After a long absence, the eternally, effortlessly delightful Molly Shannon returned to Saturday Night Live as this week’s host. Her monologue was a beauty. Wearing a black soda pop of a sequin dress, Shannon beamed from the stage, drinking up the roar of the audience’s affection. The woman radiates goodness and light, and after reading her childhood memoir Hello Molly, about the grief of losing her mother and sister when she was four years old to a car accident, you know how deeply it’s cut with tenderness. But, as she told the audience, her dad taught her at a young age to keep her chin up, so the gal broke into a thoroughly winning rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” with room in the song Ethel Merman first made famous for everyone’s troubles.
Shannon was joined on stage by Kenan Thompson, who has a Rolex addiction he can’t kick; Andrew Dismukes can’t stop dressing like a little boy; Chloe Fineman lies about a peanut allergy for attention; Bowen Yang is attracted to his therapist; Ego Nwodim is the friend who complains of having Covid and then coughs in your face. Shannon turned her loving gaze on the audience, empathizing with those in the studio embarrassed by their Instagram addiction, or their codependent relationships, or their private delight in other people’s misery.
The funniest moment of the show, and one worth replaying over and over throughout the week as needed, was when Shannon threw it to Lorne Michaels and surprise guest Martin Short. She asked Michaels what problem he was suffering through. “I don’t have any problems,” he responded calmly, holding his glass of champagne. “What about you, Martin Short?” she asked sweetly. “I ran out of Ozempic!” he screamed, shoving an entire cheeseburger into his gullet, fries and bits of iceberg lettuce flying everywhere. It was a sublime display of ridiculousness, reminiscent of Jiminy Glick slamming donuts down his throat. Even Michaels looked on the verge of a giggle, as Short came up for air with a splotch of American cheese stuck to his nose. How couldn’t Shannon follow up a moment like that in Mary Katherine Gallagher’s Superstar pose?
If that was the best bit of the show, so be it. There followed a series of sketches that just couldn’t compete. The problem with bringing back someone like Shannon to host—and she’s such a welcome presence, I hope she returns again and again—is that her characters are so iconic, the audience pines for them when she’s stuck with lesser material. A woman who pretends her gas bubble is a Pregnancy to score a work baby shower and some maternity leave can’t compete with a Superstar.
Wrongly, I think the show waited until the episode’s final minutes to give the audience what it wanted. The return of Sally O’Malley. The sketch took advantage of musical guests Jonas Brothers, with Kenan Thompson playing the band’s manager who’s brought O’Malley in to spice up their choreography. She hiked up her red pants, forever proud of her camel toe. “The Grand Canyon’s got nothing on me,” she said. “I’m a choo choo Charlie and a class act.” When the Brothers joined her on stage, she looked thoroughly unimpressed by the raw goods. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t Neil, Calvin, and John.” They ripped off their cutaway clothes to reveal matching red jumpsuits, hiked high enough to reveal what each was packing. Nick Jonas was fired for not putting enough “bonus in the Jonas” in their new routine.