Saturday Night Live
Though still primarily known as a pop star and one of the (reunited) Jonas Brothers, Nick Jonas has slowly been adding additional credits to his CV. And it isn’t only things like becoming a coach on The Voice; Jonas featured in Midway, the Jumanji movies, and the Fox series Scream Queens. While none of these have really brought out some new, vibrant aspect of Jonas’s character, the screen time has begot more screen time. Now, upon the release of a new solo album and appearance in the upcoming adaptation of YA favorite Chaos Walking, Jonas returns to studio 8H as both musical guest (a role he’s filled before both solo and with the JoBros) and as host, a role he’s stepping into for the first time. While he’s got enough ease with the camera to leap over any initial stilted, wooden stage, he shows more presence than comic chops; no, not every pop star will slide into things at 8H as easily as Justin Timberlake.
As usual, this week’s sketches are presented here ranked from best to worst.
Two friends (Mikey Day, Chris Redd) try out a fitness mirror, which features a cast of rotating workout gurus (Jonas, Heidi Gardner) — and a woman called Shannon Delgado (Kate McKinnon), who seems to be trapped in the mirror by a malevolent force. The first appearance of the slightly frumpy, confused middle-aged lady is a great little shock, and McKinnon plays her muted panic perfectly. This sketch feels like something Day must have imagined, in that it tackles some strange, inexplicable but incredibly specific phenomenon that becomes an obsession for at least one other person in the sketch. Azuzal (Pete Davidson), the demon in the mirror, may make his only appearance here but it seems likely that Shannon Delgado will return in a future episode.
Though Update starts by evaluating the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill that just passed in the House, one of the best jokes comes with a mention of Trump. (For a preview of his keynote address at CPAC tonight, “Give your grandpa cocaine.”) Michael Che zings first the Democrats for their inability to get truly angry, and then Joe Biden for his pandering idea to put vaccine hubs in Black churches. Both make fine points, and he’s got a fun joke about Jersey beaches, to boot. Kenan Thompson returns as self-promoting hype man LaVar Ball, touting LaMelo’s rookie year with the Charlotte Hornets, among other things. This character is well-established and firmly set, but it’s hard to overstate just how good Thompson is at selling what could otherwise be mediocre material. His glee is entirely infectious.
The second segment of Update is a mixed bag, but Che does offer one of the best jokes of the night as he pivots from the coronavirus in Black communities to police brutality in the same. Cecily Strong comes on as Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was in the news this week for ugly behavior concerning a colleague’s transgender child. Strong is in her element here, taking on an outsized, political personality and playing word games with her already outrageous comments. Her play on the ol’ “milk milk, lemonade” rhyme is great (if unsettling), and her strange demonic sneeze is incredible. The latter is a testament to Strong’s physical comedy prowess.
Vaccine Game Show Cold Open
With so much confusion about who can get the vaccine, Anthony Fauci (Kate McKinnon) welcomes governors Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, and Gretchen Whitmer (Alex Moffat, Pete Davidson, and Cecily Strong) to evaluate “contestants” who are just trying to get a jab. The premise certainly hits on one of the big anxieties of Americans looking forward to some sort of post-COVID life, and McKinnon ushers the sketch from bit to bit with aplomb. There are a lot of gags that feel wedged in, as with Ted Cruz’s CPAC stand-up routine, but there are enough specific scams and complaints from the citizenry to keep things aloft. Again, it’s nice to feel the writers playing with unusual conceits in the cold open, when they could easily just mimic a cable talk show.
This filmed piece catches a crew of SNL ladies (Chloe Fineman, Kate McKinnon, Melissa Villaseñor, Ego Nwodim) taking advantage of their significant others being out of the house by relaxing with a night of shows about murder. The song is catchy, it hits on a very real obsession many women have with serial killers, and it rhymes “autopsy” with “Munchausen by proxy.” While this focuses on the juxtaposition between the gore and the ladies’ benign activities (e.g., eating pizza, doing taxes), it would be nice to hear it touch on the psychology behind the obsession, too. Jonas’s brief appearance as NXIVM guru Keith Raniere and Villaseñor’s confession about baking shows are both nice gags in the last minute of the sketch.
