Greetings, Conehead nation. Welcome back to your latest SNL in Review experience. Another work week is in the books, and you know what that means: Our comedy overlords at Studio 8H are back to make sense of the madness. This week’s host is Daniel Kaluuya, who is poised to win an Oscar in a few weeks for playing Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, with musical guest St. Vincent, who previously performed on Saturday Night Live back in 2014.
I am joined tonight by former SNL cast members Victoria Jackson and Dr. Ellen Cleghorne.
Back in 2018, Kaluuya made a brief appearance on the show, and Cleghorne remembers “when he introduced the song ‘This Is America’ by Childish Gambino, we — my daughter and I — were in the audience that night. So we saw Kaluuya introduce the song live, which made sense since it has that Afrobeat fusion feel, and Kaluuya, although British, is a fusion of Colonialism and the Motherland transplanted to Black Hollywood.”
She adds, “I have enjoyed Kaluuya in Black Panther, Get Out, and Judas and the Black Messiah — can’t wait to see what the writers come up with for him.”
Daniel Kaluuya hosts ‘SNL’
I was underwhelmed by last week’s episode with Maya Rudolph, beginning with a rushed, ham-handed cold open. Let’s dive in and see if they bounce back tonight. I would love a dynamic cold open to set the night’s tone, perhaps with a recurring character?! Let’s give someone like Chloe Fineman back the baton!
The Feb. 20 cold open featured Chloe Fineman as Britney Spears — as I said at the time, it was an instant classic. And tonight, the merciful gods at 30 Rock have graced us with a rare repeat performance! Throwback/recurring cold opens like this warm my heart, and remind me of better days. In tonight’s segment, co-written by Colin Jost and Kent Sublette, Britney welcomes Lil Nas X, who has been attacked by the Catholic Church and Nike over his new Satan shoes. Chris Redd plays the Generation Z country-rap entrepreneur. “Maybe chill?” he suggests to critics.
Mikey Day shows up as his friend Gary (a.k.a. God); he receives a lap dance from Redd. (In his latest music video, Lil Nas X seduces Beelzebub with a lap dance. He’s a troll!)
Next, Kate McKinnon shows up as Pepe Le Pew, who has been canceled and removed from the LeBron James Space Jam sequel. Pepe outs Speedy Gonzalez. Pepe needs to listen and is in treatment for sex addiction.
Next up is embattled Florida Congressman and MAGA supporter Matt Gaetz, played by a Family Guy Glenn Quagmire-inspired Pete Davidson. Gaetz is under federal investigation and is a pretty vile character. Many on SNL Twitter — that wonderful wasteland — were urging Colin Jost to play this role. Pepe sprays him. “Judge him by his face,” Britney coos, issuing her verdict.
I remain a huge fan of this segment. Chloe kills it, plus it gives the show a fun and clever way to comment on current events. Keep it.
Kaluuya starts off his monologue by teasing the royal family: “First of all, I know you’re hearing my accent and thinking, ‘Oh no, he’s not Black, he’s British!'” After noting that he is both, he quips, “Basically, I’m what the royal family was worried the baby would look like.”
He continues on the topic of racism, contemplating which is worse: British racism or American racism? “Let me put it this way,” he says. “British racism is so bad, white people left. They wanted to be free — free to create their own kind of racism. So that’s why they created Australia, South Africa, and Boston. (Lumping Boston in with South Africa, ouch.)
Kaluuya shouts out Chairman Fred Hampton, and references his Golden Globe win over Zoom, where his acceptance speech was on mute: “I felt like I was in the sunken place!”
He reveals he wrote a play when he was 9 based on Kenan & Kel. “Thank you Kel,” he says earnestly. A very nice touch.
It has been immensely satisfying watching Kaluuya blow up over the years, beginning with his classic Black Mirror episode. Ellen Cleghorne agrees, saying his “Fifteen Million Merits” episode was “was haunting.” She continues, “I enjoyed the entire series which was bold, unapologetic, and anti-racist, which is the same way I like my comedy. In [his] episode, Kaluuya peddles a bike like a NYC messenger but he doesn’t go anywhere. His bike is stationary. He peddles for points and eventually changes his social class by competing on an American Idol-type program. His performance is flawless in the way he makes digestible a narrative that presented the future of labor in a dystopian society where the only way out of poverty is through a television show, but in the end, the hegemonic structure of capitalism and the Marxist definition of the commodification of the body creates another prison.”
