After a very rough patch of episodes, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE pulled out all the stops for its Christmas episode hosted by Martin Short with musical guest Paul McCartney.

Following on the heels of the tragedy in the Sandy Hook elementary shooting, SNL made the cold opening a very classy and understated moment – they had the New York Children’s Choir sing “Silent Night”.

No mention was made of the tragedy, but it was clear what this moment stood for. Very memorable.

The rest of the episode was filled with an endless parade of big name cameos (Samuel L. Jackson, Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Fallon and the remaining members of Nirvana).

It was a pretty impressive feat. And even if the humor did skew on the naughty side at times, it still provided ample laughs. Definitely the most consistently funny episode since the one hosted by Louis CK.

Here’s a rundown of this week’s sketches.

Cold Opening – The New York Children’s Chorus: Simple and understated, the Children’s Chorus gives a touching rendition of “Silent Night.” Like SNL did right after 9/11, they found a way to bridge tragedy with simplicity and tact. And then, they got back to making people laugh. Incredible. Grade: A

Monologue: Martin Short is on fire the moment he takes the stage. A great comedian and an old pro at sketch comedy (he used to be a cast member of both SNL and SCTV). He’s joined by Paul Shaffer on piano and sings about how this is the most amorous time of the year and then he leaves the stage and gets or gives kisses to just about everyone including Lorne Michaels. There’s also a who’s who of cameos here including Wiig, Jackson, Fey and Fallon. Grade: A-

A Tony Bennett Christmas: Alec Baldwin reprises his dead-on Tony Bennett impersonation co-hosting with his younger brother Jerry Bennett (Short). They get some great barbs off and then greet guest Kanye West (Jay Pharoah). Though the sketch sinks to potty humor involving sponsorship for a suppository, it’s overcome by the great energy and chemistry by Baldwin and Short. Grade: B

Royal Family Doctor: A Monty Python-esque sketch featuring Short giving Bill Hader (as the Royal Family’s new doctor) a lesson in how to handle and deal with the Kate Middleton on her pregnancy. Again, the humor is a bit risqué, but it is quite funny especially with the great interplay between Hader and Short. Damn, Short is so good. And why exactly doesn’t he do more? Put him in movies, put him on a TV show – he’s so freakin’ good, he deserves more than just the occasional SNL hosting gig. Grade: B+

You’re A Rat Bastard Charlie Brown: This one is actually really funny. It’s a pre-taped sketch about a new stage play, with Al Pacino (Hader) playing a foul-mouthed Charlie Brown, Edie Falco (Kate McKinnon) as Lucy and Larry David (Short) as Linus. A very, very funny sketch. Grade: A-

Weekend Update: Weekend Update has been feeling shorter lately. Maybe it’s because of all the “guests” that appear. Vanessa Bayer plays Jacob, a Jewish boy who starts roasting his family in a low key style instead of talking about the meaning of Hanukkah. It goes on a bit too long, but it’s cute. And Strong reprises her hilarious “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With At A Party.” Grade: B

What’s Up With That? Christmas Spectacular: Kenan Thompson funny sketch that has been on moratorium for some time. He plays a BET host of a talk show that usually has into him singing “What’s Up with That?” over and over again with strange singers and dancers, while ignoring his celebrity guests (this one including Samuel L. Jackson). This one is an acquired taste, but I’ve always liked it. Grade: B

Old Friends: Fred Armisen and Short play old friends who catch up at a Restoration Hardware. Again, a very old school SNL sketch. Mildly amusing and occasionally funny. Grade: C+

Holiday Pageant: A throwaway sketch featuring Short and McCartney. Short is a singer auditioning for a pageant, and McCartney plays the triangle, but all he wants to do is sing, which leads into him exiting the stage and singing his hit “Wonderful Christmas” which also features the New York Christmas Chorus. The sketch itself was weak, but McCartney singing was great, so this gets a combined combo grade. Grade: B+

McCartney performed three times during the show. The first time, featured a song from his new standards album, the second included a new song performed with the former members of Nirvana (pretty damn cool, they also perform together at the 12-12-12 Sandy Relief concert) and of course his Christmas song.

Unfortunately, it seems like McKinnon and Killam have not been getting enough airtime lately. The cast is big, but it’s strange to see episodes where some of the best performers get very little airtime. McKinnon has surprisingly been overshadowed by Strong, also a very good new cast member who has been getting many of the choice female parts instead.

Overall, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE brings the merry and does it with a lot of energy and class. It was a rough fall for the show, but this episode did show why SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE can be a great show when it wants to be.

AGREE? DISAGREE? LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD – COMMENT BELOW

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Comments:

  1. The Charlie Brown sketch was definitely the highlight of the night because all of the impersonations were hilarious. I had no idea that Bill Hader did such a good Al Pacino, and Martin Short’s Larry David actually had me thinking that he was the real deal for a second. I was talking to a coworker at DISH who said that Paul played with the living members of Nirvana in his second performance, which is really cool. I am definitely going to save this episode on my DISH Hopper

    Chris

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