As expected, the show hit on the Will Smith Oscars assault multiple times throughout the night, including a sketch that takes us right through it from Will’s perspective. As for “Weekend Update,” they spent almost an entire segment on it, and then brought out Kenan Thompson’s O.J. Simpson to dig in some more.
The host even touched on it, or at least the aspect of talking about it, during his stand-up monologue. All in all, he had a very successful night and the show definitely had more standout sketches than misfires. That said, though, some of the misfires were pure “oof” with a capital “yikes!”
The episode also marked the long-awaited return of Pete Davidson, but he didn’t drop by the “Update” desk to dish on any of the craziness that’s been going on in his personal life -- and that “SNL” has been very noticeably staying away from. In fact, he wasn’t in any live sketches, appearing only in a pre-recorded rap piece with Chris Redd, musical guest Gunna and Simon Rex.
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.
Cut for Time: Please Don’t Destroy: Three Normal Goths
We’re not sure what’s wrong with the “PDD” guys, but this was their thinnest premise yet. Two-and-a-half minutes on three guys who are average in every way except for their wardrobe choices. Seriously, there was only one joke in the whole sketch and that was the detail that they're surprisingly judgy about other people's wardrobe choices. Even the '90s sitcom theme song did nothing for us on this one. Sometimes we question the cut sketches on "SNL," but this one makes perfect sense.
Born This Way
An uncomfortable commercial turning the table on baby and toddler clothes that establish heteronormative standards by just basically doing the same thing with a homonormative standard. That’s it, that’s the joke … along with the outrageousness of the sayings on the onesies themselves. We did appreciate that they still managed to throw in a negative gay stereotype from one of the straight characters even in an ad that’s supposed to be more progressive -- microaggressions everywhere!
Pretty sure Kyle Mooney ad-libbed the ending of this sketch, based on Heidi Gardner’s reaction, but the rest of it was quintessential Kyle. He was a bit of a sad sack, the awkward cousin in New York for the first time trying way, way too hard to be likable. Kyle plays these roles very well, but it feels like we’ve seen it all before. There’s a certain dorky charm to what he does, but all these characters act basically the same, so you can see exactly where it’s going before it gets there. It’s almost as if he could tell the audience wasn’t loving it, which is why he (probably) went off script in the final moments.
The breakdown comparing “Jurassic Park” and “Sex and the City 2” didn’t really have a payoff, but we loved when Pete Davidson was called out for the “King of Staten Island” runtime. While the premise of this rap was spot-on, it spent too much time running down random movies with “short-ass” runtimes at the expense of quality written content. We did appreciate the extensive rundown of Ernest movies, because it was so extensively random it was funny. But this piece definitely did not live up to its potential.
What an absurdly twisted premise, with a family coming together to say goodbye to “Pop-Pop” at a cliffside service. The comedy came simply enough with the mortuary neglecting one detail before spreading the loved one of the bereaved family over the cliff. The visual alone was worth the price of admission, with some great reaction work from Heidi Gardner, Kyle Mooney and James Austin Johnson, in a rare non-impression role. Unfortunately, it was clear early on that the premise was pretty thin, and it quickly strayed into less funny material. The dreaded curse of the too-long “SNL” sketch without a good ending, but at least the first half was comedy gold.
Cold Open: Fox & Friends
Kate McKinnon was really hamming it up as Virginia Thomas, wife to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pawing all over her husband (Kenan Thompson) and fighting for her right to text whomever she wants about whatever she wants. “I take my job as the Yoko Ono of the Supreme Court seriously,” she intoned. We also loved how Kenan’s Justice Thomas didn’t answer any questions directly at all from the “Fox & Friends” trio, who could not stop fawning over his candor.
Things finally picked up with Cecily Strong’s Judge Jeanine talking about Disney coming out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill in a promo for “The Five.” Honestly, they could have skipped the Thomas stuff entirely and just given us some Judge Jeanine and then James Austin Johnson’s great Trump rambling damningly about “The Slap,” January 6 and the 7-hour gap. The problem is the sketch was overly long, with “SNL” seeming determined to at least touch on every major topic since we last saw them. We’d have rather a satirical deep dive into one of them then glossing over them, which seems to have become the norm.
Cecily Strong and Mikey Day were spot-on with their characterizations of shopping network co-hosts as things took a turn for the weird with Jerrod Carmichael’s Rhylee Rainbowlocks doll. He tried to show how easily her outfit could be changed and wound up revealing what he insists is not a rainbow “vag-afro.” Everything about this piece was working, from the shock value of the vag-afro, which wound up in a bathing suit, to the great reactions from Cecily and Mikey to all of it.