Cleghorne adds: “I’m a big fan of Daniel Kaluuya. When I think of him recently I laugh because of the seemingly symbiotic relationship he has with LaKeith Stanfield. LaKeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya were together in Get Out, then they were cast together again in Judas and the Black Messiah. Now they are sharing an Oscar nomination in the same category. It would be really funny if there was a sketch with LaKeith Stanfield except I am sure most of the SNL audience wouldn’t get the joke. I mean, considering they are also both nominated for Academy Awards in the same category it must be a bit annoying for both of them. Just imagine if every place you went the same guy was there?”
Vaccine Game Show: Will You Take It?
In this Michael Che sketch, co-written with Gary Richardson and Bryan Tucker, Kaluuya attempts to convince his family members to take the COVID vaccine. None of the contestants will, despite being at risk. “Will you take the vaccine right now?” he asks, noting that they’ll get $5,000 if they do. “That’s a lot of bread,” says Kenan Thompson. “Not worth it.”
“Tuskegee,” reiterates Ego Nwodim. Punkie Johnson won’t take it, since she is a Christian. Facebook has poisoned her. Chris Redd does not want to be the first, and does not trust if white people take it — or don’t take it. This is a funny riff on the reticence and mistrust that’s out there.
Ellen Cleghorne shares: “I’m vaccinated and it was easy. Nothing in America is easy for Black people, so I know something has shifted the paradigm.” And former cast member Victoria Jackson shares that the “COVID game show… was funny.”
Viral Apology Video
Kyle Mooney is in the prank posse. He is about to eat mouse bones from his cereal. This takes the crowd a while to come around. This is a riff on Jensen Karp, who was pouring his second bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch recently when, he claims, something else came out. It appeared to be a shrimp tail. (He has since been canceled.)
“I would like to apologize,” says Kaluuya, after knocking him around following a series of apology videos. Trust me, friends: No one likes thirsty clickbait, especially not the good people at SNL.
Kaluuya is hanging out with his girlfriend’s parents, played by Kate McKinnon and Mikey Day. McKinnon is the noisy mom, distracting them during their game. She puts away the dishes and vacuums as they try to brainstorm and share their responses. She buses their wine glasses prematurely, puts pictures in the garbage disposal, and jams to Carly Simon. This is a fun slice-of sketch about hanging out with oblivious parents, and is a good showcase for Kate. “Are you upset?” asks her daughter, played by Heidi Gardner.
Turns out she is being passive aggressive; she had to watch Deadpool on her birthday. Things close out with a commercial shout-out for Josh wine. Kudos to Alison Gates and Anna Drezen for this character-based sketch. Very lived in and well-observed.
It’s a dinner party and Andrew Dismukes’ parents have brought his project to show off to the other guests. Chris Redd’s Nigerian parents (Ego Nwodim and Daniel Kaluuya) are deeply disappointed to hear he has shifted his major to creative writing. They want him to be a doctor. The world does not need more poets — or journalists or authors or professors.
Redd begins to read his poem entitled “My Sorrow.” It is bad, let’s just say that. “Ain’t nothing wrong with being a doctor,” Kenan Thompson says.
Pretty good — thought it ended a bit abruptly, however, with Nwodim and Kaluuya crushing their wine glasses in their hands: “Oh, no we are bleeding! Is there a poet in the house?!”
Victoria Jackson is a fan.
St. Vincent performs “Pay Your Way in Pain”
This is a savage, biting look at modern life. It’s an absolutely blistering, sneering song. I love it. And this performance, with its retro ’70s rock aesthetic, truly rules.
“Gonna look up St. Vincent. Never heard of them,” says Victoria Jackson. “That was entertaining.”
Check out the music video too.
Colin Jost points out Matt Gaetz looks like a boardwalk caricature of him, which is true. He slams the QAnon people. He continues to go back to Gaetz, but also makes digs at Delta and Spirit Airlines.
Meanwhile, Michael Che discusses the new Biden infrastructure deal and the student debt crisis. “I think Biden is doing a great job,” says Ellen Cleghorne. “He is obviously proving that he has nothing to lose and wants to leave his mark on America in the same way Roosevelt changed (FDR) America with social security, welfare, unemployment, and old age insurance. Biden is fearless and Kamala Harris is no Selena Meyer (Veep).”
The Starkie sisters (Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant) show up to discuss vegetarian Easter meals. Smokery Farms has popped up on Update a few times before, in 2019. They put out animals that deserved to die — either politically incorrect, or toxic individual animals that had it coming. “An extremely rude steer that takes videos of fat, poorly dressed old people and sends them to the group chat like Ha Ha!” They seem rather self-amused, which is standard fare for a Bryant-McKinnon bit. Not a fan. Giggle fest**!
