Sometimes even an up-to-the minute comedy show like “Saturday Night Live” can’t quite stay ahead of the news cycle. Hours after it was announced that Elizabeth Magill, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, was resigning after an appearance before Congress in which she appeared to evade questions about whether students should be punished for calling for the genocide of Jews, “S.N.L.” led its broadcast with a satirical recreation of the Tuesday hearing.
The result was a sketch that was only somewhat less uncomfortable than the real-life event it was mocking.
This week’s broadcast, hosted by Adam Driver and featuring the musical guest Olivia Rodrigo, opened by spoofing a C-SPAN broadcast of a House committee hearing in which university presidents had testified about antisemitism on their campuses. Heidi Gardner, playing Magill, was joined by Chloe Fineman as Sally Kornbluth of M.I.T. and Ego Nwodim as Claudine Gay of Harvard.
Chloe Troast, playing Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the House Republican who grilled the university presidents, told the presidents: “Now I’m going to start screaming questions at these women like I’m Billy Eichner. Antisemitism, yea or nay?”
Troast added, “Yes or no: Is calling for the genocide of Jews against the code of conduct for Harvard?”
Nwodim replied, “Well, it depends on the context.”
Following an equally unsatisfying answer from Gardner, Troast announced to Fineman: “M.I.T. Lady, chance to steal. And keep in mind, if you don’t say yes, you’re going to make me look good, which is really, really hard to do.”
“Could I submit an answer in writing at a later date?” Fineman answered.
“Am I winning this hearing?” Troast said in disbelief.
Bowen Yang, playing Representative Mark Takano, Democrat of California, posed further questions to the panelists. What if someone on campus yelled, “I poisoned the water supply?” he asked.
Nwodim answered, “If they poisoned it with diversity, that could be wonderful.”
What if they yelled, “Fire!” in a crowded theater?
Gardner replied, “I’d be excited the theater was crowded because I support the arts.”
Breaking from reality, the “S.N.L.” sketch added Kenan Thompson, who was playing the president of the online University of Phoenix.
Asked if he would condemn antisemitism, Thompson said, “Well, my campus is the internet, so antisemitism is kind of our most popular major. And our mascot is porn.”
But he told Troast that his school would consider offering a course on the subject. “Lady, we’ll offer a course on anything,” he said. “The only mandatory courses we have are how to login to the University of Phoenix online and how to set up autopay.”
Opening monologue of the week
True fans of Adam Driver — Driverheads, we call ourselves — don’t appreciate him only for his breakthrough roles in “Girls” and the “Star Wars” franchise but also for unexpected moments like when he sang “Being Alive” in “Marriage Story.”
In his fourth monologue as “S.N.L.” host, Driver didn’t break into song, but he did play a lovely piano as he shared his year-end wish list with Santa Claus. Among the things he asked for were five pairs of Chinos (for having just turned 40) and for “Star Wars” fans to stop blaming him for killing Han Solo. (“I didn’t kill Han Solo,” he said. “Wokeness killed Han Solo.”) Maybe next year we’ll get our wish and Driver will sing another Sondheim number.
’Tis the season of the week
Technically, the big year-end “S.N.L.” Christmas episode isn’t until next week, but the show didn’t waste any time getting into the Yuletide mood with a slew of sketches that were holiday-themed — and very, very weird. If any of them could be described as down-to-earth, there was this one in which Driver and Dismukes play the mustachioed host and guest at a dinner party where neither will budge when the other one holds out a tray of food and declares: “Beep beep.”
Then there’s the filmed segment in which the seasonal spirit inspires Mikey Day to contact a friend he lost touch with (Driver), only to find that the old acquaintance has grown very crazy and now has a companion named Big Filthy (Devon Walker). And finally there’s the sketch set at a TV shopping channel, where Driver plays a confectioner selling a Santa Claus chocolate that takes on an unfortunate shape when it is unwrapped. Happy holidays (until next week, when we wish you happy holidays again)!
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors, Colin Jost and Michael Che, riffed on Hunter Biden’s indictment for tax evasion and on the congressional hearing on antisemitism on college campuses.
Later, Jost added:
Weekend Update dance number of the week
In still another peculiar segment inspired by the year-end holidays, Fineman stood in front of the Weekend Update desk and told the anchors, “The sexiest gift you can give your partner is trying something new in the bedroom.” Before things could get much weirder, Fineman explained that she meant the hybrid hip-hop/ballet dance performed by Julia Stiles at the end of her 2001 romantic drama “Save the Last Dance.”
While explaining the film, Fineman delivered a faithful rendition of this dance — no small feat — and apparently earned the approval of the real-life Stiles, who joined her at the end. Now can we get an equally heartfelt tribute to Stiles’s TV debut on “Ghostwriter”?
Parental instincts of the week
If only because it was funny and as weird as anything else from this week’s show (and maybe because my editor just recently became a parent himself: Congratulations, Austin), here’s a sketch in which Driver plays a visually disturbing and yet somehow surprisingly plausible baby accompanying his mother (Sarah Sherman) on his first-ever plane ride.
If the sight of Driver’s adult head placed on a baby’s body doesn’t haunt your dreams, the sound of his scream when he believes his teddy bear has disappeared surely will.