The latest episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Louis C.K., was an excellent episode in all, made all the better by “Sectionals,” the sketch I’ll be talking about in depth.
The opening gave us a Donald Trump desperate for praise from the people who voted for him. There was also a sketch addressing the controversy surrounding Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment allegations was fairly well done. Both O’Reilly and Trump were played by Alec Baldwin in the sketch, which therefore none-too-subtly connected and equated the two, although many commenters seem to have missed this. Baldwin’s O’Reilly makeup was creepily accurate if still too good looking to be Bill, and Bill being so quiet seemed off too, though, which made it not as great as it could have been. Weekend Update had some biting political commentary too, as well as a bit with Kate McKinnon as the lady who “fixed” that old Jesus painting commenting on the new statue of that soccer star, whose statue was…less than good. The controversial Pepsi protest commercial was mocked as well.
Host Louis C.K. did a fantastic monologue about animals and racism and white privilege and seedy motels. He also appeared in a number of very funny skits, from one about the way people seem to equate sharing stuff on social media with actually doing something, to one about being a creepy older married soda shop owner asking a teen girl out, to one where he’s a lawyer using his lovely eyelashes as a distraction to everyone in a courtroom, to one where he hires a birthday clown for himself for a private, sad show, to a sketch where he and Kate McKinnon are reenacting the lives of a Polish immigrant couple from about a hundred years ago, and Louis flubs his lines before going full Borat.
But the sketch I want to discuss in depth is the wonderfully bizarre “Sectionals” one here. Give it a look and then I’ll discuss.
We start with an absurd juxtaposition of nature shots and faux(?)-Shakespearean narration at the start, a pomposity that the subject does not seem to require. We pull out from a framed picture of a waterfall to CK with his arms outstretched, standing in front of one of the sectionals. He’s got a gray suit with a black turtleneck underneath, which gives him something of a Herman Munster look. Add to that his Bob Dylan/lo-fi Bob Ross afro, and you’ve got schlub written all over him.
Then we get the story of when his grandmother bought him a couch, which in and of itself is absurdly delightful. Whose grandma buys them a couch? Couple that with the “where’s the rest of it?” comment and “the first of many stories” and “this is going to be long”, and you’ve got a delightfully off-kilter man talking to us.
“What if I told you…” seems to steer this into a commercial for sectionals, and I love how Louis makes that bending motion with his hand. We get a few shots of examples of sectionals before we see Louis in regal garb, and the narration of “legend has it” gives a distinguished history to the heretofore unheralded world of sectionals, which stretches to ancient Rome, I guess. The small touches make the absurdity even better — “gazed at it powerfully” and the drawing out of “in…SECTIONS”.
Cut to the lovely Cecily Strong, whose hair looks lovely but who is in a less than flattering dress here, although that may be deliberate. It looks like it’s pulled over her knees, which makes it appear that she’s with child, unless some lucky fella has gotten to fill her belly with a baby (which is medically how it happens, dontcha know). She sings opera, adding to the pomposity, and the poses she’s in are deliberately goofy to juxtapose the apparent overselling of sectionals here.
Then we pan back over to Louis, who greets us with a mere “hi”. Then we get descriptions of three models of sectionals, made all the more bizarre by the pomp of the background music. “Badlands” is notable for its coloring, which makes it look like a croissant-like bouffe? pouf? (not sure what that word is). The kicker is “God only knows what it’s stuffed with”, which isn’t really a selling point, now, is it? “The Gathering” is a gray couch, which “looks like elephants gathered for an important reason”. The delightful turn of phrase of “it has phone chargers and an electricity runs through it” makes me giggle every time. Louis stumbles a bit in describing the third one, a round cheesecake of a sectional, but the way he emphasizes “DRINK HER MILK” gets me.
The phrase that makes this seem most like an ad are the next lines: “if you don’t have this, may I ask a question? What are you doing? These are all made on earth.” He’s so serious, but the drop in his voice for the last sentence really gets me! And the way it subtly indicts the person watching for not already having sectionals themselves adds to the hysteria.
Then the transition to the last story, with “LISTEN TO ME SPEAK!” How can you not laugh? The story of Barb from Racine, Wisconsin, as played by Aidy Bryant, is wonderful. Louis points at us before we’re shown Barb. The echo and slight lack of synch between her voice and her lips adds to the humor. Then there’s the fact that when they show her a bigger one, it’s not really any bigger (in fact, I still can’t decide if the first and second sectionals she sees are the same one). And then there’s the rule of 3 in comedy, so the third one is the biggest yet. Louis’s “than any other thing on earth!” shouting is great, and the over the top orgasmic “Yes! I’ll take it!” is wonderful.
Back to Louis. He’s seated on the central piece of the sectional and tells us it is the nexus, the eye of the storm, and that the rest of it is “born from this point, and that is how they are made, period”, which is wacky.
Then the kicker. From arms outstretched, king on his throne, to folding himself in, confiding to us, as he states “I used to have a family” is so jarring it’s amazing. The phrase is exactly fitting for this guy. He appears as someone who would neglect his family due to his love of sectionals, although which came first, the neglect, or the love of sectionals? THERE IS NO WAY TO KNOW! The notion that a sectional would connect a family is absurdly delightful as well.
Ending with the monologue about how he acquired all his sectionals and bought storefronts to display them, we get the tale of a sad, strange man. The phrasing is wonderful. “Get out of my property, these are not for sale” is stranger for the use of the word “property”, and telling people to “leave me alone with my sectionals” is the perfect way to end, as Louis leans back to relax, king on the throne of sectionals.
Of course, I was beaten to the punch on this, as the Atlantic also loved this sketch on sectionals. But I loved it from the first!
It’s delights like this which make me come back to Saturday Night Live to see what other absurdities they might gift us with.