After a particularly challenging week of news events, “Saturday Night Live” took refuge in the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.
This weekend’s broadcast, hosted by Selena Gomez and featuring the musical guest Post Malone, was introduced by Kate McKinnon, playing the MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace. After rattling off other headlines — “political fallout from the recent Jan. 6 subpoenas, updates on the Russian helicopter taken down by Ukraine, plus a nationwide shortage of baby formula” — McKinnon explained to viewers that her network would instead be covering the celebrity trial.
“I know it’s not the most pertinent story of the moment,” she said, “but with all the problems in the world, isn’t nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say: ‘Ooh. Glad it ain’t me’?”
Inside a courtroom, Depp (Kyle Mooney) sat in a witness box, being examined by his lawyer (Aidy Bryant), who was asking about an incident in which Heard was accused of leaving fecal matter in Depp’s bed.
Despite the objections of Heard’s lawyer (Heidi Gardner), the presiding judge (Cecily Strong) said she would allow Depp’s team to play a surveillance video that supposedly confirmed his version of events. “Because it does sound fun,” said Strong, “and this trial is for fun.”
In the scene from the videotape, Kenan Thompson played a property manager who was the first to make the unpleasant discovery in Depp’s bed. (“Aw, hell no!” he exclaimed.)
Gardner lodged another objection, but Strong told her she was once again overruled. “I’d like to see more of this video,” Strong said. When Gardner asked why, she responded: “‘Cause it’s funny.”
As the videotape played on, Thompson and a second household staff member, played by Ego Nwodim, argued about who would be responsible for cleaning the bed. They both said it was possible Heard could have made the mess, following an allegation from Depp that she had severed a part of his finger in a fight.
Asked how much longer they had to keep playing the tape, Strong replied: “We don’t have to watch any of it. But we want to. So hush.” (After which she took a swig from a glass of wine.)
Back in the bedroom, Thompson and Nwodim continued their argument, joined by a housekeeper played by Melissa Villaseñor and a laundryman played by Chris Redd. (Redd, surveying the scene, had assumed that Thompson was the culprit. “So you really did it, man,” he said. “You finally quit.”)
Strong addressed Mooney and the rest of the courtroom. “This trial has given me a lot to consider,” she said. “One on hand, I believe Mr. Depp’s story. But on the other hand, your constant little smirk lets me know that this is not the first woman you’ve made so mad that she pooped in your bed.”
Netflix sendup of the week
One sign of a successful parody is that you don’t have to be familiar with the source material that’s being satirized to appreciate it.
Case in point: If you’re already a viewer of the Netflix reality series “Old Enough!,” a long-running Japanese program that follows toddlers as they try to run errands on their own, hey, good for you. If not, you can still appreciate this would-be American remake, which instead is about long-term boyfriends who try to complete real-world tasks for their significant others, like buying shallots and night mist eye pencils (a thing we only just learned existed because of this sketch).
All the world’s a stage of the week
Two recent and not especially humorous developments on New York stages that may better inform your understanding of the following sketch: Many shows continue to be disrupted, postponed or canceled by Covid; and the theater company presenting “Take Me Out” has increased security measures after video of a nude scene performed by the actor Jesse Williams was circulated online.
Within the sketch itself, a performance of a play called “A Storm Within” goes horribly but hilariously awry when the entire principal cast comes down with Covid and leaves the show to its understudies, including one (Bowen Yang) who really cannot wait to perform his nude scene.
Steve Martin cameo of the week
There was no chance that a broadcast hosted by Gomez would pass without an appearance from either Steve Martin or Martin Short, her co-stars from “Only Murders in the Building,” who are both fixtures at “SNL”
Although their touring schedule prevented them from participating live, Martin showed up in this filmed segment about the inventor of the whoopee cushion and the accident-prone muse (Bryant) who inspired him to create that and other enduring novelty items. Bryant’s physical comedy carries the sketch, but it’s nice to see that Martin hasn’t lost his touch for scientific innovation.
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on the cryptocurrency crash, the baby formula shortage and a generally calamitous week’s worth of news.
If you feel like things are a little off this week, remember, yesterday was Friday the 13th, tomorrow is a super blood moon, and according to the most annoying person you know, Mercury is in retrograde. Is it me or does every story this week sound like the opening voice-over in a “Mad Max” movie? The year is 2022. A virus rages across the planet. Digital money has collapsed. Infants have nothing to eat. Women are forced to breed. Men are ready to die for gasoline. And we suffer under the leadership of the one known only as Joe. [His screen shows a picture of President Biden as the “Mad Max: Fury Road” villain Immortan Joe]
He went on, getting back to the crypto crash:
Cryptocurrency crashed this week with Bitcoin losing nearly half its value. And now it has to legally change its name to Bit O’ Coin. In fact, the entire crypto market has lost over $1 trillion, but you can make that money back fast as long as you’ve been hoarding baby formula.
Che picked up the thread:
This baby formula shortage is scary. Babies are very sensitive. You can’t just feed them anything. I once tried to give my little nephew something different than his usual formula, and he nearly choked on that hot-wing bone.