Saturday Night Live
People who enjoy saying “stay in your lane” must hate Donald Glover. Glover is a multifarious talent, one who doesn’t rest on his laurels or stay comfortable for long. After making his name on Community, Glover bailed on it a bit early, tried his hand at stand-up and wrote raps as Childish Gambino; in recent years, he’s catapulted to the ranks of the creative elite as a musician, actor, and the creator-star of one of television’s most fascinating, funny, and unpredictable series, Atlanta. Tonight, SNL plays with the fact that Glover is young Lando Calrissian in the new Star Wars film Solo, but as Glover is a writer and sketch comedian, too, he brings his own ideas to the table.
Michael Cohen Wiretap Cold Open
A frightened Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller) calls his boss Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) after Giuliani’s surprise announcement about the Stormy Daniels hush money. From there, the sketch is a flurry of activity as Cohen calls (or accidentally dials) everyone in the Trump camp, one by one. It’s a star-studded lollapalooza of names and faces that would require two paragraphs just to list them all. Among the surprises: Ivanka Trump (Scarlett Johansson), Jared Kushner (Jimmy Fallon), Harold Bornstein (Martin Short), and the actual Stormy Daniels. Once Stormy gets on the line, Trump kicks Cohen off the call and gets to business. “I’ve never been so scared and horny at the same time,” he says after she demands his resignation. Not sure there’s a big point here, and the sketch panders to Stormy, but the bits featuring Short, Fallon, and Kate McKinnon as Rudy Giuliani are giggle-inducing.
Donald Glover Monologue
Glover auditioned for SNL twice and didn’t get cast. Though he tells the crowd he’s not bitter about his SNL rejection, he then wanders through the studio to show up the other cast members. Kyle Mooney did some kind of skateboard trick during his audition, so Glover grabs Mooney’s board and falls flat on his back. He drinks some weird punch Kenan Thompson is brewing up, and then he throws up while trying to play clarinet. There are two competing ideas here — that Glover wants to top the current SNL crop to salve his old wounds, and that he “really can do anything.” If the monologue focused on one, it could really be great. As it is, it’s a muddle.
A plaintiff who visited Jurassic World with his friends (Mikey Day) takes the stand to talk about the dinosaurs that killed his friends and family. Seems like a clear-cut case, certain to go against the defendants, but it’s time for the Jurassic World lawyer (Glover) to cross-examine. The park is not responsible for lost or damaged items, as it clearly states on the back of a bloody name badge one of his family members wore. Also, the first few seconds of poor Mr. Miller’s Instagram story looks like everyone is having a good time. (The last few seconds unfortunately reveal a deadly dinosaur attack.) When the lawyer finally feels the tide is turning against him, he tries to adjourn the court on his own. The sketch isn’t sure whether to focus on the park or the lawyer, exactly, but Glover’s strutting, wide-eyed shyster is a treat to watch.
This parody of a Migos video finds Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff (Glover, Chris Redd, and Thompson) deep in the club before announcing that they’re in therapy with a woman called Angela (Cecily Strong). Soon, they’re not just implying it, and the three of them are side-by-side on a couch making “I feel” statements while talking about how Quavo’s purchase of an ice cream Lambo (Lambo!) made Offset feel invisible. Soon, the trio reaffirms their friendship and makes a breakthrough (Breakthrough!), strolling out of the office like champs. In the lobby, they run into A$AP Rocky (the actual Rocky) and affirm their newfound connection. It’s all a fun what-if that shows Glover’s love for the band he helped find fame.
’80s Music Video
In the music video for a song called “I Watched You,” R&B crooner Raz B. Berry (Glover) sings about his cheating lady (Cecily Strong) and then follows her to a bar to confront her. Once there, he stops singing and starts confessing: He cancelled all their credit cards, put all of her pricey jewelry up his ass, tried to cut off his penis, and so on. Once he get to the part about pouring pee in his hair, his lady stops him to tell him something important: She isn’t his lady, literally. Raz is wearing dark glasses, and it’s night outside, so he didn’t notice he was following the wife of mild-mannered Dr. Reginald Saunders (Thompson). Whoops. It’s an amusingly weird backstory for an ’80s video, and funnier if you know the classic Oran “Juice” Jones hit “The Rain.”
A Kanye Place
In this take on A Quiet Place, the humans try to remain quiet in order to keep the monsters away, but Kanye seems to be losing his mind in real time online. With bated breath, the crew turns to the guy with the phone (Glover) as Kanye tweets about Trump, wears a MAGA hat, attends Chrissy Teigen’s baby shower, and drops a new track that just might say “poopity scoop.” One by one, the friends get picked off because they can’t take all of the insanity in and around Ye. The final holdout just can’t contain himself after witnessing Kanye’s ‘TMZ’ appearance and his claim that “slavery was a choice.” It’s a solid parody, even if talking about Kanye has become exhausting.
