First-Time Host Ariana Grande Delivered on ‘SNL’

Whether licking donuts, belting Whitney Houston songs at the White House, or pulling double duty as host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live, Ariana Grande is an undeniable show-stopper.

The twenty-two-year-old former Nicklodeon star turned formidable diva stepped up her comedy game in the variety of oddball sketches that dominated the night. She navigated some funny characters with ease, but bits where she played the straight woman to Kate McKinnon’s brilliant weirdness were best. Watching Grande flutter her eyelashes as a dainty mermaid while McKinnon flopped about as a blobfish hybrid was just about as good as it gets.

Overall, it was a solid show. Grande made her mark as a triple-threat entertainer, the political stuff was clever and the sketches were fresh. Larry David brought Bernie back in a new way, the ladies of SNL debuted a soon-to-be viral hit, and Weekend Update got into some risky business.

Gird your loins for host Peter Dinklage and musical guest Gwen Stefanie on April 2nd. Until then, let’s take closer look at Ariana Grande’s second SNL moment starring as musical guest and first time playing host.

Carson Endorsement Cold Open

We had another exciting/disturbing week in politics for SNL to parody. Jay Pharaoh’s Ben Carson impression was so creepy, that when Donald Trump (Darryl Hammond) says, “I mean look at this guy? He looks like he drives a hollowed out ice cream truck,” you can really imagine it. Larry David returns as Bernie Sanders via satellite from his hotel room. He joked about his popularity with a “diverse group of white people” and how “he has a lot of big plans, and absolutely no idea how to achieve them.” A hilarious quick cut back from coverage of violence at a Trump rally revealed Larry/Bernie in his pajamas brushing his teeth. He always wears them under his suits. That’s why his suits are so baggy, of course.

Ariana Grande Monologue

Kenan made an appearance to bond over his and Grande’s shared Nickelodeon roots. Few continue to associate Grande with her role as Cat Valentine from Victorious. But Kenan, despite his thirteen seasons on SNL, still gets asked twice a week, “where’s Kel?” Do they still keep in touch? “A LITTLE BIT,” he shouts before storming off. Grande poked fun at her youth with an entertaining musical number dreaming of her first post-donut licking adult-level scandal to take her career to new heights. Will it be botox? Puking in the pool? The song was funny enough, but the most memorable moment has to be when fellow twenty-two year-old featured player Pete Davidson shows up to say he overheard and wants to know if she’d like to smoke some pot. Without skipping a beat, Grande says, “pot? Let’s smoke some crack!” To which Davidson shyly exits the stage with a meek, “I’m good…”

Feel the Bern for Hillary

Sigh, Kate McKinnon. Is there anything she can’t make funny? In this Hillary campaign ad parody she started out parroting Bernie Sanders’ millennial-pandering rhetoric, then mimicked his mannerisms, ultimately morphing into a full Bernie Sanders double complete with wild white hair and glasses. At first the transformation is so subtle that the audience seemed confused as to why she is suddenly speaking in gruff, accented English, but by the time she says, “I’ve always thought that, ever since I was a little boy growing up in Brooklyn,” we got the joke. And laughed. Loudly.

Kids Choice Awards Pre-Show

This was perhaps the weakest sketch of the night, but the premise was kind of funny. Red carpet correspondents Reece Better (Taran Killam), Jesse Kerk-Fatone (Vanessa Bayer), and Brynlee Dobbs (Ariana Grande) struggle to fill time during a broken countdown to the Kid’s Choice Awards. They make a cheeseball announcement of the show beginning, “right now!” and freeze for an extended, uncomfortable length of time, waiting for the producer to cut to the show. The show fails to begin and the count starts going up instead of down. The first couple of rounds were light chuckle-worthy, but the one note joke got old fast. The best part was probably Grande announcing Miranda Cosgrove of iCarly fame as the winner of the lifetime achievement award.

This is Not a Feminist Song

Modern feminists are in the process of figuring out how to create a movement that represents the issues facing women of all races, ages, gender identities, sexual orientations, economic statuses, nationalities, abilities and other diverse genres of womanhood. This is no easy task. Rather than risk failure writing an all-inclusive feminist song, the women of SNL sing a safer, “not” feminist song. “Every woman has a struggle and every struggle is real/but just try to write a song that captures every woman’s deal,” sings Cecily Strong. The ladies of SNL opt for running on the beach, old footage of empowering feminist heroes, and dramatic lens flares instead. The result is a hilarious and catchy anthem/non-anthem for all of womankind.

