Thanksgiving is a time of overeating, family tension and leaving your childhood bed as little as possible. “Saturday Night Live’s 2016 Thanksgiving Special” reminds us of all that, plus other sentiments that come with the holiday. It takes the normal Thanksgiving problems and makes them weirder, more over-the-top and much funnier.
The first example of this comes about 20 minutes into the special, with “Thanksgiving Guest.” Trey (Josh Hutcherson, “The Hunger Games”) returns home from college with his new girlfriend, Elyse (Vanessa Bayer, “Saturday Night Live”). The family — SNL cast members Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, Bobby Moynihan and Beck Bennett – is excited to meet her, but there’s a catch: Elyse is a turkey. The blind-sided family finds this incredibly awkward (rightfully so) given the fact that they have prepared Elyse’s next-door neighbor for the main course. The sketch ultimately devolves into Elyse breaking up with Trey and running out on dinner.
Hopefully no one’s Thanksgiving dinner this year actually included their family eating his or her new girlfriend’s next-door neighbor for dinner. The absurdity of the sketch, however, highlights a real component of the holidays – introducing a significant other to the family. It’s a scary concept, to bring someone new into an established world. What if they don’t fit in?
Sometimes, the new addition to the family fits in perfectly. The special reminds viewers of this too, with “The Bird Family.” The sketch is a visit back to what some might call the SNL glory days (late ’90s/early ’00s) when Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon, Chris Parnell and Rachel Dratch reigned supreme.
In “The Bird Family,” Ferrell and Gasteyer play the parents of a unique family — parents who feed their children like baby birds. This means exactly what it implies, that they chew food up in their own mouths and then spit it into the mouths of their kids. Add a new girlfriend, Karen (Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”), into the mix, and the sketch is a recipe for hilarity. Karen ultimately embraces the bird feeding method and joins the family for a uncomfortable, albeit enjoyable, Thanksgiving.
Family dynamics can be strange. Going home for the holidays can be difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, going home can be the exact opposite. For some, being at the parent’s house is basically the same as being a king or a queen.
At least that’s what “Back Home Ballers” implies. The best sketch of the night is the 2014 digital short created and performed by the ladies of SNL. Dressed like they’re in a stereotypical rap video, the ladies (Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Sasheer Zamata, Cameron Diaz, Vanessa Bayer and Leslie Jones) sum up how it feels to be home for the holidays. The free food, awkward conversations with neighbors, childhood art projects hung on the wall, PG family outings … it’s all there, in a delightful rap song.
Arguably the best part of the digital short is Leslie Jones’s bit about the various bowls which can be found at her mom’s house. Bowls of potato chips, potpourri, M&Ms, seashells, bowls for other bowls — being a “back home baller” means something different to everyone, and for Leslie Jones, it means a lot of bowls.
Ironically, I write this article sitting on my couch at home in my childhood pajamas, with a giant bowl of potato chips while my two sports bras tumble gloriously in the laundry machine. A “back-home baller,” indeed.
The “Saturday Night Live Thanksgiving Special 2016” provides a much welcomed two-hour laugh during everyone’s favorite time of year. Given the nature of the episode, it’s not an escape from the holidays, but rather an excuse to poke fun at and satirize every possible aspect of it. With over 42 seasons of comedy, the annual Thanksgiving special takes “Saturday Night Live” ’s best, worst and most questionable holiday sketches and throws them back into the fire.
Didn’t get enough? “SNL Christmas 2016” is right around the corner. Ho, ho, ho.