The Best and Worst of Last Night’s ‘SNL’ with Bill Hader

Bill Hader was the first male performer on SNL to be nominated for an Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series since Eddie Murphy in 1983. He’s an exceptional improv comedian with oodles of charm (especially when he breaks character), who has a gift for impressions. Even though Hader retired from the SNL stage just last year, it’s no wonder he’s back as the show’s host. Like you, we’re hoping to see some classic Hader characters make a comeback. Dig in, below.

The Best

“Herb Welch: Virginity Pledge Rally”

Thank goodness for Herb Welch, Hader’s cantankerous old geezer who says all the wrong things. He livens up this episode with comments like: “I don’t take orders from mannequins” and “I know you’re smooth down there.” It’s funnier than it should be, but that’s the magic of Hader when he has the right character to play off of.

“The Group Hopper (Web Version)”

Everything ridiculous about the relentless slate of YA films Hollywood is still obsessed with. Pete Davidson and Sasheer Zamata nail it.

“39 Cents”

Hader takes on Charles Daniels who is the modern-day Sally Struthers, asking for 39 cents a day to help an impoverished village. But the villagers want to know why Daniels is lowballing them. What about a round number like a dollar? Why not the cost of an Arizona Iced Tea instead of a cup of coffee? Any sketch starring SNL writer Leslie Jones is a sketch for me. She needs more screen time—and I hope Lorne and company are taking notice.

“Jan Hooks Tribute: Love Is But a Dream”

SNL alum Jan Hooks (Designing Women, 3rd Rock from the Sun) was a repertory player on the show from 1986 to 1991. She passed away this week at 57. SNL honors the actress by revisiting a classic sketch, also starring the late Phil Hartman (another star we greatly miss). It’s a touching way to say goodbye.

“Weekend Update”

When will Michael Che just take over the “Weekend Update” desk? Che gets the segment’s funniest, but much of that is due to his delivery. Colin Jost who? You can practically hear the audience tremble with excitement over Hader’s Stefon, who does indeed return. The most amusing part about the Stefon reunion is watching Hader hold back his laughter—but there’s just something missing without Seth Meyers. As much as I love it when Stefon discusses New York’s hottest nightclubs, I hope this character gets retired before he’s ruined completely. Pete Davidson returns to the desk with some personal hip hop commentary, but he’s overshadowed by all the Stefon anticipation.

“Puppet Class”

Hurray, Hader’s war vet Anthony Coleman makes a return. There’s some dark stuff in this sketch, including a puppet-filled Vietnam flashback and a well-timed jab at religion.

“Cat”

The Cat in the Hat has a torrid past with the mother of two children who summon him into the real world through the power of their imaginations. It’s a rough start, but the absurdity of the whole thing finally kicks in.

The Worst

“Kim Jong-un Cold Open”

Kim Jong-un denies rumors about his poor health, which means Bobby Moynihan flops around on the stage in that special way that he does. But it’s not enough to save this one from flatlining.

“Bill Hader Monologue”

Hader has a gift for impressions, but he has a burning desire to sing on the SNL stage. Kristen Wiig shows up, natch, to encourage him to give it his all. The result is… interesting. Harvey Fierstein makes an appearance. Wiig takes over, which is not instilling a lot of confidence in this episode.

“Hollywood Game Night”

I was waiting for the celebrity-impressions-in-a-lukewarm-game-show sketch to pop up—and here we are. Beck Bennett’s Nick Offerman is a delight (and new, unless I’m totally blanking here). Last time I checked this was Hader’s turn at hosting (he does his fun Pacino impression), but here’s Wiig—and her bland, drunk Kathie Lee Gifford— taking over once more. (Does anyone watching the show these days actually know who Gifford is?) Kate McKinnon’s Jane Lynch acts as game show host—a surrogate for Will Ferrell’s funnier Alex Trebek.

“Inside SoCal 2 with Bill Hader”

It wasn’t funny the first time around, and it’s only a hair funnier here. There’s just nothing to really love about these characters, even if you enjoy poking fun at bro culture.