It was the consistent character work while avoiding parody from Ceciliy and Mikey, with their sweet Southern accents and abject horror, as things went from awkward to horrifically inappropriate that really sold the piece. Jerrod played it perfectly straight, which paired perfectly with everything else going on in the sketch, from the uncomfortable camera choices to the skyrocketing sales as things got even more perverse. All in all, this was great sketch work from top to bottom.
Monologue: Jerrod Carmichael
“I’m not going to talk about it.” Those were Jerrod’s first words on “SNL,” and went so far as to ask the audience if they were sick of talking about it yet. He never even said what it was he was talking about, which is a testament of a rare moment in today’s fractured entertainment landscape where we all know exactly what he’s talking about. We kind of love how he built an entire monologue around not wanting to talk about it, chronicling his week and even quipping that Lorne Michaels told him he should talk about it because “the nation needs to heal.”
His response was that he’s the absolute wrongest person for that job, calling himself the “least famous host” the show has ever had. And this is a show that was hosted by a random grandmother who won a contest once. He then cleverly pivoted to coming out as gay on his latest HBO special basically moments before he “came out” onto the stage. This was a great stand-up monologue, tightly written, perfectly delivered and what a way to convince people his new stand-up special is worth checking out.
A cute premise to begin with, having contestants try to see if they still know things like what day it is and what a wheelbarrow is post-Covid. It had a certain inoffensive charm to it, but was on its way to being forgettable, when Kate McKinnon as host started forgetting things and the contestants started answering her rhetorical question, “What is wrong with me?” Brilliantly satirizing how socially awkward we’ve all become, it kind of makes you wonder just how bad things are out there? Can you even remember?
We appreciated that Jerrod Carmichael, Sarah Sherman and Bowen Yang took different approaches to their personals, even if all were equally clueless. Kate was killing us throughout this with both her own issues and reacting to the idiocy on display before her, especially when Sarah started writing her answer with her tongue in hopes of getting the newest variant.
Will Smith at the Oscars
Honestly, considering how the past week has gone, this should have been the Cold Open to kick off the show. It was a great perspective of the Will Smith Oscars situation by having two seat fillers nearby as the whole thing went down in real time. Jerrod Carmichael went from ready to take a selfie with Chris Redd’s Smith to too scared to talk to him. They worked in every moment, from the slap itself to the double shouting of “Keep my wife’s name out of your f------ mouth!” with Will acting affable and charming between outbursts of outrage. This was clever and disturbing at the same time and would have made a perfect kickoff sketch, timely and funny. Sometimes, “SNL,” it’s okay to open with a non-political sketch -- you know, like the old days!
We kind of loved Colin Jost saying that the Rock/Smith situation set a “terrible precedent for having to defend your wife at awards shows,” considering he’s married to Scarlett Johansson. It was self-deprecating and tone-deaf at the same time. He and Michael Che went in hard on Smith with joke after joke that, based on the Oscars, Smith probably didn’t like at all. From the Academy response to audience reaction and everything else, it was a solid segment of sharply written jokes. The situation was uncomfortable and weird, but kudos to the boys for navigating it comedically and sharply without … getting slapped?
Cecily Strong slid in as Sen. Marsha Blackburn to recap the Supreme Court hearings of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson with a great joke built around her question. “What is woman?” After she jostled around trying to define and answer the question herself, the whole thing culminated in a perfect punchline for what amounted to a segment-long joke. It was beautifully executed.
The boys then slid into the round robin segment of the show with some funny jokes about conservative children’s programming, meat eater infertility and more. Colin delivered a very “white” joke about a black bear found on a college campus with a reaction that almost made it look like Michael had slipped it in the lineup without telling him. It was ... perfect.
We’re not sure why they didn’t have O.J. Simpson’s Will Smith commentary after their own entire segment on it, but they must have had their reasons. Kenan’s O.J. latched on to Smith’s line, agreeing that “love will make you do crazy things … allegedly.” He patently refused to acknowledge the specifics of his own “love” “crazy,” which made the whole thing funnier. It was a great choice for commentator, considering, making it clear which side at least these writers fall on (even if O.J. himself wouldn’t commit).
James Austin Johnson continues to show more range and diversity than he’d previously been given to do, boding well for his future, while Heidi and Mikey are quickly emerging as the glue that holds the crazier shenanigans together. But this week, there was a clear winner.
From her sketch-saving appearance in the Cold Open to her steady shock on a shopping network to her daft Senator Blackburn on “Update,” Cecily Strong was fully committed to character and performance with every moment she had on camera.
It’s one thing to show up and read the lines, but Cecily embodied these characters, making them fully realized and believable -- if also utterly ridiculous. Always reliable, Cecily is only getting stronger as the years pass. She’s easily one of the show’s strongest-every players at this point.
“Saturday Night Live” returns next week with host Jake Gyllenhaal and musical guest Camila Cabello.