Saturday Night Live Recap: Baby, She’s Keke Palmer

Saturday Night Live

Keke Palmer
Season 48 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 5 stars

Saturday Night Live

Keke Palmer
Season 48 Episode 7
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: NBC/Will Heath/NBC

Seldom since “It’s Britney, bitch” has any star asserted her identity with as much dominance as Keke Palmer in her Saturday Night Live debut. During the monologue, the scene-stealing star of Jordan Peele’s Nope recalls wondering early in her career which SNL vet she would model herself after if she ever got to host the show. “And now that I’m here, I can tell you exactly who I am,” she teases with supernatural confidence. “Baby, I’m Keke Palmer.”

She then spends the rest of the show revealing just who that is and why she’s a force to be reckoned with.

This episode is exquisitely tailored to Palmer’s strengths and personality. All the heavy lifting she is tasked with in the Kenan and Kelly sketch draws on her extensive comedy background. A choir-practice sketch gives the veteran recording artist a chance to show off her vocal range. She plays herself in the Drake PSA for reasons that seem personal in more ways than one. (More on that later.) And while it’s easy to forget that sketch acting sometimes requires, you know, actual acting, her histrionics in the Forceington’s Ridge scene hit a perfectly calibrated pitch of over-the-top soap opera thespianism — which is way harder to pull off than it sounds.

She’s Keke Palmer, baby. If you don’t know, now you know.

Beyond the effervescent host, this episode is notable for its steady consistency — with so many successful sketches that choosing the best ones is a challenge. And unlike the other most consistent episode this season, Dave Chappelle’s barn-storming turn in November, this one didn’t have a 15-minute monologue reducing the night’s total number of sketches.

Here are the highlights.


Palmer generated headlines by dramatically revealing her pregnant belly during the monologue. (That’s how it’s done, Greta Gerwig!) Even without that crackling moment, though, this opening is a joy to watch, buoyed equally by Palmer’s palpable excitement at hosting the show and her hilarious story about Laurence Fishburne blowing his top at her in the mid-aughts on the set of Akeelah and the Bee. If anyone has ever been as luminous, charming, funny, and yet somehow still relatable in an SNL monologue before, it’s news to me.

Drake PSA

This one is both a long time coming and extremely relevant to the moment. Drake has forged an entire career from talking out of pocket about countless women, from Rihanna and Nicki Minaj to, presumably, legions of random baristas. However, only last month did Drake put out an album with 21 Savage entitled Her Loss (ugh), featuring the line “I blow a half a million on you hoes, I’m a feminist” (gross), and an unambiguous suggestion that Megan Thee Stallion lied about getting shot by Tory Lanez. (Go to jail, sir.) Palmer presents herself as one of the “United Tingz of Aubrey” — so named to mock Aubrey Drake Graham’s ongoing fascination with Jamaican patois — ostensibly because the “Kiki, do you love me?” section of “In My Feelings” ruined her life for a while. However, one imagines Palmer was also up for this sketch as both a virally famous Megan Thee Stallion stan and someone who was also disrespected by Trey Songz.

Hello Kitty

Much like Drake’s myriad songs about women, the troubling “facts” about Hello Kitty have been a confusing ickfest for far too long, and it’s about time SNL made a killer sketch about it.

Kenan and Kelly

Erstwhile comedy partners Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell have reunited several times since their Nickelodeon series ended 22 years ago — on The Tonight Show in 2015, for instance, and most recently during September’s Emmy award show. This sketch is much more than a reunion, though. Keke Palmer is explosively funny in it, for one thing, pivoting between ’90s-kid comedy rhythms and the lived trauma of growing up in “Chi-raq.” What’s really lovely here, though, is that even before Kel’s triumphant, orange soda-drenched arrival two-thirds of the way through, the sketch honors Kenan and Kel as much as it mocks the trend of revitalizing ancient IP. The CVS receipt-length tab Kelly supposedly owes Kenan is precisely the sort of visual gag that would’ve slayed on Nickelodeon in the ’90s. And you know what? It kind of still does.

Weekend Update

Sometimes on “Update,” the topical jokes are much funnier than the desk pieces, or vice versa, or one of those desk pieces far outshines the other. Not this week, though. On the strongest “Updates” of this season, everything is in harmony, a symbiotic comedy ecosystem. The jokes are sharp, including Michael Che asking of the new bipartisan bill protecting same-sex marriage, “But if I marry a white lady, who’s gonna protect me from my mother?” Michael Longfellow’s reflections on childhood divorce feature more jokes and a more polished delivery than his previous outing at the “Update” desk. And Sarah Sherman proves she can easily hold her own as a topical character during this part of the show rather than just perform her usual (always funny) antagonism of Colin Jost. Also, mercifully, the writers did not reward Elon Musk’s desperate ongoing bid to be the most talked-about person in the world this week with any “Update” coverage — which is probably far more infuriating to him than any roast could be.

Stray Thoughts

• Like Donald Trump before him, Herschel Walker presents SNL with the difficult problem of satirizing someone who speaks exclusively in bonkers quotes. If they have to address him at all, which they may only need to do until next Tuesday’s runoff election, this week’s cold open offers the ideal way to do it: briefly and with clever ideas like how putting a blanket over Walker’s head makes him fall asleep like a parakeet.

• Since the central joke of the ’90s soap sketch is janky stunt-double fight choreography, who’s to say whether the multiple moments where the cameras catch Cecily Strong and Keke Palmer trading places with their counterparts are actual mistakes or intentional displays of jankiness?

• What works best about “Big Boys”, the SZA-assisted ode to the oversize underdogs of cuffing season, is the specificity of why big boys are worth their winter weight in gold. (They can, for instance, “bring in my groceries in just one trip.”)

• This may be overthinking a joke to death, but inflation-induced economic anxiety is the subtext that makes the suspiciously priced “mountains of meat” in the fake Arby’s commercial such a funny premise right now.

• The official caption on the YouTube page for the ultrasound sketch, a sequel to the baby-monitor sketch from Selena Gomez’s episode last season, lists musical guest SZA among the babies played by Bowen Yang and Sherman — a mistake, or was SZA originally meant to play a third baby?

• The best part of the choir-practice sketch is Molly Kearney’s character trying to put some stank on “O Holy Night” with ad libs such as “‘cuz Christ was born in the cityyyy!”

• Smack-dab in the middle of heavy travel season, this sketch cursed us all to listen closely during moments of turbulence for any flight attendants uttering the phrase: “Girl, go get the cable.”

Saturday Night Live Recap: Baby, She’s Keke Palmer