Saturday Night Live Recap: Willem Dafoe’s Hosting Debut Underwhelms

Saturday Night Live

Willem Dafoe
Season 47 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating 2 stars

Saturday Night Live

Willem Dafoe
Season 47 Episode 12
Editor’s Rating 2 stars
Photo: Will Heath/NBC

This week Willem Dafoe hosts with musical guest Katy Perry. This is Willem’s first time hosting. I’ve never really seen him do comedy, but he has an intense, weird energy. This type of host actually makes things easy because (1) they’re committed, and commitment is half the battle in comedy, and (2) because they have a signature style, you can place them both against type and in familiar roles. Fans will enjoy it either way.

It’s been an awkward week for SNL cast members. Kanye West is allegedly spreading rumors about Pete. Candace Owens lied about Ego Nwodim’s looks. And Melissa Villaseñor reached out to Latino fans and let them know she’s working hard to get herself on the show (more on this later).

Best Russian Facebook Post

“Neil Young to Remove Music from Spotify Unless Ukraine Surrenders.” SNL kicks off with a White House briefing about the situation at the Ukraine-Russia border. Staff members Ego and Alex show Biden some Russian disinformation news posts on Facebook. They even show a commercial running on “Ukrainian MTV,” where Ukrainian students hope Russia invades. “Because Russia can get it. Periodt.” Pete even stops by as Aaron Rodgers with a heavy Russian accent, calling Jake from Russia to help him with a stalled car. The U.S. fights back by hiring a new secretary of Defense, Mikayla (“spelled the worst way”). I give them credit for trying something new with the cold open, and a PowerPoint sketch always hits, but old people learning about memes is a little played out — shades of the congressional-hearing-on-Facebook sketch here.

Best Wisconsin Accent

Willem Dafoe is glad to be back in New York, where he rented an apartment on Avenue A for $200 a month when he was a struggling actor getting his start. Dafoe admits he can be intense and wishes he could be more subtle, like Nicolas Cage and Al Pacino. When he reveals he was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, two Appleton residents, played by Mikey and Aidy, interrupt him from the audience. They eventually goad him into doing a “real Wisconsin accent.” Willem obliges by inviting everyone to “get a drink from the bubbler.” An okay monologue.

Best Sketch That I May Actually Add to My Playlist

Chris and Kenan premiere a super catchy music video about waking up in the middle of the night. As always, Chris is hysterical here. (“Then I have a full-body spasm. Now I’m up, up, up …”) While watching a late-night infomercial starring Willem and Heidi, Willem lets Chris know he’ll never fall asleep and breaks into a verse of his own. The song ends with Chris wide awake, remembering he’s going to die one day. Excellent chemistry between Chris and Kenan here. Add this to SNL’s list of hilarious digital musical sketches this season, alongside “Ladies Night” and “Squid Game.”

Worst Dog

“Gizmo has bad feet, bad skin, bad teeth, bad anal glands, and a bad brain — the total package.” Willem and Aidy are commentators for the Badminster Dog Show, and according to their index cards, they’re married. They’re here for a dog show which includes Luna, who is afraid of the Netflix start-up sound; Pigeon, who the groomer called manipulative; Blueberry, who is medically unable to be in a car; and Gizmo, who has a weird little penis. Gizmo eventually wins, with owner Chris in the world’s worst haircut. This is the best use of Willem, as his weirdo energy plays well with both Aidy and the dogs. I’m usually not a fan of dogs in sketches since it can be a bit of a cop-out, but here the dogs are actually bad in a way that serves the sketch. It’s reminiscent of Will and Molly’s ”Dog Show,” where Rocky Balboa and Mr. Bojangles shook nervously in their costumes.

