The Best and Worst of Last Night’s ‘SNL’ with Kerry Washington

SNL wants you to know they messed up. The lack of diversity amongst the cast was addressed in last night’s cold open — due to the appearance of Kerry Washington, who not only contributed a great energy to the episode, but also played Michelle Obama for the first time since 2007 (when Maya Rudolph took on the role of the First Lady). SNL has always been Captain Obvious when it comes to their African-American hosts. Race is always at the forefront of the sketches — if not in subject, then in terms of which players the writers feature (last night was the most we’ll probably see of Jay Pharoah all season). It’s usually uncomfortable, heavy-handed (someone is patting themselves on the back for inviting Eminem and Al Sharpton to last night’s show), and unfortunately, nothing ever changes. But hey, SNL is great at underlining the show’s limited scope. There will be umpteen more episodes of Kenan Thompson in drag, featuring four of the six new cast members (all male and white) hogging the spotlight, and exhausting jokes about women being hormonal and crazy. If last night’s semi-lame cold opener actually leads to something, we’ll be surprised — but we’d like to believe that SNL will one day join the real world and expand its horizons.

The Best

“Michelle Obama at the White House Cold Open”

“The producers at Saturday Night Live would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play. We make these requests because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent — and also because SNL does not currently have a black woman on the cast. Mostly the latter. We agree this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future, unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.”

“Career Week Speaker”

Nasim Pedrad plays Yemen-born motivational speaker Heshi Al Fahi, whose assistant (Washington) can’t be bothered to deal with her “towel drama.” The wacky energy, infinite sound effects, and a shy Mike O’Brien (who plays Heshi’s son) make this a fun one — even if it will be forgotten by tomorrow.

“My Girl”

Jay Pharaoh heads up the digital sketch, which pokes fun at Ylvis’ “What Does The Fox Say?” and features Washington as a jealous girlfriend turned pop diva. The song has already had its moment, so this shouldn’t work, but it’s well played. Where can we buy Washington’s album?

“How’s He Doing”

“What I wouldn’t give to get a white person’s mail for a day. Just a bunch of pre-approved credit cards and a Pottery Barn catalog.”

“Miss Universe”

The ladies carry this ridiculously offensive video that reminds American audiences all other countries are terrible places. We still loved Kate McKinnon’s Miss Bolivia (and her cocaine face) and Aidy Bryant’s Miss Greenland (“There are three of us up there, and I’m the woman!”). However, the writers could have given Washington’s Miss Uganda a better schtick.

“Weekend Update: Angela Merkel/Barkley and Shaq”

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has been Googling embarrassing things about toe hair and Nickelback to pass the lonely nights. The Barkley and Shaq sketch wins solely based on Jay Pharoah’s ability to cross his eyes for a long stretch of time.

The Worst

“Kerry Washington Monologue”

We already knew Washington played a D.C. fixer on Scandal and could carry a TV series, so we would have loved to see something new here.

“Cartoon Catchphrase”

Not nearly as funny as “Celebrity Jeopardy,” and too much Duane.

“Principal Frye — Fall Carnival”

Washington does a convincing accent, but Principal Frye looks like he’s ready to retire.

“Date or Diss”

1AM bush jokes: never a good sign.

“Ice Cream”

These end-of-the-night digital shorts with Kyle Mooney are becoming a thing we’re ok with, but this one was a little too cerebral of a closer after such an energetic episode.