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'Saturday Night Live' recap: Hart for the holidays

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

With a tiny Jeff Sessions getting cozy above the fireplace, a furious Omarosa knocking on the window, and a heavily decorated “Tree of Shame” in the corner, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the White House on Saturday Night Live. Alec Baldwin opened the last SNL of 2017 with season’s greetings, Donald Trump style. Proclaiming the end of the so-called “War on Christmas,” POTUS teased a “War on North Korea” for the New Year, along with a plus-sized tax cut that has already drawn battle lines in and outside Washington, D.C. “It might even make me a real billionaire,” he boasted.

Coming off two relatively solid shows, there wasn’t much left in the tank for the Kevin Hart-hosted year-ender. The comedian at least brought his own material for the opening monologue, riffing about welcoming his third child into the world and the terrors of hitting those terrible twos. From there, Hart and the cast hopped straight onto the SNL treadmill and tried to apply their comedy muscles to working the kinks out of stiff material. Small wonder they were visibly at their loosest and happiest when they took to the Rockefeller Center ice rink to deliver their goodnights. There’s an idea for next year’s Christmas episode: Saturday Night on Ice.

Best Sketch: “Captain Shadow and the Cardinal”

A few weeks ago on the much superior Chance the Rapper-hosted Thanksgiving episode, SNL smartly commented on the racial politics of the Caped Crusader’s one-man war on crime. “Captain Shadow” took that one step further by exploring the experience of being BWB — Batman While Black. From being pulled over by the cops for speeding to being badgered for a photo ID, this was The Dark Knight for the Get Out era.

Worst Sketch: “Office Phone Call”

Well … at least they got the worst one out of the way first. Hart’s corporate employee delays using the bathroom to avoid losing face, but winds up losing control of another body part instead. It’s all a bit crap if you ask us.

Craziest One-on-One: “Inside the NBA”

With their basketball days behind them, sports legends Charles Barkley (Kenan Thompson) and Shaquille O’Neal (Kevin Hart) verbally dunk each other on national television instead. Thanks to stream-of-consciousness bon mots such as, “When you get along, you grow along and when you grow along, you tag along, and Shaq loves Tagalongs. Best Girl Scout cookies,” Shaq handily runs up the scoreboard. This should give Hart and O’Neal plenty to discuss at their next photo op.

Best Weekend Update Gag: Leslie Jones as Omarosa

Reprising her cold-open appearance as the former Apprentice contestant-turned-fired White House employee, Jones offered up a flagrantly false version of the events surrounding her departure. In Omarosa’s account, she’s the one who deactivated her ID, escorted herself off the premises, and then did a running jump into some bushes. We almost believe her … almost.

Best Use of Kevin Hart: “Active Jack”

Hart’s spirited recreation of a ’70s PBS children’s entertainer brought back happy memories of watching The Electric Company and Zoom. For what it’s worth, we probably wouldn’t want to see those once-youthful casts reunite in the present day either.    

Episode MVP: The Llama from “Nativity Play”

Getting a llama to stay calm amidst the bright lights and cheering crowds in Studio 8H counts as a Christmas miracle in our book. Due respect to all the human performers, but if we could take a selfie with any performer from tonight’s episode, it would be that adorably fuzzy guest star.

Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. on NBC.

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