New York’s hottest club, for about six minutes Saturday night, was the desk at Weekend Update, where Bill Hader reprised the nightlife weirdo who may be the most popular “Saturday Night Live” character of the past decade.
Stefon was back, fingers to his face and laugh reflex uncontrolled. It was his first time working with Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che, and he liked what he saw, purring, “Hmmm. One of each,” and calling the interracial duo “Barack and Mitt.”
As usual, Stefon had new clubs to tout, listing their virtues like “a doorman who always high-fives children of divorce.” Oddly, all three of his picks had something in common: the presence of former MTV host Dan Cortese.
This time there was talk of Stefon’s husband, that being Seth Meyers, the former Update foil he fake-married during Hader’s final episode as an “SNL” regular. When Che questioned why Stefon had curbed his drinking, the twitchy club kid confessed, “I’m pregnant! I’ll let you know if we keep it.”
Hader created Stefon with former Chicagoan, former “SNL” writer and current Fox sitcom star John Mulaney, who must have collaborated on this week’s routine, judging from the photo Mulaney tweeted Friday.
And that wasn’t the night’s only throwback. Hader also stepped back into the oversized sportcoat of geriatric TV reporter Herb Welch and fatigues of the haunted war vet who vents through a look-alike puppet. Other than the Stefan redux, it was an unremarkable yet satisfying show, to be expected from one of “SNL’s” most agile players.
Though he was a prolific impressionist in his day, Hader brought out just one celebrity voice in the course of the night. His familiar and fairly uninspired Al Pacino actually was a weak link in this week’s mimicry showcase, a spoof of “Hollywood Game Night” that was better served by Beck Bennett as a dour Nick Offerman and Cecily Strong as Pepsi-shilling Sofia Vergara.
Hader practically had a co-host in Kristen Wiig, his co-star in the sibling reunion movie “The Skeleton Twins.” She showed up in the monologue to goose him into a musical number (alongside inexplicable pop-in Harvey Fierstein) and hung around to play Kathie Lee Gifford on “Game Night” and even introduce musical guest Hozier.
Elsewhere on Saturday’s show:
• “SNL” honored the recently departed Jan Hooks as it did Gilda Radner when she died in 1989 (with a melancholy dance clip). Hooks appeared with Phil Hartman in “Love Is a Dream,” playing an elderly woman who fantasizes about waltzing with a Nutcracker-style solder to a Bing Crosby tune. “Phil was a gentleman and she was a gentle lady,” the 1987 film’s director, Tom Schiller, says in Sun-Timesman Mike Thomas’ new book “You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman.” “They weren’t crass. They weren’t showbiz types, climbing to the top. That’s why they had fun on the shoot, because it was away from [‘SNL’ base] Studio 8H, they got their own costuming, they were the stars. There was no one else telling them what to do. And it wasn’t just laughs every two lines.”
• The show is now 0-3 for the season in cold opens. This week’s dud had Bobby Moynihan as Kim Jong-Un suffering some painful ailment but trying to keep up his reputation as invincible. About the only merit was that they didn’t make up the white actors to look Asian.
• “SNL’s” bigger-than-usual African-American contingent — Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharaoh, Sasheer Zamata and writer Leslie Jones — worked together as poor Africans badgering a charity spokesman who clearly meant for them to be merely props.
• Ending sketches smoothly is a perennial “SNL” problem, but the night’s finale — a Dr. Seuss-inspired love triangle between the Cat in the Hat (Hader) and Thing 2 (Taran Killam) vying for the affections of a mom (Strong) — closed with a killer punchline.
• Jim Carrey hosts for the third time Oct. 25 with musical guest Iggy Azalea. Meanwhile, the season premiere with Chris Pratt reruns next weekend, and you can read about it and see some of it here.