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'SNL' review: Melissa McCarthy takes her Sean Spicer act on the road, literally

I’m not sure “Saturday Night Live” is a show that generates much anticipation from week to week. And yet I was legitimately curious to see what it had up its sleeve when amateur footage started popping up online Friday of Melissa McCarthy costumed as White House press secretary Sean Spicer — a memorably furious portrayal first introduced earlier this year — rolling through the streets of Midtown Manhattan on a mobile podium.

That brief glimpse of one of America’s favorite comedic actors taking her Spicey act on the road in real traffic suggested all sorts of outrageous possibilities. In McCarthy’s hands, Spicer is a man for whom every utterance warrants an angry exclamation point — a sentiment that would be right at home, you might say, among stereotypical outraged New York drivers. But this pre-taped segment (sandwiched into a larger live sketch that ended with Spicer in full existential breakdown) was all kinds of unrealized potential, in part because some of it was clearly greenscreen. It would have been interesting to see McCarthy-as-Spicer interact with real New Yorkers who might have been delighted to see her and also annoyed that she was gumming up their commute.

The Spicer sketch was one of the night's longest, opening with Aidy Bryant doing a bang-on Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the podium, only to be shoved aside by McCarthy’s Spicer, offering this description of the president: “If he’s crazy, he’s crazy like a fox … with mental problems.”

As for concerns with “this whole Russian thing,” the president’s hands are clean, per Spicer: “How do we know? Because he told us so! Period! Then he hired lawyers to agree with him! And they’re going to prove it with a certified letter, which you know is the truth because it costs an extra two dollars to have it certified! I’ve got a tracking number right here!”

At one point, Spicer's wrath causes him to tear down a decorative column and toss it into the front row of assembled journalists. “Does that answer your question?” As to the reporter who asked the question: “I honestly hope to God I killed her.”

Spicer eventually leaves, in search of Trump and some answers, and if you had to guess which moment from this week's show was most likely to rankle the president, it would have to be the image of Trump (Alec Baldwin) launching a makeout session with Spicer, as they both grab at one another’s bodies. Though it is bound to stoke a certain somebody's temper in real life, the kiss made no sense, and you have to wonder why sexual contact between two men is still a punchline in 2017. There’s not much comedic precision when the show takes on politics or its players, but you knew that.

Elsewhere on the show:

• Colin Jost at the top of “Weekend Update”: “Well, I know most of us think this every week, but this week was crazy.”

The cold open offered a similarly quiet-but-exasperated sentiment, riffing on the president’s recent interview with Lester Holt. Trump, on the sacking of now former FBI director James Comey: “I thought, he’s investigating Russia, I don’t like that, I should fire him.”

Holt (played by a visibly uncomfortable Michael Che): “And you’re just admitting that? But that’s obstruction of justice!” Then, to himself: “Wait, so, did I get him? Is this all over?” Touching his finger to his earpiece: “No, I didn’t? Nothing matters? Absolutely nothing matters anymore?”

A note about Che, who rarely strays from the Weekend Update desk: It’s hard to shake the feeling that he was pulled into duty only because the cast lacks any African-American men other than Kenan Thompson. Dear “Saturday Night Live”: Hire people who aren’t white men.

• The game show parody “Just Desserts!” was little more than an excuse for McCarthy to get pied in the face over and over again. She’s always been so willing to do messy food-related physical humor, but it tends to tip over into humiliation humor. She’s game! I’m just not sure it’s funny. But she’s game!

• A pre-taped commercial advertising a special model of Amazon Echo for senior citizens: “It’s super loud and responds to any name even remotely close to Alexa” including “Alberta” and “Excedrin.” So basically: “Technology! Old people! They don’t go together!”

• Mixed audience reaction of the night was this Weekend Update zinger from Jost: “After the Comey news was made public, White House press secretary Sean Spicer tried to evade reporters by ducking into some bushes — which is weird, because diving into bushes without warning is usually his boss' thing.”

• This was McCarthy's fifth time hosting, and the show's goodbyes included a surprise appearance by Steve Martin, wearing his five-timer smoking jacket and welcoming her to the club with a jacket of her own. 

nmetz@chicagotribune.com
Twitter @Nina_Metz

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