Josiah Martin | Arts & Entertainment Editor
As a general rule, Saturday Night Live’s season premieres are expected to be among its strongest episodes. With a fan-favorite host and a big-name musical guest, Sept. 29’s Season 44 premiere was no exception. However, its strengths were overshadowed by the on- and off-air antics of guest Kanye West.
The show began with a thirteen-minute cold-open sketch. In a refreshingly Trumpless segment, surprise guest Matt Damon portrayed a screaming, sniffling Brett Kavanaugh in a tone-perfect parody of last week’s Senate hearing.
“Let me tell you this: I’m gonna start at an 11. I’m gonna take it to about a 15 real quick!” shouted Damon, echoing the progression of Kavanaugh’s real-life opening statements. Damon took the Supreme Court nominee’s odd phrases and emotional outbursts to the extreme, appearing petulant and paranoid as he shouted phrases such as “I’m a keg-is-half-full kind of guy” and held up replicas of Kavanaugh’s calendars.
This sketch kicked the show off with a strong start. This momentum rolled through Adam Driver’s fast-paced monologue, which, along with many other sketches of the night, made reference to cast member Pete Davidson’s engagement to Ariana Grande. This occasional fourth-wall breaking was met with warmth from the audience, and succeeded in making the cast feel like a group of close friends, happy to get back together.
Unfortunately, one man in attendance did not seem happy to return. He transformed the entire mood of the episode from “What will they think of next?” to “Oh no, what is he going to do next?”
As soon as Kanye West and Lil Pump took to the stage dressed as water bottles to stumble through an off-key and heavily censored version of “I Love It,” it became abundantly clear that he wasn’t having a good night, and we weren’t allowed to either.
After a relatively inoffensive rendition of “We Got Love” with Teyana Taylor, Kanye and the house band did an unprecedented takeover of the classic end-of-the-night goodbyes as the credits rolled. Kanye appeared in a “Make America Great Again” hat, performing “Ghost Town” with help from Kid Cudi, Ty Dolla Sign and 070 Shake.
The broadcast ended abruptly, a fairly normal occurrence for NBC affiliates as the show runs over or under its intended time. However, it was later revealed that Kanye used the stage for a two-minute borderline-nonsense rant, all of it typical Kanye fare. “This means,” he says, presumably referring to his hat, “you can’t tell me what to do.”
“90 percent of news are liberal. 90 percent of TV, LA, New York, writers, rappers, musicians … So it’s easy to make it seem like it’s so, so, so one-sided,” Kanye said. As one fan shouted “I love you, Kanye,” to the stage, he replied, characteristically, “I love me too.”
This was the same weekend when Kanye uploaded a photo of his MAGA hat to Instagram with his now-infamous call to “abolish the 13th amendment” and later changed his stage name to Ye. His whole weekend seemed like desperate attention-grabbing, and overshadowed what was a solid SNL season opener. Why he was chosen as a last-minute replacement for Ariana Grande, who cancelled for unknown reasons, is a mystery, especially under the rule of Lorne Michaels, who is famous for wanting tight control over the show and does not like surprises.
All in all, SNL delivered a quality episode. I would recommend you watch it, fast forward past Kanye West’s appearances, and live by the immortal words of Adam Driver’s oil baron character: “Be strong, and crush your enemies!”