We could easily say that the third episode of SNL’s 41st season is all “best” since host Tracy Morgan made a triumphant return to the stage after suffering through a traumatic brain injury following a near-fatal six-car crash last year. Morgan made his first live public appearance at this year’s Emmy Awards, looking fragile, but sounding hopeful — and cracking a few jokes.
He seemed much stronger on last night’s show, quickly proving that he could still poke fun at himself and that he hasn’t lost his ability to play those kooky, loveable characters. The episodes were a mix of old favorites and new material. See how it all went down last night, below.
“Democratic Debate Cold Open”
Larry David as Bernie Sanders for President in 2016!
“Tracy Morgan Monologue”
After pulling off a mean Jim Webb, Alec Baldwin reprises his role as 30 Rock‘s Jack Donaghy. Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski, and Jack McBrayer also make appearances to help give Morgan a warm welcome back to the stage. There’s a lot of love on display, and Morgan’s sense of humor hasn’t dulled: “People wonder, can he speak? Does he have full mental capacity? But the truth is, I never did. I may actually be a few points higher now.”
“Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet: a Beaver and a Camel”
More of a nostalgic pick, but Morgan reinhabits this favorite character with ease. All it took was one lip gloss-smacking “That’s crazy!” to reassure the audience that Morgan’s got this.
“Mitchell’s Fake Cocaine”
Sorry, boys. This one’s all Tina. The SNL queen resumes her rightful place on the “Weekend Update” throne with an editorial about the recent decision by Playboy to stop publishing nude photos. She digs right into the company’s “hundred-year-old sex monster.” She finishes with a bang by hopping onto the “Update” desk to show us her best sexy poses (“the last time I did this this long, a baby came out”) and vanishes victoriously into the night.
Morgan’s thuggish character starts some beef at the club, but all he wants to do is dance. “You don’t want to put a rose in my mouth?” is the new “You wanna go, bro?”
“Yo! Where Jackie Chan at Right Now?”
It looks like a throwaway sketch, but Morgan brings his lunatic charm to this Wayne’s World-esque bit about two guys obsessing on the whereabouts of Hong Kong martial artist Jackie Chan. A few years ago, Chan announced he would be retiring from the screen — but then admitted he was trolling us a little bit, stating he was just going to take it easy on the maniac stunts. We get a set of impressions (thank you, Bobby Moynihan, for your Steven Seagal) and a lot of nonsense that invites you to just go with the flow.
“Astronaut Jones: the Martian”
I was ready to write this one off, but I kept giggling about the intentional mismatched delivery between Morgan’s wacky astronaut and Demi Lovato’s space babe. It’s a dumb, single-joke premise, but Morgan’s delivery is a gift.
Kenan Thompson’s Steve Harvey hosts another episode of “Family Feud.” This one works better than the usual game show sketches as the writers inject some pathos into the scenario: a recently divorced couple (one newly remarried) engage in a showdown, while the children confront the father who abandoned them. It needed some tweaking and tightening. Also, Sasheer Zamata has been woefully underused so far this season. Get it together, writers.
“Good Morning Song”
It’s all fun and games until someone admits to sleeping with an 18-year-old boy. Unfortunately the punchline arrived too late, but the ending is worth it for an I-can’t-even Sasheer Zamata.
Musical Guest: Demi Lovato