“I think she eats giggles.“
-Mace and Cindel Towani**
Then Guy Who Just Bought a Boat shows up! Yet another recurring character– how fun! Alex Moffat uses slang to show that he is wealthy, compensating for his small penis. This is his first appearance in roughly 18 months, after five appearances in 2017 and 2019. He slimily discusses dating in the era of COVID-19.
May-December relationships are discussed by Jeff and Hattie Deeley, playing by Heidi Gardner and Mikey Day. She has a lot of money, gives Che a candy, and talks about custard. As usual, Gardner totally inhabits this octogenarian. (In an earlier era, Hattie would have been played by Kate McKinnon, right?) “I like it a lot, Michael…”
Victoria Jackson liked that tonight’s Update was “not 100% Trump bashing. What a nice surprise! They are expanding their horizons. I don’t get the meat thing, unless it’s an anti-human, pro-vegan thing. For the first time, I don’t think Kate McKinnon knew what character she was doing. She was just laughing at herself. The old, rich lady romance was interesting.”
A college fraternity is planning a group trip. Kaluuya wants to invite their moms because the trip is over Mother’s Day weekend. He is very adamant. Slowly, the rest of his brothers get on board, except Mikey Day. This is a standard role for our man Day, who is in disbelief at the proceedings. For example, Kaluuya suggests picking up “a couple of 24 packs of Activia for the moms.”
When Kaluuya gets the guys on a group FaceTime call with their moms, Cecily Strong says to her son: “I’m going to wear a two-piece bathing suit. Will that embarrass you?” Day responds, “It kinda would, yeah, mom.”
“Very funny,” says Victoria Jackson of the sketch.
“That’s not how she talks,” says an indignant Ego Nwodim. She is objecting to Kaluuya’s voice for her pet dog. “You made her sound like a damn fool.” That’s just the voice Kaluuya uses for dogs. She also hates that he doesn’t impersonate Katt Williams.
This is hilarious.
Andrew Dismukes arrives with his dog and when Kaluuya gives his pooch a voice, Dismukes asks: “Who the hell are you? You think my dog’s a hillbilly or something? My dog is a genius.”
Dismukes warns Kaluuya that this is his dog park. The two face off for the right to flirt with the ladies over puppies at the park. It’s a real phenomenon. Unfortunately, Nwodim leaves before they can determine who will get her hand in marriage.
“I was distracted by the poor little toy Yorkie who was shaking, But the sketch wasn’t crude, sexual, vulgar, or Trump bashing! So that’s amazing!” says Victoria Jackson.
St. Vincent performs “The Melting of the Sun”
This is her surreal new single. It is pretty soulful. She has an eccentric vibe, to be sure, but this is top notch. This season has had some extraordinary live music, I must say.
“St. Vincent can’t sing very well, but she’s very entertaining,” comments Victoria Jackson. “Skinny, pretty, nice outfit.”
Kenan Thompson is having a birthday gathering. He is joined by his half brother, full Facebook friend — played by Kaluuya — and his wife, Jolene (Cecily Strong). Kaluuya and Strong are wondering who is going to liven up the party and make it a little sexier. “No nasty,” implores Thompson. Kaluuya has brought his upright bass.
Yet another opportunity for Strong to sing. This is a prerequisite for her to appear in live sketches these days right? Meow. They perform a few “jazz speech” numbers and hint at getting divorced. “Encore?” Aidy Bryant accidentally requests.
Victoria Jackson shares: “That was odd, but I like bad jazz, bad poetry, and awkward social gatherings sketches! I think if they had one more day to write that sketch it would fly!” Well said.
–Thank you to Ellen Cleghorne and Victoria Jackson for their thoughts tonight!
–I thought this was a very natural, relatable show that also combined several fun recurring characters. Strong balance overall! What did you think?! Weigh in below or vote here!
–Dr. Cleghorne also says, “I’m sorry that Jim Carey isn’t playing Biden. I love me some Jim Carrey. When he announced he wouldn’t be returning to play the president, I sat up watching the Dumb and Dumber franchise. I’d be down to see a Black female version of Dumb and Dumber starring me.” I would love that movie! Netflix get on it ASAP.
–“Like Jerry Springer says take care of yourselves and one another.”
Saturday Night Live – Season 42
Saturday Night Live
The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.