Best Secret Solution to Getting It Up After 40

Kenan is Frank Thomas from his ubiquitous Nugenix commercials. Here he lets Mikey know that Nugenix can help you get it up, which Mikey denies having an issue with. Kyle joins them as Doug Flutie. (“Let me guess, you can’t get it hard anymore.”) Finally, Willem Dafoe joins them as himself, who Mikey callss “Sir Willem Dafoe.” (“Sir Willem? I’m not even British.”) And if you’re wondering how they all met each other, it’s from “boner stuff.” After Mikey’s fiancée, Melissa, joins them, we get a demonstration of how well Nugenix helps with boners, as their dicks make a loud, blender-like noise. In a dick-joke-heavy episode, this sketch was good. SNL got to the heart of those weird Nugenix commercials, and Frank Thomas, Doug Flutie, and Willem Dafoe hanging out is so weirdly funny.

Most Surprising Cameo

Peyton Manning didn’t have time to watch the NFL playoffs; he was too busy watching Emily in Paris. Peyton, whose 2007 United Way sketch is an all-timer, returns to break down Emily in Paris. (“A fresh take on feminism … finally.”) Peyton is tremendous here, and it appears his penchant for prepping harder than anyone doesn’t just apply to the football field. He delivers a polished sketch. I almost wonder if they wrote this sketch for a Peyton impression but then asked if he’d do it himself.

Keeping Score

Aidy and Chris are my co-MVPs. Nobody really dominated this episode, as even Punkie, Aristotle, and Melissa got their first lines in over a month. But Chris is again showing he is a star in waiting with hysterical turns in “Dog Show” and “I’m Up,” and Aidy displayed veteran savvy hosting the “Dog Show” and as the “Trend Forecaster.”

Overall this episode was weak and didn’t really use Willem Dafoe well. Willem looked awkward reading his lines, and sketches where he had to play off himself didn’t do him any favors, like the Beauty and the Beast mirror sketch. And speaking of, did a fifth grader join the writing staff? Halfway through the “Blowing Yourself” sketch, I’d heard enough dick jokes for the rest of the year. I have no problem with that type of humor, but “Oh no, the chyron says ‘Blowing’ instead of ‘Knowing’” is beneath these talented writers and cast members. Even the normally bulletproof Please Don’t Destroy struggled a little, as the audience couldn’t quite digest the concept of a 23-year-old man with a 10-year-old friend, and you really don’t want to even reference “hooking up” in this type of sketch.

Back to Melissa, it’s hard to believe she has been on the show for nearly six years. Donald Trump’s infamous 2015 episode of SNL was exacerbated by the fact that the show had no Latino cast members. SNL spent the next four years in damage control, including finally casting a Latina with Melissa joining. But this isn’t the SNL of 1975, with a small cast that can try new things after 11 p.m. SNL is now a machine run by a 77-year-old man, and you can’t force anything new on the machine. Years before, when SNL faced mounting backlash for its lack of Black women, they cast Sasheer Zamata. But as many have learned before her, getting cast and getting on the air are two entirely different worlds. A show with 21 cast members plus a three-person sketch group doesn’t help. Not to mention the revolving door of celebrity cameos, including a certain two-time Super Bowl winner.

SNL has hit some milestones recently. Michael Che surpassed Seth Meyers for most episodes hosting “Weekend Update” with 155. Also, Kate has now been in over 800 SNL sketches. Colin, Michael, and Kate are still crowd favorites, but man, that’s a lot. Going into the three-week break, there was a serious attempt to get everybody some screen time. Combined with the Melissa tweets, perhaps there was an internal discussion about it? Melissa herself got a lot of screen time, though mainly as a straight man. I hope when SNL comes back, we see Punkie, Melissa, and Aristotle get sketches they can really sink their teeth into. Ego, who started off the season with a few great sketches, has also faded a little into the background. If you have talented cast members who don’t fit the usual sketches, you can unlock some really funny and unique sketches by working a little harder to explore what they’re good at. I think at this point we’ve seen enough jokes about Beauty and the Beast and The Sound of Music.

Saturday Night Live Recap: Willem Dafoe’s Hosting Debut