Everything was going so well — until the fly.
After the misery of “Saturday Night Live”’s Trump-Biden debate sketch last week, the show desperately needed to improve on its all-important political satire. We’re weeks away from a presidential election, and this material is their lifeblood.
Well, the comedy show mostly fixed things, until they fumbled the most memorable moment of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate: the fly.
“SNL” mystifyingly thought a funny take on the insect that squatted on Mike Pence’s head, and America’s HDTVs, for more than two minutes was an insane science-fiction storyline from 1986’s “The Fly,” in which Joe Biden (Jim Carrey) teleported to the venue, only to have his DNA mix with that of a bug.
Before this strange, aspiring 1980s East Village performance art piece, the sketch had made amends for the clunkers from last week. First, they gave the moderator role to the show’s best cast member: Kate McKinnon.
“I’m Susan Page, and I missed book club for this,” she said, hilariously. McKinnon, like she always does, turned even her non-jokes into bliss.
Beck Bennett’s bone-dry Pence, a political spin on the vampire dad from “Twilight,” got laughs, too. His VP said he loved the state of Utah, where the debate took place, with just one reservation. “Even though their basketball team is named after my greatest fear: jazz.”
As Kamala Harris, Maya Rudolph’s best line was when she quickly flip-flopped after being asked about fracking.
“Joe Biden will frack you so good, Pennsylvania,” she said, and then went into a harsh Philly accent. “Joe Biden ain’t banning fracking! Go Eagles!”
Then, ugh, a damn fly flew in.
Carrey’s gag started dumb, and got dumber. The actor, who got no entrance applause, already looks weak when he’s put alongside “SNL” vets such as Rudolph and McKinnon, and playing a human-fly hybrid, he acted in a spastic manner straight outta “The Mask.” Biden — did ya know? — isn’t exactly a supernova of energy these days. And, yet more bizarre, because there was an online push to have Jeff Goldblum play the pest since he starred in “The Fly,” Carrey went into a Goldblum impression. It was a cop-out that didn’t land.
To add to the muck, another insect showed up, played by Keenan Thompson. “I’m Herman Cain reincarnated as a damn fly,” he said. What?
We had a pretty good debate sketch going. The writing and the actors captured the essence of the night, there was no dead air and there were a few solid jokes. But, like “SNL” so often does, they felt compelled to cram in a bunch of unnecessary BS.
Immediately after that calamity, host Bill Burr gave a masterclass in how to synthesize a national moment.
“Did you see Rick Moranis got sucker-punched on the Upper West Side?,” Burr said of the “Ghostbusters” actor’s recent unprovoked assault. “New York is back, baby!”