When the prince (Jonas) shows up at Cinderella’s home in search of his future wife, the glass slipper his lady-love lost on the night of the ball is hella tiny. The sketch has two tiny acts: The first one uncovers the mystery of the slipper, the second finds the prince denying some unsettling behavior with an enchanted, singing mouse (Aidy Bryant). Though Byrant is great as the cheerful rodent, the mystery (and the prince’s general ignorance) is a lot more fun than the details of and fallout from the encounter. Kenan Thompson slips in as the prince’s footman here and there; though Kate McKinnon’s stepmother gets the biggest line, Thompson ekes out the funniest moments.
Out at a bar for the first time since coronavirus quarantines began, a man (Jonas) and woman (Kate McKinnon) flirt and fall in love. A simple plot, but the joy here comes with the many little gags the writers have used to subvert the standard meet-cute. (For my money, the best one is about the woman’s knuckle tattoos and her love for haberdashery.) This is one of Jonas’s leading roles, and while he’s able to match McKinnon’s tone, his delivery doesn’t offer a lot of comic nuance. It works fine, though, in part because of the sheer volume of clever little gags that keep the sketch moving. Also, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a kitten mewing in Lauren Holt’s arms in the corner of the set, and McKinnon is doing her best to keep from laughing.
Dionne Warwick Talk Show: Nick Jonas, Dua Lipa
The plainspoken but discursive Dionne Warwick (Ego Nwodim) grills Jonas, the Weeknd (Kenan Thompson), Dua Lipa (Melissa Villaseñor), and Machine Gun Kelly (Pete Davidson) on whatever it is she wants to know. The tone of this sketch, exemplified by Nwodim’s slightly dotty Warwick, is really what it has going for it. The guest impressions don’t add much here, and we don’t hear a whole lot from Warwick’s niece Brittani (Punkie Johnson), but Warwick’s terse examinations and non sequiturs keep things interesting. And the live cockatoo upstages everyone by squawking for 30 seconds before it appears, then looking entirely uncomfortable on the arm of an animal handler (Andrew Dismukes). This sketch also contains the inevitable reference to Jonas’s marriage with Priyanka Chopra.
During a bachelor party for Mickey (Beck Bennett), his pals (Jonas, Kyle Mooney, Bowen Yang, Alex Moffat, Mikey Day) hire a couple of strippers and share that most intimate of experiences: getting boners next to one another. This pre-taped musical number lets just about every character have a little monologue moment: the family man, the wedding out-of-towner, the soon to be brother-in-law. Each of them have slightly different motivations for wanting to get hard with pals. The writers have touched on an odd element of the bachelor party, and the first reveal is great. But otherwise, yeah, it’s much ado about boners, and the strippers acknowledge as much when all is said and done.
Nick Jonas Monologue
Jonas lays out the particulars: He’s part of the JoBros, he’s from New Jersey, and he has done musicals in the past. Kevin Jonas drops by to make sure the brothers are still doing the band, and then cast members join Nick onstage to sing a slightly altered version of “Drink With Me” from Les Mis. Kevin’s cameo has some fun lines (“’MMMBop,’ was that us?”) and there are a couple of nice quarantine-related observations in the rejiggered song. There’s not so much a thread as a few funny little ideas packed together, but this is better than a belabored intro when there’s a chance to keep a sketch that might otherwise be cut.
While waiting in line for a ride at a theme park, a bunch of high-school juniors (Jonas, Ego Nwodim, Heidi Gardner, Mikey Day) talk about who will ride together; the odd man out is a kid they call Cuck (Kyle Mooney), who carries a life-size doll of the jazz pianist from Pixar’s Soul. This is primarily about the dissembling teens will go through in order to avoid talking about their true feelings; the diction and behavior feel true-to-life. As a sketch, though, it doesn’t have far to go. There’s quite a bit of repetition and the outcome feels preordained. And you gotta feel for poor Mooney, who plays the fifth wheel whether he writes the sketches for himself or not.
With Jonas doing double duty as host and musical guest, it’s apparent where his primary talents lie. While he keeps up in sketches, he’s much more assured and impressive while performing his songs. He could return as a host, sure, but there’s room for improvement. As far as individual sketches go, the writers found something genuinely fun with Shannon Delgado in “Workout Mirror,” and “Murder Show” joins a steady stream of fun musical numbers in the past several weeks. And though the monologue was kept short, there’s a bro-tastic “Home Makeover” sketch that still got cut; it’s worth watching nevertheless. The next live show was announced on air: Maya Rudolph and musical guest Jack Harlow, on March 27. It seems SNL has found its corona-restricted groove by doing series of six or more shows, so expect a steady run until the end of the season.
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