‘Saturday Night Live’ Finale Recap: Ben Affleck Tried, Bill Hader & Fred Armisen Goodbye’d

Credit: Dana Edelson/NBC

Have you ever heard of hirudotherapy? It was this thing old medical practitioners used to do with leeches. Bloodletting. Anyway, tonight might’ve been Saturday Night Live‘s way of getting some old blood out of the way in favor of the new. Not that it was bad blood, just blood that needed to move on. The series often goes through periods of quality-level fluxuation, and necessary change has been a long time coming. Saturday night’s finale episode of SNL marked the changing of the guard. Many of the show’s current stalwarts are taking their final bows in 8H — Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and (we’re fairly certain) Jason Sudeikis — and to top it off, Seth Meyers is set to leave mid-season 39 for the Late Night desk. Times, they are a-changing. The 39th season sounds sure to bring many changes to the NBC sketch show.

Host Ben Affleck joined the Five Timers’ Club with far less pomp and circumstance than recent inductee Justin Timberlake, and spent the majority of his monologue making a terrible joke about how marriages are hard. Har har har, right, wife/actress Jennifer Garner? The banter between the two winced its way to the finish line and mostly just made me feel like I should start calling him Grandpa Ben.

Because, man, grandpa humor was the name of the game tonight for a majority of the sketches. There were several sketches surrounding gay people (with varying levels of success as far as comedy goes). A video sketch “Xanax for Gay Summer Weddings” was a laugh, but Grandpa Ben was in full, cringeworthy glory during the “New Beginnings” camp sketch. Sure, we got that the point was admirable and a good premise for the ha-has (Look at how ridiculous those people who think you can convert gay people are!), but ultimately it fell flat with how one dimensionally (read: unfunnily) it played out. Its redeeming qualities were in short supply.

We’ll tell you someone who’s cup had runneth over Saturday: the mustache budget. Seriously: ‘staches were in high demand for nearly any sketch Affleck seemed to be in. Slap on a bit o’ them face hairs, Sally, and watch the funny fly!

“Weekend Update” proved to be a comedic sure thing of the night, even if it was a bit tired overall. Which was surprising, considering the show had to bid farewell to Stefon (Stefooooooooooon! Noooooooooo!) AND had the pleasure of Amy Poehler’s company. Lord, I love a two-person “Update” desk. I do. I actually clapped and yelled “yay!” aloud in my room when I saw Amy — one of my favorite funny heroines — return to the desk that made me fall in like with her. And while the “Really?!?! With Seth and Amy” bit was not at all as punchy as once was (Again with these stale jokes! So many jokes tasted like communion wafers and those things are the worst), it ultimately didn’t matter because Amy stayed for the rest of the segment! Hooray! Any time I can bask her hilarious glow, I’m game.

And without her, Seth might not have run after Stefon, resulting in the pay-off to what was perhaps the worst Stefon bit, ever. (I really wanted to like it, too! But it really just wasn’t that funny.) It didn’t matter though, because what came next was magical Stefon left “Weekend Update” to marry Anderson Cooper. And Seth, realizing that he loved Stefon, ran after him. Risking life and limb to the infamous AC360-spinkick? That love is true, y’all.

It was the perfect way to honor and send-off a character. At the nuptials there were dozens of Stefon’s club friends (DJ Baby Bok Choy to the rescue!), past characters from Stefon segments, and Affleck himself (who appeared in the original Stefon sketch as his brother)! Ultimately, Stefon ran off into the sunset of studio 8H with Seth, where the happy couple were cheered on by several recurring “Weekend Update” characters. It was really quite lovely. I’ll suffocate you in the folds of one of the Furkels. …That’s Fat Urkels. And you know what they say about those guys: “After you’ve been with one of those guys, you’ll ask yourself ‘Did I do thaaaat?'”

The real clunkers of the night were the painful Funeral of Greg Pulino, and the Engagement Picnic sketch, which I will spare you the trouble of having to endure in printed word. Kate McKinnon once again proved that her physical comedy prowess is the thing to beat during her scene-saving moments during “Primadonna.” The sketch was fine, I got what they were going for.

But the highlight sketch-wise was the return of the former pornstar/current aspiring salesgals duo that is Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong in the Hermés Handbags bit. Yeah, I know the sketch is a tad formulaic, but it’s a damn good formula that makes me laugh every time. It surprises me how strong the recurring sketch is, but I’m into it: let them sell all of the things!

Kanye West debuted some new songs, and some very aggressive staging for two of his new songs: the pithily-named “Black Skinhead” and “New “Slaves.” Well, Ye, tell us how you’re really feeling these days, eh? That said, the production on the songs is amazing, but I kept wanting to apologize to Kanye for making him mad? Please don’t yell at me, Kanye! I want to watch your little performance piece. Look, I even caught the Lou Reed stuff! But honestly, production value aside, I can’t imagine any radio station’s going to have an easy time playing these tunes. No wonder his new album is going to be titled Yeezus — you’d have to be.

Rounding out the evening was a performance by Ian Rubbish (a.k.a. Fred Armisen)’s band “The Bizarros,” featuring all the leaving lads, and Taran Killam. A bevy of performers showed up, including Fred’s Portlandia co-star Carrie Brownstein, Kim Gordon, Aimee Mann, Steve Jones: basically, it was impressive. And that’s just the people I could name on sight! Adios, dear Fred. It was thoughtful and clearly meaningful to him — and a nice way of officially confirming his own departure. The tears at the end of the episode were hard-won for these three men who’ve spent so many years with Lorne Michaels’ merry band of comedy misfits. The show will be very much changed without them.

Now, someone get me Lorne’s number because someone needs to tell him to put SNL writer John Mulaney on that Weekend Update desk, stat!

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Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis Leaving ‘SNL’ — REPORT
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