Weekend Update Was Pretty Great This Week, Or, More Cecily Strong, Thanks

For those who missed it because you have lives and weekend plans or something, ­this week’s Saturday Night Live had a lot going on. Martin Short was an unusually effective host, the Royal Baby sketch was goofy and fun and a whole lot of special guest stars showed up, including Samuel L. Jackson and Carrie Brownstein on “What’s Up With That,” Larry David and Alec Baldwin. Paul McCartney and the former members of Nirvana played together again, and Macca did three (three!) songs.

And, with the horrific school shooting in Newtown still painful and raw in our collective memory, too raw for any incensed commentary or even for words, the show paid a touching tribute to the victims by opening with a children’s choir tenderly singing “Silent Night.” It was one of the most moving openings the show has ever done, to the point where we’re really hoping that some opportunistic website doesn’t do a “10 Most Moving SNL Responses to Horrifying National Tragedies” slideshow. Nope nope nope.

But even with so much heaviness of heart and a stacked guest star bill, some of the show’s best moments still came from the regulars, and they came during Weekend Update. Vanessa Bayer reprised her role as Jacob, the Bar Mitzvah Boy, explaining the miracle of Chanukah to viewers in the format of a d’var torah, the speech Jewish kids give on the day of their bar/bat mitzvah explaining what they learned and what their reading is about. You’re told to write jokes into it, but the sort of jokes a nervous, socially awkward 13-year-old in front of his grandparents would tell. It becomes—and Seth Meyers put this perfectly—“a low-level roast of your family.” And Bayer nails the moment, to the point where I had some serious flashbacks to the bar and bat mitzvah circuit.

The other Weekend Update interview was with newcomer Cecily Strong, who reprised her role as the “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At A Party.” And the timing couldn’t have been better, nor could her commentary on the holiday season ("You asked for an iPad Mini? I asked for an end to genocide."). Between the holiday season, New Year’s Eve and recent current events that will unfortunely lead to some negative and ill-informed discourse during family and social gatherings, she once again served as a funny but somewhat painful reminder of what’s in store for us during the most wonderful time of the year. Strong had some other solid moments too, particularly as Fran Drescher in “You’re A Rat Bastard, Charlie Brown.” And if as a featured player, she already has at least one memorable recurring character that people like, she’s on the right track to becoming a headliner. Basically, SNL, more Cecily Strong, please and thank you. Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant too.

Morning Links: SNL Gets A New Cast Member, ‘Twins’ Gets A Sequel

Saturday Night Live has added a funny and also openly gay woman—a first for the show—to their cast. Kate McKinnon of The Big Gay Sketch Show fame will be welcomed on next weekend’s Sofia Vergara-hosted episode. [NYP]

● Tyler, the Creator wants Lana Del Rey to know that, should she be interested, he is totally "down" to make musical magic together and that he has some "pretty instrumentals," to boot. It is not too late to unplug your Internet. [Vulture]

● Kate Winslet says she feels "like throwing up" every time she hears Celine Dion’s "My Heart Will Go On." The stars, they really are just like us! [MTV]

● Lady Gaga rang in her 26th year with a birthday spin class set to Bruce Springsteen. [Us]

● Joining Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, Eddie Murphy will make three genetically engineered brothers in the totally insane sounding Triplets, the proposed sequel, of course, to DeVito and Schwarzenegger’s Twins. [THR]

● Questlove—who bought his first hoodie at the Gap after watching Tribe Called Quest’s "Can I Kick It" video—does "love" a hoodie, but ­he worries that their symbolic role in the Trayvon Martin protests might be a “distraction … to keep eyes off the ­issue of race relations in America. ” [NYM]