Maya Rudolph Proves She’s the Maximum Mother of ‘Saturday Night Live’

‘Bow down cuz I’m your Mama’
Maya Rudolph Proves She’s the Maximum Mother of ‘Saturday Night Live’

Which cast members would earn first-round pick status in a Saturday Night Live fantasy draft? Will Ferrell, Eddie Murphy and Phil Hartman would all likely go early — but when it came to my turn to draft, I just might pick Maya Rudolph. Character work? Check. Impressions? Check. Amazing singer? Check. Charisma for days? Triple check.

Rudolph returned to SNL last night for its Mother’s Day show, an annual ritual that has turned out some classics over the years like the Betty White winner. Last night’s episode was not exactly vintage, but Rudolph shined once again, reminding us why she deserves that all-timer status. 

Is this really the first time SNL has trotted out a Hot Ones parody? Staying away actually makes sense because how do you top the real-life comedy of Conan O’Brien melting down before our eyes? It’s a degree of difficulty best not attempted unless you have a physical comedian capable of delivering the pain. Enter Rudolph. 

“(Hot Ones) was the only thing I have attempted that I did not slay,” she says, reprising her hilarious Beyoncé impression in a leather, red-white-and-blue cowboy outfit. “And that bothered both me and my husband. My husband is Jay-Z.”

You don’t have to be a comedy writer to know what comes next once she downs hot sauces like Satan’s Taint and Sergeant Sphincter’s Volcano Sauce. But Rudolph’s ability to express excruciating pain makes the flames come alive, the kind of heat that swallowing a gallon of hand lotion just can’t extinguish. This one doesn’t quite nail the ending, but it’s a triumph for Rudolph nonetheless.

The night’s tour de force came right at the top, with Sarah Sherman and Bowen Yang falling at Rudolph’s feet during her opening Mother’s Day monologue. “You’re not just a mom,” fawns Yang. “You’re Mother.” 

“You’re a 30 Rock legend,” agrees Sherman. “You’ve had your foot on our necks since Y2K.”

“This is Maya’s house now,” declares Kenan Thompson as weirdo disco mage Mr. Infinity Decor. “Ladies and gentlemen, gays and theys, I give to you Mother of the House of Rockefeller.”

Cut to Rudolph in a costume that somehow combines the best/worst of Madame Web and a Tiffany lamp, vamping her way through an elaborate musical performance that dazzles. It’s one of those “leave the stage and dance your way through 30 Rock” numbers that seem almost impossible to pull off on live television. It brings out the best in the cast as well, with everyone feeding off Rudolph’s bravado. 

I’d like to say the rest of the show lived up to the sketches at the top, but even Rudolph isn’t heroic enough to save this year’s SNL from an hour’s worth of mediocre sketches. Of course, this is the show’s history — killer bits we remember scattered among several near-misses. Celebrate the ones that work, folks.

The night was still a win for Rudolph, who we’ll no doubt see again during next season’s 50th-anniversary SNL victory lap. It will be one more chance to “Bow down cuz I’m your Mama.” 


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