October 18, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Review: “Saturday Night Live” with Tracy Morgan


The return of Tracy Morgan to SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE after his long convalescence from a devastating auto accident was an event, and the show treated it as such, with guest appearances from Morgan’s 30 Rock co-stars Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski and Jack McBreyer, not to mention Larry David as Bernie Sanders in the cold open, not to mention an actual live camel for Morgan’s inevitable Brian Fellows sketch.

For someone who hadn’t faced cameras in a year, apart from his brief appearance last month on the Emmys, Morgan was in remarkably good form.  (It probably helped that his timing has always been on the eccentric side.)  SNL didn’t take it easy on him, either, using him as the seasoned sketch comic he is with lead roles in most of the night’s pieces, plus a cameo on Weekend Update.  His monologue, a few jokes on the theme of his survival, quickly segued into the 30 Rock sketch, livened up with that comedy’s customary meta jokes adjusted for the fact that we were supposedly watching an episode from 2012 (cue the Smash promos).

An amusing twist on the Family Feud franchise had the dueling families actually feuding, since Morgan, as the dad, had left his old family (Leslie Jones, Jay Pharoah, Sasheer Zamata, Michael Che) for a new one (Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer, Jon Rudnitsky).  The bit could have gone even farther than it did, but it was funny enough, dominated by Jones as the furious ex-wife, and with Kenan Thompson adding some big laughs as a Steve Harvey vastly amused by the goings-on he was hosting.  In Brian Fellow’s Safari Planet, a lesser comic would have been upstaged by the camel, who had a tendency to wander in front of the camera, but Morgan ad-libbed an appropriate “I can’t see, camel!” that carried the day.

All of the sketches in the post-Update half-hour were odd enough to have been in the 12:55AM slot.  They included a Broadway-musical fairy tale-type opening number derailed by one villager’s (Taran Killam) decision to disclose that he was having sex with a local teen (Rudnitsky).  Then there was “Yo!  Where Jackie Chan At Right Now?,” which was exactly what it sounds like:  Morgan and Thompson as hosts demanding from callers and guests (including Pharoah as Chris Tucker and Bobby Moynihan as Steven Seagal) the answer to that question, with their main excitement coming when Leslie Jones reported a sighting circa 1999.  The last sketch slot actually went to a quick nostalgic return of Morgan’s “Astronaut Jones” bit, putting his character in The Martian, with musical guest Demi Lovato as an inhabitant of the red planet.  (The opening credits of the sketch, featuring a singing and much younger and slimmer Morgan, seemed longer than the sketch itself.)

In the show’s anchor slots, the cold open on last week’s Democratic debate was the sharpest political piece the show has aired in a while, featuring not just the dream casting of David as Sanders, but Kate McKinnon’s maniacal Hillary Clinton, Baldwin as Jim Webb, and Taran Killam and Kyle Mooney as The Other Guys.  Update brought back Fey for a welcome desk bit about Playboy’s decision to stop printing nude photos and her own arm-butt-heavy website (and, less fortunately, the return of Thompson as Che’s supposed neighbor Willie, although that gave Morgan the opportunity to play Willie’s even crazier life coach).  The format continued to allow for some conversation between Colin Jost and Che, this week about whether “outsiders” should run for President and the potential end of the world, and so far it’s working out well.

SNL is taking a 3 week break, but when it returns on November 7, it should stir no end of attention, thanks to a host named Donald Trump, whose musical guest will be Sia.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."