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SUNDAY MORNING LIVE: Kerry Washington Tackles 'SNL' Race Issue, Kate McKinnon Kisses Nasim Pedrad

Welcome to Edition No. 26 of Sunday Morning Live, Popculturology's look at the latest episode of Saturday Night Live. All of your questions about the Kerry Washington-hosted episode will soon be answered.

How'd Kerry Washington do?

It's safe to say that Washington's presence as host forced SNL to be on its A-game. After the recent controversy over the fact that SNL doesn't have a black woman in its cast (and really hasn't for a long time), Washington's stint as host was going to force the show to address the issue one way or another.

While I was pretty sure we'd see some kind of sketch acknowledging SNL's lack of diversity during the show, I was surprised when SNL tackled it immediately in the cold open. Washington first appeared as Michelle Obama, but then broke character (on purpose, of course) when it was announced that Oprah Winfrey was at the White House to visit. "And Kenan won't?" she asked Jay Pharoah, winking at the fact that a SNL usually portrays a black woman by having Kenan Thompson dress in drag. After Washington returned as Winfrey, she had to immediately turn around to play Beyonce. "Is Jay Z with her?" she asked. Seeing as how Pharoah was already playing President Barack Obama, that wasn't happening.

Unfortunately, SNL allowed the cold open to fizzle out, closing with an appearance by Al Sharpton, who basically shrugged the entire sketch off as meaningless. C'mon, SNL, you gotta close these things.

Washington kept things moving along during the episode, switching back and forth between playing the straight woman in sketches like Cartoon Catchphrase or driving the humor in sketches like Career Week Speaker or Miss Universe 2013.

There was a bit of cue card reading during the night, but nothing as obvious or distracting as Justin Bieber last season. Overall, Washington performed admirably during her first SNL hosting gig. The show has a pretty good streak going for hosts so far this season.

Is it true that Popculturology single-handedly got SNL to give Nasim Pedrad a bigger role?

After Bruce Willis hosted SNL on Oct. 12, I wrote an article posing the question, "Where has Nasim Pedrad gone?" Pedrad became SNL's longest-tenured female castmember this season, yet during the first three episodes of this season (and most of last season), you wouldn't even know she was still on the show.

In both SNL episodes since Popculturology published that article, Pedrad has become SNL's go-to female castmember. In both this weekend and last weekend's episodes, Pedrad got the starring role in the first post-monologue sketch, with both occasions appearing to be attempts to launch characters with recurring potential for Pedrad. Is Lorne Michaels a secret Popculturology reader? Did the SNL writers pass around that article and realize that they were missing out by ignoring Pedrad's potential. Probably not, but we're going to pretend that's what happened.

Heshi definitely isn't a Matt Foley when it comes to being a motivational speaker, but she definitely has enthusiasm. And, thanks to her son, a ton of sound effects to punctuate the points she's incapable of making during a Career Week presentation.

Washington stole this sketch, playing Heshi's assistant, Tammy. The host got to deliver some of the best lines during this one, including "Respect my ability to assess a bucket." I could see SNL continuing to roll out Pedrad's Heshi character, pairing her with an assistant played by whoever is hosting.

If SNL wanted a GIFable moment, having Kate McKinnon kiss Pedrad is definitely one way to make that happen. Google searches for "Nasim Pedrad" should see a spike after this sketch. "Wow, she has a really long tongue."

What were the best sketches of the night?

OK, onto the rest of the episode.

When this short started, I kind of groaned. Another What Does the Fox Say? parody? I thought we had seen enough. I was wrong.

Pharoah and Washington absolutely killed it with What Does My Girl Say?, a spoof that showed that just because the Lonely Island guys have left SNL doesn't mean the show lost its knack for song parodies with high production value.

This was an absurd sketch, but I loved the way it came together. I knocked SNL for not being able to close its open sketch properly, so I'm obligated to credit the show when it does manage to lock things up. Aidy Bryant was fantastic as a woman having a "raw-ass time with her husband." Bryant also gave us the line, "Are you just going door to door, ass to ass?" in this sketch. Really sharp writing here, SNL.

I would fault SNL for making fun of MTV dating shows, something that they could've been mocking at least a decade ago, but this sketch is so dead-on, I'll let is slide. SNL has developed a habit of airing sketches that push the boundaries of what'll get through the censors toward the end of episodes (think Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong as former porn stars), and this sketch kept that trend going. You won't hear the lines "If I'm tickled, I dump," "Mirror mirror on the wall, I’m hungry for this guy's balls" or "My bush goes all the way around" anytime before 12:30 a.m.

How about any Pseudo Digital Shorts or commercials?

See above for What Does My Girl Say?, the best of this weekend's shorts.

The show closed things out with Ice Cream, a quirky short featuring Beck Bennett and Bayer as a couple buying ice cream from a scooper played by Kyle Mooney. When Bennett's character jokes that they'll need two ambulances after eating so much sugar, Mooney's character zones out trying to decipher the joke.

How was Weekend Update?

First off, Strong has continued to do a great job during her freshman season as a Weekend Update host. She was the right choice for the position and has gotten stronger with each episode. Here's the thing, though — I'm worried that Strong is disappearing from the rest of SNL. With Pedrad's presence exploding, Strong hasn't been showing up in much the past few episodes. That's not good.

Weekend Update needs Strong, but so does the rest of the show. Can't we get another installment of Strong and Bobby Moynihan as employees who insult the rest of their coworkers? Couldn't the Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With At a Party appear outside of Weekend Update? Strong is so good and it's so early in her SNL career. We can't lose her.

This killed me. I laughed harder at Pharoah's version of Shaquille O'Neal than I did anything prior in the episode. I have no idea why Pharoah and SNL decided this was an appropriate version of Shaq, but it was amazing.

Once again, McKinnon delivered another memorable Weekend Update character. Angela Merkel as an insecure world leader afraid that Obama will read her depressing search history? Sure. Why not?

Anything else worth mentioning?

I'm pretty sure this is the sketch SNL roles out every few years when it has a black host. If my math is right, the show last did it when Maya Rudolph hosted two seasons ago. The sketch itself can never figure out if it's supposed to be a light-hearted joke or a serious look at African-Americans and their relationship with Obama.

Not as good as previous installments of Booker T. Washington High.

Previous editions of Sunday Morning Live

Oct. 27, 2013: Edward Norton
Oct. 13, 2013: Bruce Willis
Oct. 6, 2013: Miley Cyrus
Sept. 29, 2013: Tina Fey
SUNDAY MORNING LIVE: Kerry Washington Tackles 'SNL' Race Issue, Kate McKinnon Kisses Nasim Pedrad Reviewed by Bill Kuchman on 11/03/2013 Rating: 5

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