A certain playful rivalry has always been the heart of the partnership between Steve Martin and Martin Short. So, taken to its logical extension, the two should be at their funniest when imagining themselves at each other’s funerals.
That was the idea behind their opening monologue on this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live,” which paired the enduringly popular comedians (and stars of the Hulu series “Only Murders in the Building”) as hosts on a holiday-themed broadcast that also featured the musical guest Brandi Carlile.
At their entrance, Short and Martin humorously stepped on each other’s dialogue, compared how many times they had hosted “S.N.L.” alone (Martin a whopping 16 occasions, Short a mere three) and indulged in some nostalgia for the early days of the series. Having shown a photograph of himself with Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Mick Jagger, Martin quipped that after it was taken, “We tested positive for everything.”
Next, a few good-natured zingers at each other’s expense. Martin said that working with Short “is like World Cup soccer — somehow, I just can’t get into it.”
Short returned fire, observing that their Hulu show “is like Steve at the urinal — it streams for 32 minutes.”
Then Martin set up the central premise of the segment, saying that he realized Short wouldn’t live forever, “and that is sad, because you won’t be able to hear the wonderful things I’m going to say at your memorial.”
“So I thought: why wait?” he continued. “So what I did was I wrote up your eulogy so you can hear it now.”
Beginning his imaginary remarks, Martin said: “Wow, not much of a turnout. Marty did not want to be cremated — too late. But I’ll always be haunted by Marty’s last words: ‘Tesla autopilot, engage.’”
Short then launched into his own his own tribute, saying: “There are so many great things that I could say about Steve Martin. But this hardly seems the time nor the place.” He added, “I know Steve is looking down on us right now because he always looked down on everybody.”
Martin said of Short: “Marty was taken away from us too soon. But sadly, not before he played Jack Frost in ‘Santa Clause 3.’”
And Short said of Martin, “Seeing you in your casket reminds me of that classic ‘S.N.L.’ sketch ‘Dick in a Box.’”
Finally Martin wondered aloud, “Now that Marty’s gone, who will I ever work with?” That was the cue for a cameo from Selena Gomez, their co-star in “Only Murders,” who asked, “What about me?”
New holiday standard of the week
In this week’s opening sketch, “S.N.L.” skipped its familiar topical satire in favor of a musical segment that found Bowen Yang, Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson standing at a Christmas tree, wondering how to deal with the buildup of anxieties from recent months. (Yang listed the major causes for concern: “War, climate change, the Prince Harry-Meghan Markle documentary.”)
Breaking into song, they explained that the holidays made it OK for them to push off their personal worries for a few more weeks. For example, Thompson sang that he could give himself permission to overlook his drinking: “It’s starting to get out of hand / I knew that it may have / Crossed into a dark place / When Burger King said I was banned.”
In another verse, Yang asked: “Since when did Hitler come back? / Didn’t we basically all agree, years ago / Hitler should never come back?” (Thompson added, “And why are his new fans Black?”)
Old holiday standard of the week
Like the Irving Berlin composition that inspired it, the 1954 movie musical “White Christmas” may be a seasonal classic. But let’s at least admit that it has a couple of bizarre numbers, like “Snow,” in which Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye ride a train while crooning about frozen precipitation as if they’ve never encountered it before.
That scene was parodied with an absurdist affection in this sketch, where Short, Martin and Strong sing enthusiastically about snow without seeming to understand what it is, and Thompson plays a fellow passenger who is pleasantly baffled by their antics. (If seeing Short and Martin in Christmas sketches is your thing, enjoy these further segments in which they play a department-store Santa and elf and perform an excessively violent reimagining of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” )
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che riffed on the aftermath of the 2022 midterm elections and the release of the basketball player Brittney Griner as part of a prisoner exchange with Russia.
Che then pivoted to the Georgia runoff:
Nineties nostalgia of the week
If you’re going to bring Martin and Short together on a pop-cultural comedy sketch series, you’d darn well better let them pay homage to either “Three Amigos” or “Father of the Bride.”
“S.N.L.” opted for the latter in this fake ad for “Father of the Bride Part 8,” which casts Martin as the titular father, Heidi Gardner as his now-menopausal daughter preparing for her eighth marriage, Short as his flamboyant wedding-planner character and Kieran Culkin as himself, reminding us that yes, he really was in the previous installments of the franchise, and we’ve all gotten much older since then.