Saturday Night Live Recap: Travis Kelce Scores Lots of Laughs

Saturday Night Live

Travis Kelce
Season 48 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Saturday Night Live

Travis Kelce
Season 48 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating 4 stars
Photo: Will Heath/NBC

Whether they’re willing to admit it or not, sports fans are addicted to drama. They crave story lines that transcend whichever game happens to be on and extend to the entire league, the entire season, and the entire history of sports. This is one of many ways in which Saturday Night Live is like a sport. Hard-core fans aren’t just tuning in for the lols; they’re also monitoring which players might be having a breakout year, whether this year’s team is an improvement over the last, and any other metanarratives that come up throughout the season. This week’s SNL happened to have one of those metanarratives going into it, and it was juicy.

The previous episode had seemed like a sure thing — coming off a double-bye week and with the reliably funny Woody Harrelson at the helm. Instead, it turned out to be the season’s low point so far. Following such a debacle, the team now had something to prove, and the host they would have to prove it with was … the tight end of the Kansas City Chiefs.

SNL has been inviting star athletes to host the show for decades but less so in recent years. Before the decidedly unspectacular JJ Watt episode in February 2020, the last athlete to host who hadn’t also starred in several major action movies was Charles Barkley in 2012. The reason for this lapse is probably because, even more so than musicians, athletes have proved to be a big gamble on SNL. Could the untested Travis Kelce possibly be the one to get this season back on track, restoring the show to the glory days of the Pedro Pascal episode from February?

It turns out he can. This week’s SNL wasn’t just funny; its funniness in the face of unlikely odds and high stakes for the team elevated it into a triumphant underdog story that could share shelf space with Rocky and Rudy. You love to see it.

There’s a difference between athletes who are household names and athletes who are only household names in houses that keep up with sports. Travis Kelce falls into the latter category. His monologue, however, quickly introduced unfamiliar audience members to his public persona: a jacked party animal of the Jason Momoa ilk. He has a lot of presence and a lot of energy, and he is absolutely stoked to be here. Let’s go!

If the monologue established who the host is, Kelce’s first sketch announced the tone of the episode: zany with a chance of horny. Kelce played a creep who is enjoying himself way too much in an American Girl Café—a rather brave role in the age of frivolous groomer accusations. A sketch like this immediately throws down the gauntlet on what the host is willing to do, which in this case is anything. While the JJ Watt episode featured no less than three football-related sketches, this episode instead had three sketches in which the host plays a lightning rod of emergent sexual behavior. And it did not have even one sketch vaguely related to football (not counting the “Cut for Time” sketch).

Here are the highlights:

Mama’s Funeral

That unhinged American Girl Café business was just the writers clearing their throats. The moment a corpse played by Ego Nwodim is unveiled like a painting at her own funeral — “shades on, world out, puffin’ on a menthol” — the guard rails fall away from this episode entirely. There should be nowhere left to go after starting from a place as loony as the Tweety Bird on Nwodim’s T-shirt, but somehow this sketch still (literally) soars through the roof.

Straight Male Friend

Here’s a prime example of an SNL sketch perfectly tailored to the host. A fake ad about the benefits of friendship with a straight male would work to some degree with any number of straight males. Just not as well as it works with a jacked party animal of the Jason Momoa ilk.

Weekend Update

It’s no shade to Kelce that the writers gave this episode a fail-safe by supersizing “Weekend Update” to a staggering 18 minutes. It’s a huge credit to those writers, though, that the extra length didn’t feel like padding. The news of Dilbert creator Scott Adams’s racist tirade alone provides a gold mine of jokes, even before Michael Longfellow’s hilarious desk piece as Dilbert, which playfully mixes played-out workplace humor with jokes about a coming race war.

Sarah’s News (Birthday Edition)

The jewel of this week’s “Update,” though, is when Sarah Sherman commandeers the desk once more to make four minutes’ worth of jokes at Colin Jost’s expense. (And one joke about how she wants to bang Peter Falk.)

Garrett From Hinge

In one memorable sketch, Heidi Gardner plays Travis Kelce’s jealous ex, who spurts out projectile tears at the sight of his new fiancée (Chloe Fineman.) Later, another sketch serves as a sort of spiritual prequel with Gardner and Kelce happily lying in bed together. Their bliss is quickly interrupted, however, by Bowen Yang’s sublime weirdo, “Garrett From Hinge,” who introduces himself that way several times, always affronted that he would have to do so. There’s not much happening here beyond just how weird this weirdo is, but Yang finds unexpected nuances of eccentricity in the character and makes a meal out of it.

Stray Observations

• The Fox & Friends cold open marked the welcome return of James Austin Johnson doing MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for the first time since last fall’s fake Skechers ad. It was also (probably) the first instance of an NBC show depicting a man in a committed relationship with a pillow wife since James Franco appeared on 30 Rock in 2010.

• I’m enjoying this season’s innovation of the Please Don’t Destroy boys increasingly getting out of the office and mixing it up with non-cast members more. Especially when it leads to incredible casting finds like the Russian roulette–playing older lady from this episode’s PDD sketch.

• The tech team did some incredible work with the undetectable tear-spraying squibs on Gardner’s face in the ex-girlfriend sketch.

• I would never in my life have thought of it until Punkie Johnson mentioned it during her charming “Weekend Update” segment with Mikey Day, but Anne Hathaway totally does look like a “Claire.”

• If ringtones were still a thing, I would at least consider finding a way to get James Austin Johnson warbling “I watch from the corner,” from the thruple announcement sketch, onto my phone. Thank God they’re not, though.

• Kelce did an honorable job of not breaking throughout most of the episode — mainly because almost all his characters were written to be constantly smiling — but by the closing “Too Hot to Handle” sketch, the cumulative strain of holding back laughs all night seemed to have taken a Super Bowl–like toll on him, and his defense finally collapsed.

SNL Recap: Travis Kelce Scores Lots of Laughs