True Tales From the Sea

Thrown overboard by their ship in a storm, seamen Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan and Beck Bennett are rescued by mermaids. This sketch was by far the best of the night. Bobby and Taran are thrilled to meet their lovely mermaid rescuers, but Beck doesn’t fair as well. Shud (Kate McKinnon), a hybrid species made up of “35% woman and 65% blob fish,” is Beck’s rescuer. Shud is made of mostly gelatin and demands a slimy open mouth kiss that includes most of her nose. She informs Beck that as a blob fish, she lives about 175 years and usually absorbs her mate’s gonads into her body, but she’s sure they can work something out. McKinnon’s faces, the crazy concept, and Beck’s straight man performance all combined to make this one of the most weird and wonderful sketches of the season.

Weekend Update

Che wants you to know there’s no way you’ll see him protesting at a Trump rally. He’s not about to go to a “goofy Nazi prom” and get punched in the face by some “strong-ass 80-year-old racist.” In reference to said racist, Che says, “just look at this guy? He’s been dreaming of punching a black dude since jazz came on the radio.” Boom. Cecily Strong brings her amazing drunk The Bachelor contestant character to Weekend Update for a recap of the finale. After throwing herself at Colin Jost till he blushes, she busts out a fantastic eye twitch to demonstrate just how “not crazy” she really is.

“Happy birthday to Mitt Romney who today turned 69, which for Mormons is a sin,” announced Jost to huge laughs. A couple of offensive/funny sexist jokes to celebrate Women’s History Month, a glorious sexy penguin joke, and on to an appearance by Bobby Moynihan as Riblet who insists he can do Che’s job just as well as him. Riblet throws it to Riblet on the street and executes an elaborate “Che’s Mama” joke. Moynihan bouncing around in pigtails is a treat that just doesn’t quit.

Tidal Streaming Music

Almost identical to the Bruno Mars Pandora sketch of 2012, this bit was basically a vehicle for Grande to showcase her phenomenal vocal talent as an intern called upon to save Tidal Streaming Music from crashing. We’ve heard Grande’s disturbingly accurate and lovely impersonations of Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Shakira, and Whitney Houston before on Jimmy Fallon, but those versatile pipes really never get old.

Celebrity Family Feud

With a premise like great actors vs. great directors, this sketch gave the cast and Grande an opportunity to bust out their celebrity impressions. Grande shone in the spotlight as Jennifer Lawrence, emphasizing that she’s just a “regular person” and casually referencing how much junk food she eats when no one is watching. Kate McKinnon stepped up to the feud as Tilda Swinton (naturally) and enjoyed some well-earned laughs. When asked, what is a bad habit that you just can’t quit? McKinnon/Swinton responds, “feasting on blood of the innocents.” The other celebrity impressions were, eh, not great, but it was fun to watch them get out there and test out uncharted waters.

The Sound of Music

If you grew up on a healthy diet of The Sound of Music, then you may have wondered how the nuns felt morally justified discussing how to solve a problem like Maria behind her back. Rude! This sketch reimagines the classic song with Grande walking in as Maria and demanding to know why the nuns are talking smack about her. “You thought Maria was problem before, well buckle up,” says Grande. Every time she leaves the room the nuns resume singing about her flaws. Grande’s sense of humor and attitude played well with nerdy musical theater fans and normals alike.

Fun Facts

  • Larry David forgot Ariana Grande’s last name when he introduced her first musical performance. She didn’t forget his name when she thanked him at the end. His shame was palpable.
  • Trump rallies will forevermore be christened “goofy Nazi proms.”
  • This episode contained the best rendition of “how to solve a problem like Maria” ever performed live on NBC.
  • Grande wore her jacket exclusively on her right arm while performing her new song, Dangerous Woman. Unclear whether that was a style choice or a consequence of pulling double duty. Whatever. With a voice like that she can wear whatever she wants.
  • Blobfish are not edible, they are endangered, so don’t even try.
  • First-Time Host Ariana Grande Delivered on ‘SNL’