Sometimes “Saturday Night Live” works best when sketches get out of their own way and let insanely gifted comedians do what they do best. And sometimes that means letting Kate McKinnon contort herself in the more bizarre, entertaining ways possible. Turns out, the only to make that better is to pair those antics with a little bit of cinema history.
The 1944 Howard Hawks film “To Have and Have Not” is an undeniable classic for any number of reasons: Lauren Bacall’s debut screen performance, a screenplay based on an Ernest Hemingway novel punched up by William Faulkner himself. But that immortal “You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve?” line lives on for plenty of people not also named Steve.
If all this sketch had was McKinnon following through on that literal whistling technique, that would be enough. The second version of the joke is almost better than the first one. (It’s telling that her scene partner John Mulaney doesn’t even bother with trying to pull off a Humphrey Bogart accent. Just get out of the way and let the magic happen.) Toss in the black-and-white photography — always an “SNL” treat, whether it’s in Vincent Price sketches or other period-appropriate throwbacks — and you have one of the best parts of this week’s episode.
One other thing about this worth pointing out is that this is Exhibit No. 15,983 of how Kenan Thompson can elevate any sketch he’s in, no matter how thankless. In lesser hands, that intro might seem slapped on or drawn out. But just listen to the barely restrained glee he has pronouncing his own character name. The guy’s a total pro and he should definitely get an Emmy one of these years.
Watch the full clip below: