“Saturday Night Live” takes shots at everything from Biden’s mental acuity to Kanye West’s recent antics, “Black” Ariel and more — but it’s the weird non-topical sketches that really bring the funny!
We weren’t sure what kind of a night we were in for with Brendan Gleeson hosting “Saturday Night Live” as the cast continues to settle into its new dynamic after losing eight players over the hiatus.
The premiere was definitely rocky at times, but it feels like this new group makeup is starting to find its identity. There was still plenty of topical content, including a hilariously spot-on examination of the Try Guys infidelity scandal — and more significantly, their very earnest response to it and the media’s bizarre interest.
Cecily Strong remains absent from the episodes and opening credits, but she is still part of the show and will return. In her absence, though, was a very balanced show with no performer appearing in more than three sketches, and everyone (save Punkie Johnson and James Austin Johnson) having at least one showcase role.
Already, the smaller cast is paying off. Historically, each “SNL” cast has an identity of its own, a sense of humor and a style that is unique to their time and to the makeup of the cast. With so many people in it these past few years, and reliance on celebrity guests like Alec Baldwin, these casts haven’t had that opportunity. This season, we can already see that identity forming, and it’s a little bit weird and a lot refreshing and exciting.
In fact, Colin Farrell made two appearances with his “The Banshees of Inisherin” co-star Brendan Gleeson and those are the two weakest sketches of the night. It’s a testament to a strong cast when a famous guest star is a distraction from what’s working. They’re fun in small doses, but only in small doses.
As usual, we’re ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Monologue, Cold Open, “Weekend Update” and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
As usual, we’re ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Monologue, Cold Open, “Weekend Update” and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. We’ll skip the musical guests, because they’re not usually funny — unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
Monologue: Brendan Gleeson
This could have been cute, but the execution didn’t quite work. Between playing a few notes on his mandolin, Brendon would either tune it or not play at all and then share a little anecdote with a “dad joke” punchline. It was all leading up to him calling his “The Banshees of Inisherin” co-star Colin Farrell overly needy so that Colin could show up and then act needy. This was easily the cutest bit of the whole monologue, but it could have been a little better had Brendan not been so understated in his delivery throughout. Ultimately, it was a dud way to introduce himself.
At the beginning, we kind of liked the idea of Brendan Gleeson as a grandfather “discovered” by a photographer accidentally when his grandson, Michael Longfellow, shows up for his headshots. Brendan did great with the different expressions and poses he was asked to deliver. Honestly, as much as everyone loves a cameo, Colin Farrell disrupted the rhythm of this piece and ultimately ruined what actually had potential. Look, Andrew Dismukes was ridiculous with his gravelly voice and delivery, but Brendan was carrying this sketch alone on his back. Then, it just became hackneyed and lame.
Cold Open: So You Think You Won’t Snap
A fun way to explore the “Darkest Timeline” that we sometimes appear to be living in, by making it a game show and all about how much real news it would take for four ordinary people to snap. The topics included Joe Biden’s mental acuity, children wanting to be influencers, the orange M&M having anxiety, Hershel Walker and more. But the highlights had to be Kenan Thompson’s character snapping just on hearing the name Elon Musk, and the sheer number of different ways Bowen Yang, as host, could circle back to Kanye West news with newcomer Devon Walker. The snap reactions weren’t all that great, but we both loved and were deeply saddened by all the truth in this segment.
Kenan Thompson’s pithy response to Brendan Gleeson’s “gash” on his hand was hilarious. We love that he sometimes just plays these roles almost like himself, even though this is in ancient times. The premise of the sketch is that Brendan didn’t’ realize a blood oath only required a small cut and slashed his own hand a little too aggressively. Considering “SNL’s” history with spewing blood sketches (to varying degrees of success) we knew exactly where this was going to go from here, and the setup with the map made it painfully obvious. But spraying blood is somehow always funny, in part because the reactions of trying to avoid it are always completely real. As always, the blood doesn’t work flawlessly, but that adds to the charm.
The back and forth between Chloe Fineman as Marilyn Monroe and Brendan Gleeson as a woman (with the beard and no explanation for it, which we loved) was everything to this sketch. Chloe really nailed the perfect caricature voice for Marilyn, while both Brendan and Heidi Gardner were great in character as the two women tasked with reading fanmail to her. The ending of the sketch was a colossal disappointment, but we definitely enjoyed the ladies trashing them through the negative mail and Chloe-as-Marilyn’s responses to that. We also got a kick out of Heidi’s little smirk that was so compelling we couldn’t tell if she was breaking character or her character was delighting in this little mischief — we prefer to imagine the latter.
This was a brilliant takedown of the fact that the Try Guys scandal actually made it into the mainstream media, by taking it all the way to “Breaking News” status on CNN. Brendan Gleason did a great job of carrying the gravitas of the story of one member engaging in a consensual affair, but the highlight was the faithfully recreated response video from the guys. Bowen Yang absolutely nailed the random bursts of frustration in Eugene Lee Yang’s voice from the original Try Guys response video, which proved even too much for Mikey Day to hold his composure. It’s also a good way to acknowledge that as much as what’s going on in Ukraine and the White House really does matter, this is the kind of story that America seems to care more about.
