Saturday Night Live
Though established celebrity is a given for most hosts, SNL still occasionally makes way for a (relatively) new face who has just had their first breakout role. And why not? The Zimbabwe-raised Brit Regé-Jean Page is everywhere since the December release of Netflix’s Regency-era romance Bridgerton. He’s a charming bit of eye candy — something the squeals from the audience remind us of again and again (and again and again) — and best known as the brooding Duke of Hastings, but he’s not such a known quantity that writers are hemmed in by an established celebrity persona. Consequently, there’s plenty of room for play — not just for him, but for the cast and even musical guest Bad Bunny, too.
As usual, this week’s sketches are presented here ranked from best to worst.
Britney Spears Cold Open
In light of receiving many online apologies after the release of Framing Britney Spears, Spears (Chloe Fineman) hosts a talk show that invites on guests who just might need to apologize for something. Once again, it’s nice to see the writers take on some of the week’s headlines in an unexpected package; in this case, it’s cornrowed Ted Cruz (Aidy Bryant) back from Cancun, Andrew Cuomo (Pete Davidson) shamefacedly apologizing about nursing home deaths, and] Mandalorian actor Gina Carano (Cecily Strong) not backing down after being fired by Lucasfilm for her “abhorrent and unacceptable” social-media posts. For various reasons, Fineman seems to be the only one doing a fully fleshed-out impression, but it’s easy to overlook because the sketch has a great energy. The give-and-take between the chiding Spears and her guests, and the guests with one another, is playful. Once everyone is skewered, the writers make sure Cruz remains the lowest of the low.
Update starts with a solid dig on Ted Cruz, who continues to provide a target throughout the segment. Both Michael Che and Colin Jost have cutting jokes about the outages in Texas, in particular one about how these kinds of failures are well understood by the poor, and one about conservatives’ ridiculous attempts to assign blame. It’s a really solid segment throughout, capped off by an appearance from Pete Davidson. He discusses moving out of his mom’s house in Staten Island, New York real estate, and earning enough money to afford New York real estate. The best barbs he reserves for himself, including one about how photos of himself without a shirt on look like “a toddler went to prison.”
The second chunk includes a couple of good jokes about the landing of the Mars rover. One, a gag about the rover’s Twitter account, is spot on even if the audience doesn’t love it; the other, well, sometimes you just need a reminder about Uranus. One more Jost bit, about a potential “no touching” rule for priests, is subtle and excellent. Then Heidi Gardner comes on as Jesse Raunch, a woman in a mutual aid organization dressed like Freddy Krueger. There’s not much of a character here, and it’s got a pretty limited scope, so it’s a bit less impressive than much of Gardner’s features on Update.
After a year of pandemic living, Ego Nwodim — or, say, her proxy — is losing it. She’s looking like the girl from The Ring, talking to her plants, and fantasizing about nights out with hot guys (Page). The filmed musical sketch hits directly on that cumulative frustration and unease that has hit a lot of people over the winter. Nwodim does a great job of illustrating both the fantasy and the reality behind pandemic living, and the song itself is a genuine earworm. It might even be something worth listening to more than once? While Pete Davidson’s verse echoes Nwodim’s concerns, it doesn’t add all that much. Bad Bunny’s cameo as Nwodim’s plant, Reggie, is a fun one. The fact that he was willing to bop around in a plant costume says something about his character.
With the “Wellerman” sea shanty recently everywhere on TikTok, this sketch imagines a new recruit (Andrew Dismukes) on a whaling ship with hardened sea dogs singing their hearts out. Their friends are bugs, their wives are various kinds of apertures, and they’ll probably die at sea, but they love belting a tune. There’s a lot of information packed into these snatches of songs, and it’s a little hard to make everything out on the first go, but there are a lot of worthy details here. The ensemble brings a heartiness to the swaying and shouting, making their inevitable death at sea seem like a real joy. Bad Bunny pops up again in this sketch, as the ship’s inept navigator, showing that he not only has a sense of humor but is genuinely funny, too.
Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” is such an emotional tour de force, even a crowd of guys playing pool in a bar can’t resist singing along with it, debating its lyrics and crying cathartically to it. Once again, there’s a nice ensemble feeling, and some sweet little moments of vulnerability here and there. (Kate McKinnon’s old man says it best: “I got my driver’s license 55 years ago, why is this hitting me so hard?”) While, yeah, it’s meant to play on stereotypes of dudes, more than anything it’s a love letter to “Drivers License.” The end just becomes a pleasant singalong; while you can do the same thing at home, Regé-Jean Page unfortunately won’t be there.
