In the wake of his new HBO special Rothaniel and Will Smith’s trauma-inducing Oscars slap of Chris Rock, Jerrod Carmichael stopped by Saturday Night Live to host alongside musical guest Gunna. The 34-year-old Carmichael has quietly built a comedian’s dream résumé. He starred in the critically acclaimed The Carmichael Show for three seasons, during which Jerrod achieved what many believed to be impossible: a multi-cam that was both hip and funny. His three hilarious HBO comedy specials, Love at the Store, 8, and the aforementioned Rothaniel, deploy the intimacy and classiness of a vintage jazz album. He was also hired by Quentin Tarantino to co-write a film and recently directed and starred in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival darling On the Count of Three, which The Guardian said was “proof that Carmichael was a director to be excited about.” We’re looking at an artist here, and he’s a great get for SNL.
- Fox & Friends Cold Open: Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings
- Jerrod Carmichael Monologue
- Post-COVID Game Show
- Short-Ass Movies
- Shop TV
- Seat Fillers
- Gunna: “Banking On Me”
- Weekend Update (Senator Marsha Blackburn on Judge Jackson’s Confirmation Hearings, OJ Simpson on Will Smith’s Oscars Slap)
- Scattering Remains
- Gunna: “pushin P (Live) ft. Future”
- Baby Clothes
Worst New App
SNL delivers its weekly Fox News cold open with Alex, Heidi, and Mikey as the hosts of Fox and Friends. Mikey, as Brian, talks about downloading Trump’s new social media app Truth Social. (“I downloaded the app, opened it, and my phone immediately got very, very hot.”) Kenan and Kate stop by as Clarence and Ginni Thomas to discuss his recent hospitalization and her recent legal troubles. (“I take my duty as the Yoko Ono of the Supreme Court very seriously.”) James Austin Johnson then FaceTimes in as Trump to discuss current events, including the slap. (“Quite an arm on Hitch. I always knew Hitch had an arm.”) The Fox & Friends hosts then attempt to dispel rumors that the January 6 insurrection was an intentional coup and that Trump used a burner phone, which Trump is all too happy to admit. (“I couldn’t even tell you what burner phone looks like, I was too busy with phone call, and burner phone, and coup.”)
Credit where credit is due: Having Trump FaceTime from bed is a clever touch, and Donald having to hang up because TruthSocial is making his phone hot is a nice callback. We might need to rename the cold open “The James Austin Johnson sketch,” as his Biden and Trump impressions dominate the top of the show.
Best Attempt at Trying Not to Talk About It
Jerrod Carmichael enters the stage in a sexy no-shirt suit and immediately tells the audience he’s not going to talk about it. By “it,” he means the Will Smith slap of Chris Rock, which he admits feels like it happened years ago instead of last Sunday. (“I promised myself I would never ever talk about it again. But then Lorne came into my dressing room.”) This might be the best monologue of the season. Not only are we getting a stand-up comedian’s fresh take on recent events, but we got a funny Lorne Michaels story. (“[Lorne] said the nation needs to heal.”) Jerrod admits he’s not very famous and claims he’s the least famous host in SNL history. That might be true today, but I don’t think it will be true for long.
Best Analysis of What Happened to Our Brains in the Last Two Years
Kate is the host of “Is My Brain Okay?,” a game show that tests you on things you knew before COVID lockdowns. (Kate: “One thing’s for sure, we got stupid.”) They soon display a picture of a wheelbarrow and have the contestants guess what it is. (Sarah: “Bicycle?” Jerrod: “Farm bicycle.” Bowen: “Wheel monkey.”) Kate soon pulls out Jerrod’s best friend from college and asks Jerrod if he remembers his name. (Kate: “Sorry, Derek, his name was Derek.” Jerrod: “We got the same name?”) For the final question, Kate asks, “If you had to talk to a person, what’s a good way to start?” — which leads to three very unhinged answers. (Jerrod: “If you set the clock ahead, you don’t have to be alive as long.”)
