When the world is on the brink and civilization seems to be on the verge of spinning out of control, there are a few people on the short list that can reel things back in — Tom Hanks, for example. Even before Esquire magazine officially christened him America’s Dad recently, the Oscar winner oozed with credibility. Recall the time that the U.S. government called on his prestige to sell the new Grand Canyon to the public in The Simpsons Movie. (“This is Tom Hanks saying, ‘If you’re going to pick a government to trust, why not this one?’”)
So relax. Nestle in. The nine-time SNL host has got this. It’s going to be a great show. Hanks’s latest SNL gig — a full 10 years after his eighth appearance as host — demonstrated that the 60-year-old still has his comedic fastball (or screwball?). He contributed to almost every sketch, delivered a pitch-perfect monologue, played a spot-on Chris Wallace in the debate cold open, and refused to play it safe. (David S. Pumpkins!) He’s not America’s Dad… he’s still America’s Cool Uncle. And except for the time he hit Alex, that’s a great thing to be.
His monologue channeled our affection for the actor, as he sat us all down as a country to talk about the election and how anxious we all seem to be. (Please tousle my hair, Mr. Hanks!) The gray sweater did half the work, but his jokes closed the deal: “You may have noticed that your complexion is changing, you’re getting a little darker… and you’re freaking out about it. Well, that’s natural for a nation of immigrants like yourself,” he explained. “Also, you’re a lot gayer than you used to be.”
Best Sketch: “Haunted Elevator”
A couple takes the 100 Floors of Frights Halloween-themed ride for some thrills, but instead, they can’t seem to get away from David S. Pumpkins, a hipster-doofus and distant relative to Larry David’s “Kevin Roberts,” and two poppin’-and-freakin’ skeletons. Any questions? I loved how stupid this sketch was willing to be.
Best Political Moment
Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon returned for the third presidential debate, with Hanks chipping in as moderator Chris Wallace. (Recall that Hanks played a small role in the greatest SNL debate parody: playing Peter Jennings in the 1988 Bush/Dukakis sketch.) McKinnon’s Hillary won her debate bingo game on “bad hombres,” Baldwin’s Trump met with Mexican president Señor Guacamole and boasted of his celebrity support: “I’ve got Sarah Palin, I’ve got Chachi, and get this, I’ve got the best Baldwin brother — Stephen Baldwin.” The debates are over, but let’s hope Baldwin hangs around for the pre-election episode on Nov. 4.
Best Political Moment, Part II:
Hat-wearing Trump supporter and sturdy-gal-loving Doug won over the crowd in Black Jeopardy with his common-sense conspiracy solutions. #Doug2020.
Best Short: “A Girl’s Halloween”
Not every Halloween bit was good — the family whose “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” song parody dealt with a monster love triangle didn’t quite connect — but this pre-filmed video was a riot. And a little too true for comfort. Truly terrifying. Trick and treat.
Weekend Update Highlights
Hacking victim Leslie Jones got the last laugh in her dust-up with internet trolls after naked photos of her were stolen and published online earlier this year. She owned it, saying, “I keep my porn in a folder labeled ‘porn.’ If you want to see Leslie Jones naked, just ask.” That incident was nothing serious, according to Jones, who then chronicled her most embarrassing personal moments — including the time Prince confused her for Chris Rock. Internet trolls? Pshaw. Leslie Jones has a crazy bus lady wielding a shovel as her firewall.
Best Musical Moment
How do you like your Lady Gaga: Vegas casino or Carnegie Hall? Both performances were memorable, though I think she went with too much hat.
Cast MVP: Cecily Strong
Strong was everywhere: playing one of the drunk cats in “A Girl’s Halloween,” reprising her aggressively misinformed “Girl at a Party” character on Weekend Update, and joining McKinnon to bring a dark French fatalism to Ron Howard’s funny pet video clip show.
Tom Hanks is just a normal blue-collar guy — just like Sully Sullenberger, Hero of the Hudson. That doesn’t mean that he’s cool with giving up the captain’s chair to some nobody pilot… played by Alec Baldwin. The “Cockpit” sketch was funny, with Sully growing quite comfortable with his fame and resenting those who don’t seem to appreciate it as much as he. But the bit also could be deep-deep-too-deeply interpreted, with the show and Hanks tweaking his losing the SNL golden boy halo to Baldwin and having to share the show with the latter’s Trump impression. Two pros at the controls, fake-fighting for credit, bragging about knowing Ellen and his freebie Apple watch.