Let’s Say Grace
Two families meet up for the first time, and before they eat, they engage in a kind of blessing competition to see which family can give the best benediction. It’s a friendly, loving game of one-upmanship, but ultimately, the white family is no match for the Black family’s big musical number. It’s joyful and silly and lots of careful specifics go by in a blur — e.g., the “Holy Trinity” isn’t just “Earth, Wind and Fire,” it’s just the first in a trio of pop groups that all play on the power of three. Also, if you’ve been waiting for the day you’d see Beck Bennett do the worm, this it it. And it’s great, despite that while Bennett flails, Heidi Gardner fears for her face.
Mr. Chicken Legs Pageant
This contest aims to find and celebrate the “grown man with the skinniest legs.” What we see is the talent competition, with contestants doing tricks that emphasize the scrawniness of their lower limbs. The concept and the visuals — including Mikey Day’s leg-related magic act and Pete Davidson scampering around in a Jack Skellington costume — are goofy fun. While the real attention is focused on the guys’ diminutive ankles and slender calves, there’s a sideshow about a frustrated host (Page) and his vapid cohost (Chloe Fineman). The script doesn’t give either of them much. However, as a crooner singing bits of the “Mr. Chicken Legs” theme song, Cecily Strong pretty much steals the show.
Regé-Jean Page Monologue
Yes, yes, everyone knows him as the “smoldering, sensual” duke from Bridgerton, but Page insists he’s shy, he’s playing a character, and he has range. The SNL ladies (Aidy Bryant, Ego Nwodim, and Chloe Fineman) play our swooning proxies as Page tosses off sexy asides and sings a snatch of “Unchained Melody.” While Page dutifully indulges the fantasies of everyone at home, the cast really sells its giddy infatuation. Sure, it may not take all that much work, but it makes this intro into something fun. Bryant’s last line sums up both the sketch and the rest of the show, too: “We have other sketch ideas where you’re not being an extremely hot sex man.”
Because actors just don’t get enough media attention, talk show host Pam Barrett (Ego Nwodim) welcomes Kingsley Ben-Adir (Page), Daniel Kaluuya (Chris Redd), and Ice Cube (Kenan Thompson) on to talk about their latest projects — and their British accents. There’s nothing deep about this sketch, and there’s only so far a terrible British accent can carry things. Still, it’s clever to turn Thompson’s accent limitations into a gag, and both Nwodim and Thompson do everything they can to keep things aloft. The final twist, in which Hugh Grant (Alex Moffat) recognizes ol’ Coldy Squares from Tickle Buckle Circle, is enjoyable, too.
The Grocery Rap
As a trio of young dudes (Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, Andrew Dismukes) shoot their funny rap in the grocery store, they ignore repeated warnings to put on masks. It’s another angle on Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney’s fascination with the aesthetics of ’80s culture, and naturally throws in overtly stiff acting, too. Though the gag is about the boys’ willful ignorance, and their own particular brand of COVID-induced mania, there’s also a lot of knowingly dumb, early-Beastie-Boys-esque rhymes about cereal and dairy. The guys deliver a fun crying jag in the middle of it all, but anyone who isn’t already sold on Bennett and Mooney sketches probably won’t feel it.
Bridgerton Intimacy Coordinator
On the set of Bridgerton, Page and Pheobe Dynevor (Chloe Fineman) prepare for their big sex scene, and must endure the advice of former special effects guys Richie and Randy (Mikey Day and Pete Davidson). Given the subject matter and broad characters, it isn’t difficult to guess where things are going. Day and Davidson are both fine here, but neither of them have the acting chops to turn a C+ character talking about dong bags into an A sketch. There are some unexpected little turns, as when the show’s director (Kate McKinnon) imagines how the actors might rewrite some of the terrible dialogue offered by these tools.
The Job Interview
A boss (Beck Bennett) interviews a potential new recruit (Page) to work at an ad agency that works entirely on spec. Their missteps, including putting dicks on ads, are many. This feels like a willful flip of the sponcon SNL has been doing for the last few years; I mean, who’d want attention for their product if that attention is naughty, right? The pool-noodle battle kinda comes out of nowhere, but some of the ad conceits are funny. The note-leaving assistant (Bowen Yang) is a good runner, and may be the best bit of the sketch.
As if to prove the underlying assumption of “Actors Spotlight,” Regé-Jean Page easily slips into a number of little worlds — and provides a different accent for just about every one of them. He never seems as though he’s looking for his mark or reading the cue cards, and he does even the silly stuff with gusto. It’s also rewarding to see Bad Bunny show off his comic side; just the fact that he sings “Te Deseo lo Mejor” with his new WWE belt across his lap is its own kind of gag. In general, there aren’t any outright bombs and there are some moments in which a lot of cast work well as a whole, but there are a number of middling sketches, too. Next week, SNL returns with what may be the last of a six-week run, with host and musical guest Nick Jonas.