This is a little bit of a Celebrity Jeopardy! clone, including an exact Final Jeopardy–style ending. But a game show about our all-too-familiar struggles with getting back to our regular pre-COVID routine is very clever and has consistently strong jokes. Jerrod shines as the deadpan Derek and shouts out to the costume department for the assist. His dead-eyed stare as Kate read his final answer was one of the episode’s highlights.
Best Pete Davidson Sighting
Pete briefly comes out of witness protection to sing a song about wanting to watch the shortest movies possible. Pete is currently filming a horror film in New Jersey, but the show has missed him. He’s the biggest celebrity in the cast, and his feud with Kanye keeps making the headlines, culminating in leaked texts where he allegedly told Kanye he stopped SNL from making fun of him and that he was in his wife’s bed. With 25 people in the cast, SNL has enough people for major cast members to take a break to do other projects. However, the random cast-member absences occasionally feel weird. Gunna and Chris Redd also appear, alongside Simon Rex reprising his rapper persona, Dirt Nasty.
Most Inspired Take on the Will Smith Slap
Right off of the top, basing a sketch about the Oscars slap from the point of view of a seat filler was both surprising and funny. Jerrod is a seat filler who meets Will Smith, played by Chris Redd, right as Chris Rock tells his infamous Jada joke and now has to try and deal with the fallout as Will sits back down and screams from the audience. (Redd: “I just saw Paddington 2. Best movie I’ve ever seen. I love that little bear. One second, y’all. KEEP MY WIFE’S NAME OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MOUTH!”)
Jerrod is really impressive here. He was very funny as the weirdo doll-maker in “Shop TV,” and now his reactions as the straight man to Chris Redd’s maniacal Will Smith add layers to this sketch. Kyle, who was paired with Jerrod in several sketches, enters after missing the incident and sees the video on Twitter. (Chris: “Nice to meet you, man. What’s your name?” Kyle: “I don’t … they didn’t give me one.”) While the sketch ends with a “Getting Jiggy With It” ringtone callback, it does feel they left a little on the table, including Denzel and Jada Pinkett Smith herself, as producers reportedly asking Will to leave. However, SNL stepped up to the plate and delivered one of its most memorable sketches of the season.
Scariest Michael Che Joke
Michael made headlines this past week when he said at a comedy show he was leaving SNL. But those rumors were quickly quashed when he said he wasn’t leaving and it was just a joke transcribed “by some dork.” Given the rumor he was going to leave SNL, his “Update” joke rings all the more loudly: “Press Secretary Jen Psaki is reportedly leaving the White House to join MSNBC. Damn. She’s still at work and has her next job lined up? That’s as crazy as some of the sketches on season two of That Damn Michael Che, this summer on HBO Max.”
Michael and Colin are often the best part of SNL, and when the inevitable day comes where one or both need to be replaced, it will be a major blow. Che specifically delivers punchlines better than almost anybody on TV nowadays. (Che: “During his acceptance speech, Will Smith said, ‘Love will make you do crazy things.’ Do you know what else makes you do crazy things? Crazy.”)
Jerrod Carmichael is my MVP. He was the perfect person to deliver a monologue about the Oscars, and I think he did, in fact, heal Saturday Night Live viewers a little. There really wasn’t one bad sketch, and he had a lot to do with it. He even helped spin two weird sketches, “Scattering Remains” and “Story,” into gold with his commitment and timing.
This episode might not be everyone’s cup of tea, as they went for more slower-paced and awkward humor, but I think SNL delivered a solid entry. After the Slap, it felt like everybody immediately wondered what SNL’s take on it would be, and they hit every single time they touched upon it — the cold open, the monologue, the seat-filler sketch, “Weekend Update” — with consistently funny and original takes. It was a nice reminder that SNL is still the gold standard for topical humor as the only weekly sketch show on the thousands of TV channels or streamers.