Saturday Night Live - Season 49

The last time Maya Rudolph graced the Saturday Night Live stage, she appeared in an ABBA infomercial alongside Kristen Wiig, both of them backing up former castmate Kate McKinnon in her first turn as host. That star-studded episode was among the season’s best, only topped by Wiig’s wild, equally cameo-packed outing last month. When Rudolph was announced for this season’s penultimate show, it seemed like she might complete the trifecta of episodes that treated returning cast members as conquering heroes and leaned on Lorne Michaels’ infinite Rolodex to round out the party roster. This being a Mother’s Day show, however, it turned out to be a different kind of party — with Rudolph’s only high-wattage guests being every current cast member’s mom.

Not that the show disrespected the great Maya Rudolph. Rather, it channeled those previous episodes’ pulling-out-all-the-stops energy into an ecstatic, spectacularly staged opening number that served as a tribute to Rudolph’s greatness. And boy, was it ever a serve. (If I can say so without going to middle-age straight-guy jail.)

During her nine seasons as a cast member and two previous hosting gigs, Rudolph ran a menagerie of iconic figures like BeyoncéOprahMichelle Obama, and Donatella Versace. Last night’s extravaganza finally centered Rudolph as an icon in her own right. When Sarah Sherman informs her she’s achieved “extraterrestrial mother status,” it sounds almost like a parody of internet-y stan culture. But once Rudolph owns the compliment, the monologue transforms into an irony-free celebration of her as the motherest mother to ever mother. Kenan Thompson appears as hypeman Mr. Infinity Décor, clearly intended as a stand-in for Law Roach, the designer extraordinaire who was a judge on Max’s ballroom competition show, Legendary. With a chorus borrowing the cadence of RuPaul’s “Call Me Mother” and plenty of vogueing, the opening offered some of the most queer-coded content the show has ever produced and likely induced head-nods even from those in the audience who got zero of its references. For better or worse, the song’s shout-out of an infamous scene from Bridesmaids telegraphed an episode that was surprisingly heavy on IBS content.

The show ultimately had more of a family hangout vibe than your typical late-night comedy jamboree, but it was anchored in wholesome mischief the whole time, thanks to Mother Maya.

Here are the highlights:

Just as SNL did in its Mother’s Day show five years ago, this episode went without a topical cold open, diving right into some sweet, funny familial bonding. It couldn’t have picked a better week to do so, considering the topical opportunities. “I was excited to see who was gonna play Stormy Daniels,” Thompson’s mother laments, even though most people have likely long since had their fill of Trump-trial content already. (Cecily Strong previously played Stormy Daniels on the show, for anyone who actually was disappointed.) Seeing how a wide cross-section of proud moms handles cue card reading on live TV is always enjoyable.

Rudolph’s Beyoncé returning for a sequel to her Hot Ones appearance from the last time she hosted seemed at first like a lazy bid to repeat that sketch’s nine million views on YouTube. What worked so well that first time was the high-key incompatibility of the most image-conscious superstar on the planet putting herself in a position of extreme intestinal distress in public. It ended, wisely, with Bey’s publicity team shutting down the show so the footage would never see daylight — a realistic grace note for a ridiculous premise. The idea that Beyoncé would somehow go back and eat more brutally hot wings is, on its surface, as difficult to swallow as everything Conan O’Brien ate in his recent viral Hot Ones appearance. But the justification that Queen B would be haunted by the one challenge she could not slay lets us live in this fantasy, and her agitated certainty that the wings make her very bones hot makes us want to stay there.

Congratulations to the PDD boys for shaking up their office-bound formula and ADHD editing style and for gesturing toward the male loneliness epidemic, even if in a jokey way. Apologies are in order, however, to every dude who will now be asked — and possibly forced — to show a partner whatever horny horrors lurk on their Instagram Explore page.

Though several jokes didn’t go quite the way Michael Che and Colin Jost might have thought they would, this was a solid Update all around. Heidi Garner’s original character-based desk pieces are reliably funny, and her Woman Who Insists She’s Not Mad is a strong addition, despite probably giving some couples in the audience passive-aggressive fight flashbacks while they were still recovering from emotional fallout due to the Instagram Explore page sketch. Meanwhile, Sherman brings to life what seemed like a tossed-off line during the cold open when her mother suggested she play the worm in RFK Jr’s brain. It seemed so much like just the sort of Update role she might take on; it worked as a joke to hear it mentioned in passing as a discarded idea. In execution, though, the worm provided yet another opportunity for Sherman to antagonize Jost — this time, as someone who yells at college protesters — as well as being a vehicle for the weirdest take on Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday” to JFK in some time.

With a dicey second sketch in which Rudolph suffers unflattering stomach issues, Saturday Night Live may have sharted a little too close to the sun. But there is just something so sweet and pure about her portrayal of an actress of a certain age trying coffee for the first time ever and subsequently losing her mind that makes it a functional bookend to the Hot Ones sketch.

• “Y’all won” may technically be the catchphrase from the Teacher PSA sketch, but Ego Nwodim’s powerful take on the word “Tsiddahn” may catapult it into the broader lexicon.

• Some of the stereotypes in the British cavemen sketch are kinda creaky (bad teeth jokes? In 2024?) but the various styles of accented grunting are marvelous.

• In this Mother’s Day episode, “Can you pick me up?” excelled at being adorable, while the National Nurses Week sketch was a nice nod to immigrant moms.

• It’s quite satisfying when we finally find out the genesis of Lanzetti Lawn Care’s temptation-free marketing angle, and if anyone has a guess at what copyright reasons prevented this sketch from landing on YouTube, sound off in the comments.

• The cut-for-time sketch, an infomercial for the new album from aging sex-jam singers TT and Mario, is a sequel to this 2005 sketch.

• Props to whoever created the Mommie Dearest-inspired wire hanger bumper in between sketches, but it will be hard to ever top the ones recreating album covers made by Rudolph’s own mother, Minnie Riperton.

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