Anyone arguing that “SNL” is dangerously liberal and never takes shots at Democratic presidents missed this installment as Colin Jost did not hold back on President Biden. He shared another awkward speech moment with the president and then joked that he was upset at reporters for shouting questions like what year is it and who’s the current president and, oh yeah, they weren’t reporters, they were doctors. They were equally savage in their attacks on Dr. Oz and Herschel Walker’s campaigns, as well as Ron DeSantis and Kanye West’s appearance on Tucker Carlson.
Ego Nwodim painted a bleak picture of herself as “Black” Ariel, or just Ariel if you please, explaining that she’s extremely problematic and no hero to anyone. She grew up super rich and rode around on seahorses, which are just poor people under the sea. She’s trying to get head of the inevitable scandals coming her way, like the fact that she’s pro-Sea World, and supported the war in Iraq because she wanted revenge for 9/11, and she was responsible for the BP oil spill. And it got worse from there!
We didn’t love their joke about Velma coming out as LGBTQIA+, but Michael Che redeemed it with an extremely dark Coffee with a Cop Day joke that even he couldn’t get through without cracking up. They got in a good joke about a San Francisco building that will appear to be topped with a floating cube, Colin got in another jab at his supposedly absent dad., and the perfect response for pumpkin spice-scented trash bags.
New cast member Marcello Hernandez got off to a bit of a slow start with his exploration of Latin players in baseball, but by the time he was saying that Latin ball players get everyone in the stadium pregnant with their hips — complete with demonstration — he was completely in his element and feeling right at home. It was ultimately a very confident piece with lots of funny jokes that felt lived in, and some genuine laughs. The new kids are doing great with “Update” opportunities so far this season!
Please Don’t Destroy: Tommy
The randomness of PDD is expanding this season, with the guys playing characters instead of themselves, and stepping outside of their shared office and into a house party. The joke of this one is that they’re all juniors heading into their senior year of high school when Brendan Gleeson breaks the shocking news to them that he’s not a 17 year old from New Jersey, but a 67-year-old Irishman. Yes, it is that ridiculous, but the earnestness at which everyone plays their roles makes it work. Sometimes stupid is funny. It’s all about the execution, and this one was executed brilliantly. It’s nice to see the boys stretching their creativity and makes us hopeful for what’s next.
This was a very cute idea and a good way to continue warming up the “SNL” audience to the new cast members. It was also a fun showcase for Molly Kearney. As the new guys were sharing the advice they’d gotten from family, friends and fellow cast members, Molly said that Lorne Michaels told them he wanted them to kill Vladimir Putin. Molly was fully committed to the anguish they felt at such an unorthodox assignment. The other guys had their light humor with their methodology and the advice they received, but Molly was definitely the breakout here with a really great performance, oddly giving us Chris Farley vibes at times with their energy and delivery.
Sarah Sherman is such a breath of fresh are on “Saturday Night Live.” Since the moment she joined the cast, she has taken this show into realms of ridiculous we’re not sure anyone has explored before. This sketch has her character having replaced her eyes with large googly eyes. Why? Who the hell knows, but the visual itself is enough to crack us up, But it’s Sarah’s full commitment to the performance in this character, from her cattiness to Ego Nwodim to her horror that she left her real eyes in her pockets for 72 hours, that really makes it work. By the end of the piece, she had the audience in the palm of her hands, too, which is a testament to her character work. This could be her biggest breakout moment yet!
There were lots of great opportunities for the new cast members, as well as the veterans who moved up the ranks with all of the departures. It really does feel like a fresh and new “SNL” cast. Molly Kearney definitely had a chance to shine during the pre-taped sketch about the new cast, while Marcello Hernandez got that coveted “Update” spot to do what he does best, following Michael Longfellow last week. Devon Walker had a solid sketch role in the cold open, but is still awaiting his big breakout opportunity.
Speaking of breakouts, we’re really torn this week when it comes to our Player of the Week. Normally, we look at someone who was an all-around asset to the broadcast, which means its a combination of volume and quality appearances. Surprisingly, this week’s sketches were all small ensemble pieces, so there weren’t more than three appearances for anyone.
Chloe Fineman continues to be rock solid in holding down the fort, while Mikey Day remains the rock of many sketches (even though he did crack tonight) and Kenan just does what Kenan does best. Bowen is still the breakout star of the newer cast, but we have to give it to one of the biggest breakout performances of the last several years.
Sarah Sherman may have only appeared in two sketches tonight, and barely had a role in the Cold Open, but she was such a powerhouse in the 10-to-1 slot, we have a feeling that if there is only one sketch talked about on Monday, it may well be that one. It wasn’t political or topical, but it was definitely unforgettable.
Sarah is proving you don’t have to fit the “SNL” mold when you can just make “SNL” fit you. That 10-to-1 slot, which is always a little more experimental and oddball, should basically just be handed to her after that incredible showcase.
“Saturday Night Live” continues next week with host and musical guest Megan Thee Stallion.