Adele’s Saturday Night Live hosting gig was medicine for this 10-days-out-from-the-election stress nightmare. As this weekend’s gracious emcee, she was relaxed, charismatic, and a joy. In her monologue, she quickly acknowledged and dispensed with the blithering headlines about her weight loss. “I know I look really, really different since you last saw me, but, actually, because of all the COVID restrictions and the travel bans, I had to travel light and only bring half of me,” she joked. “And this is the half I chose.”
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It was a deft flick at the inconsequential, before getting on with the real news: Adele is a star. An old-school kind of star who demands her own vehicles, projects designed to show her falling in love and falling over laughing and tears falling out of her eyes. The kind of star you want to watch emerge from a dressing room in a bunch of different outfits, or slapping somebody monstrous in the face. SNL this season is hurting due to a lack of Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant—both of whom are taking time away right now to film other projects—but this Saturday’s episode was a step in the right direction. Is wanting Adele to be your new best friend a symptom of COVID?
This is veering quickly into fan fiction—and we haven’t even gotten to the part where Adele busted out “Someone Like You” during the Bachelor sketch. The woman told us that she couldn’t handle being both host and musical guest because her new album (!) isn’t yet done; she also said she was too nervous, and that she slides into the swears too easy. Then she went and busted out four of her biggest hits. We got an Adele concert and two H.E.R. songs to boot.
All this waxing rhapsodic really goes back to the moment Saturday night when Adele broke while playing a divorcee tourist in the Africa sketch. First, she ran her tongue over her teeth in an attempt to keep a straight face. Then she exhaled a whale’s spout of a laugh, until finally the woman was literally holding her hands over her ears—an attempt to save herself from hearing Kate McKinnon purr “tribesman” again, or Heidi Gardner promising that visitors will experience that deep connection right in their stomach. You wanted to see Adele laugh like an idiot. Damn it, I want to laugh like that too.
I didn’t get that laugh during the cold open, which blessedly will be our last debate sketch for a good, long while. Maya Rudolph gave good unflappable Kristen Welker. Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump tried to ingratiate himself with this confusing person of color as best he could, alternately referring to her as Hoda Kotb, Padma Lakshmi, Mindy Kaling, and his waitress. As Joe Biden, Jim Carrey seemed like he might have spent the week tweaking his spin—a necessary recalibration. His hairline and makeup were better. He looked more like the birch tree that is Joe. “Just breathe, Joe,” he told himself. “If you don’t breathe, you’ll die.”
This week, Carrey had a better handle on Biden’s simmering gall. He was less limbs akimbo, and more amazed that Trump never had a father figure who schooled him with the threat of a belt on matters like Cub Scout honor and train etiquette. Cut to Kate McKinnon’s Rudy Giuliani, shot from the back and rubbing his… belly.
The best laughs of the evening came from the Village People, who stopped by Weekend Update in a state of energetic outrage over Trump seizing to their songs on the stump. Kenan Thompson delightfully led the band, though honorable mentions go to Bowen Yang in goatee and black leather and Alex Moffat’s excellent gyrating. McKinnon leaped past them as the band’s lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, who’d flipped on Trump and was eager to spill. “He knows what you’ve seen, on that island with Epstein!” Colin Jost tried to shut their slander down, and interjected again when they sang about a desire to shave Ivanka’s head. “Everything is legal if you sing it in a song!” assured Thompson. It was the highest-energy sketch of the night, and just the right amount of absurd.
We’ll have PTSD for years to come from all we’ve seen in 2020. The episode’s fortune teller sketch was a tribute to our outrageous year. McKinnon stroked the palms of some innocents back in 2019. One wonders if she’ll have a serious boyfriend; yes, McKinnon says, they’ll live together, and she’ll scream at him to do a better job disinfecting a bag of Doritos. Her vision of Adele is of a woman forced to give up museums and concerts, waiting instead for her Amazon delivery of a new adult coloring book. Nobody’s even friends with Yang anymore because that motherfucker ate in a restaurant. Tiffany Toobin doesn’t even want to know.
The Paid for By Trump Addicts of America ad started off so earnest one wondered if SNL had actually decided to speak straight to voters. But then it played on our swollen appetites for outrage at the tail-end of this Tweeting term. How will we know what to do with ourselves if we really do get rid of the man? If we’re not fighting with our conservative relatives, will we ever talk to them again? What will poor Rachel Maddow do? (The MSNBC host immediately tweeted out reassurance that she’d manage just fine, thank you.) Any hand-wringing was put to rest by the giddy prospect of a trial. “Maybe he’ll represent himself in court!”
At the end of the night, Adele bid us a beaming adieu from behind her face shield. “I know it was random, but I had the time of my life! Look out for each other and don’t forget to vote!” Get this girl a pint.
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