Saturday Night Live Kicks Off New Season With a Focus on Celebrities, Lots of Pete Davidson, and a Kanye Trump Rant Just for the Studio Audience that Nobody Liked

No major surprises for the season opener of Saturday Night Live, but if Lorne Michaels is looking for headlines, last night’s episode was a gigantic success. SNL returned last night for a shiny new season with big celebrity moments, some SNL alum drop-ins, a Kavanaugh-inspired cold open, and plenty of attention on Pete Davidson’s newsworthy new engagement. And then there was Kanye. But we’ll get to that later.

The celebrity-centric focus isn’t new, it’s been a tactic that has delighted viewers and irritated many critics for a long time now, and it looks like Lorne is planning to lean in once again this year. The show opened with Kavanaugh hearings, and while just about anyone from the cast could have played Judge K, Lorne cast surprise drop in guest Matt Damon, who we can definitely expect to return next week. He did a fine job, but wasn’t any more suited to the role than anyone else would have been- he’s just more famous. There are plenty who are cheering that Damon has created a new classic character, but the performance didn’t quite rise to the level of Melissa McCarthy’s “spicy Sean Spicer.”

Castmembers played the legislature members including Senators Chuck Grassley (Alex Moffat), Dianne Feinstein (Cecily Strong), Amy Klobuchar (Rachel Dratch), Thom Tillis (Mikey Day), Cory Booker (Chris Redd), John Kennedy (Kyle Mooney), Sheldon Whitehouse (Pete Davidson), Lindsey Graham (Kate McKinnon) and prosecutor Rachel Mitchell (Aidy Bryant). There was a lot of adolescent male bravado, jokes about Squee, beer, going to the gym, calendars, old white men, marginalized women. And the best cast role of the night was an appearance of a cardboard cutout of Alyssa Milano. No giant surprises but for those of us who think Kavanaugh looked ridiculous in those hearings, plenty of laughs.

The topic got some more subtle coverage with a digital short. In “80’s Party” Adam Driver remembers the events of a John Hughes-style house party from the summer of ’83, in case anyone needs reminding what college-aged boys behaved like in the early 80’s.

The other most prominent topic of the night, Pete Davidson’s romance with Ariana Grande, took center stage in a digital short about Kyle Mooney attempting to follow in Pete’s celebrity footsteps with a brand new look for his sixth season with the show, and a whole new attitude. #lit. The show doubled down on that topic, with Pete showing up in a Weekend Update segment talking about “How I Spent My Summer.” It was mostly self-deprecating, coupled with Davidson talking about how much he hates the extra attention which apparently includes death threats. He also mentioned that he is now living at her place and enjoying being responsible for keeping milk in the fridge.

The sketches were funny but not what stood out in the Season 44 opener. Probably the biggest laughs came from a silly bit on Fortnight that highlighted how weird parenting has become.

Weekend Update is back in full form with great jokes about the Kavanaugh hearings, making fun of Kavanaugh constantly talking about working out, drinking beer, and lifting weights. “You’re not really helping yourself in a drunken assault case when you yell about how much you like drinking and how strong you were at the time,” Jost joked. “Typically when you’re asked about a sexual assault and your drinking problem at a job interview,” Che added, “typically you don’t get the damn job. I don’t know if Mr. Kavanaugh but I do know that he might. And you shouldn’t be on the supreme court if you might. You shouldn’t be on the People’s Court if you might. Sometimes might is enough. I don’t want to pet your dog if you might bite me.” Che also said that after finding out what happens at White Prep Schools, he’s decided he’ll be sending his kids to a black school “where its safe.”

In other topics, because a lot has happened since we last saw Weekend Update, Che and Jost covered the new Philadelphia Flyer mascot, Bill Cosby’s sentencing, a woman who was scammed by a Bruce Springsteen impersonator, and big changes at Dunkin Donuts.

Plenty to talk about with Kanye’s musical performances last night- which followed his previous performances with nutty costumes, celebrity appearances, unusual visuals, and wild theatrics. We’re used to Kanye so dressing in a giant Perrier bottle isn’t enough to generate headlines. Maybe wearing a MAGA cap and singing “I wanna cry right now. Black man in America, you’re supposed to keep what you feel inside right now. And the liberals bully you and tell you what you can and cannot wear, where you and they can’t not stare. And they look at me and say, ‘It’s not fair. How the hell did you get here?’” could have been the big headlines this morning, and were late last night. But what everyone’s talking about today is the pro-Trump speech that didn’t make it to air for television audiences, but did get caught on video by Chris Rock. The cut for time speech did not go over with the audience who came mostly to laugh at Trump.

“It’s so many times that I talk to a white person about this, and they say, ‘How could you support Trump? He’s racist.’ Well if I was concerned about racism, I would have moved out of America a long time ago. We don’t just make our decisions off of racism. I’ma break it down to you right now: If someone inspires me and I connect with them, I don’t have to believe in all they policies,” he said, referring to Trump as a “builder”. “They bullied me backstage they said, ‘Don’t go out there with that hat on.’”

Saturday Night Live returns Live next Saturday night with host Awkwafina.

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