In order to spice things up in the bedroom, a guy (Glover) wants to talk dirty with his girlfriend (Melissa Villaseñor). Unfortunately for him, she doesn’t quite get it. While he says things along the lines of, “You’re a little slut,” she counters with “Your dad’s dead.” It’s not hot. As their session goes on, she wants to role play: “You’re my little brother, bitch, now scram.” It doesn’t work, not when she pretends to be the Elephant Man, and definitely not when she does her Cosby impression. (Given that a version of this sketch was done while Aziz Ansari hosted early in 2017, the boldest and weirdest choice might have been an Aziz impression.) As it is, it’s a funny return to a good premise, and another nice appearance by Villaseñor.
“Well, the clock might be running out on Trump’s presidency, so you know what that means,” says Colin Jost at the top of Update. “They’re finally putting in Rudy.” (Cue the image of Giuliani’s head grafted onto Sean Astin’s body from the movie Rudy.) The rest of the segment involves head-scratching about the Stormy Daniels payment, the Trump team’s release of Robert Mueller’s questions for the president, and whether the FBI knows enough to take down Trump. “Even if you don’t have enough evidence, just frame him,” suggests Michael Che. “Are there different FBIs for white people and black people?” Next, Pete Davidson rolls on to ask Jost and Che about hosting the Emmys. It’s a jealous ribbing about their cute partnership, but it’s not one of Davidson’s better Update bits.
There are just a few bits at the beginning of the second half, and the best by far is one in which an image of Kanye with the caption “Slavery Was a Choice” appears over Michael Che’s shoulder. He waits for a beat and then just says, “Pass.” Then Leslie Jones comes on to give a tribute to all the “raggedy-ass” men she has dated while singing snippets of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” There’s Stacy, whose mother tells Jones, “I had that boy, I know you can do much better.” There’s Rodney, who has several kids in need of support but is just “a rapper that works at Panera Bread.” Jones is charming and sells her material well, as always.
At the Naboo Beachfront Hotel, all of the black people in the Star Wars galaxy gather for a weekend of food, drink, and an answer to the question, “Where the hell are all the black people in space?” Including their host Lando Calrissian (Glover), they number four in total. While they’re trying to keep their spirits up, it’s a little sad. When encouraged to roar by revolutionary Saw Gerrera (Thompson), it’s just a few half-hearted cat growls. Pretty much everything other than meals have been cancelled due to low attendance. They take a moment to remember their dead colleagues; it’s Mace Windu, and Mace Windu only. The sketch does revisit an incredibly valid question in a playful way, even if it doesn’t stretch the premise very far.
Though there’s lots of brand synergy on tonight’s show, the week’s advertorial is for Barbie. Two Mattel social-media gurus (Thompson and Strong) gather three interns (Gardner, Davidson, and Glover) to come up with fun captions for various sorts of playful Barbie pics. One intern is dumb, one points out the obvious, and the other can’t stop thinking about Barbie’s imagined, tragic past; needless to say, none of them are good at it. Everything comes to a head when the morose intern (Glover) imagines Barbie overhearing someone say she is a toy and determining to commit suicide. These odd ruminations make up for an otherwise dull sketch.
In a bare office setting somewhere behind bars, a trio of prisoners (Thompson, Redd, and Glover) talk about their daily lives in between answering customer-service calls. Their existence in prison is rough, involving shivs made of spoons, toilet Cognac, and smearing poo on the guys who assault you in the bathroom. In contrast, when they answer their phones, they are as sweet as punch. “It’s a gorgeous Wednesday morning,” one of them says, “This is Norman.” Their conversation cuts back and forth until one psychopath (Bennett) is wheeled in, Hannibal Lecter–style. Naturally, this man is the manager of the call center. The sketch has some funny moments, but is sadly probably not far off from the reality of things.
For his first SNL hosting gig, Donald Glover shows up prepared to bring his acting and writing chops, too. Though the sketches meander a bit here and there, all of Glover’s characters are incredibly well-defined and fun to watch — in particular his grandstanding lawyer in “Courtroom,” Raz. B. Berry in “’80s Music Video,” and his straight-faced intern in an otherwise uninspired “Barbie Instagram.” The cold open and Update also have enough going on that they feel solid. It’ll be interesting to see where the remaining two weeks of the season lead, with only Amy Schumer and Tiny Fey left to host.