reactions, and you’ve got one of the most unexpected but possibly best sketches of the season.
Ghosts of Hillary’s Past
While a Hillary Clinton-meets-Hillary Clinton sketch seemed like an obvious idea going into the show, the episode’s execution did not disappoint, with Poehler’s Clinton coming to advise Kate McKinnon’s version of the presidential candidate. The two trade information, current day-Clinton makes sure past Clinton can’t send emails, and Poehler’s Clinton takes quite the tumble when she discovers how much easier of a time present-day Clinton seems to have in the presidential race. Then the sketch raises the bar with a turn for the “you betcha’” when Fey returns to her Sarah Palin wig.
Taylor Swift’s squad may have ruled the 2015 news cycle, but Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s squad is, as the title suggests, quite dope. Poehler’s nanny, Fey’s nanny, and a shared gynecologist are among the squad, but the dopest of the dope come in the form of a rapping Aidy Bryant and Amy Schumer, who caps off this great “Bad Blood” parody.
The night featured its first cameo in the cold open, with Darrell Hammond returning as Donald Trump for a parody of the latest presidential debate. (ASIDE: While it’s great to have Hammond back, is this a sign that the show just isn’t exactly sure how it wants to approach Trump? Taran Killam and Hammond seem to go back and forth, Trump himself hosted, and the show bounces between actually parroting Trump’s real-world behavior and returning to its caricature of him. ASIDE TO ASIDE: Hammond returning is great, but Jay Pharoah’s sleepy Ben Carson stole the show. END ASIDES)
And then Maya Rudolph, who appears in Fey and Poehler’s Sisters, returns as well, first for a sketch of old Christmas performances to purchase. (It also includes one of the show’s currently rare takes on Bill Cosby, as Kenan Thompson put back on the Cosby sweater to, in a set-up that speaks for itself, take part in a “Baby It’s Cold Outside” duet.) She then reunites with Poehler for “Bronx Beat,” where the two invite on Betty Caruso’s cousin Karen, played by Fey.
Return to Weekend Update
Fey and Poehler found their way back to the Update desk, though only to say one joke apiece. They closed out the final Update with the last two jokes of 2015, but Che and Jost also had their moments during the night, in particular Jost’s dig comparing Martin Shkreli to the Grinch.
Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime Because Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band turned in two great performances of songs from The River, but it’s tough to deny the sheer joy of their “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” Performed during the credits, Fey and Poehler are on stage, along with Paul McCartney (who has been around for several SNL Christmas episodes in the last few years), the E Street Band, and the cast. It won’t top the iconic recorded version, but it was just the right dose of Christmas cheer to end the night — and the year of SNL — on before heading into 2016.
Check out the last segment of the video below for the performance.