John Cena is brawny and brainy on an uneven ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
John Cena & Maren Morris
December 10, 2016

Having an athlete host Saturday Night Live is something of a crap shoot. Some athletes are naturally charismatic and funny, like Charles Barkley and the Manning brothers, but for the most part, these are not people who have much in the way of comic timing or acting abilities.

But you know who have both of those skills in spades? Professional wrestlers. And professional wrestler John Cena is an undeniably charming individual with clearly a good sense of humor about himself. The only real surprise about his hosting of SNL is that it took this long to happen. Unfortunately for John Cena and his comedy talents, he was underserved by the writing on an uneven episode of Saturday Night Live last night.

Some sketches played on Cena’s physique and athleticism hilariously, others felt like half-good ideas gone wrong. One political sketch was one of the best they’ve done all season, another was a complete waste of time. It was just all over the place. Maybe when Cena returns — and hopefully he will return — the writing will be as strong as his weirdly giant muscles.

Alec Baldwin did not anticipate that he would still be doing his Donald Trump impersonation for Saturday Night Live for another four years — who could have? — and presumably he will not be available for every single cold open, no matter what ridiculous thing (things) Trump might have done that week. And so we are left with this, a lukewarm joke about how Trump’s cabinet is filled with awful people, and haha, it wouldn’t be half-surprising if Trump appointed Walter White to head the DEA and the only thing that keeps that from actually being an actual reality is that Walter White is a fictional character. Yes, it’s great that they brought Bryan Cranston on for a guest spot, but even his appearance doesn’t make this sketch much better. I will give points for the phrase “Alt-good” and for its brevity, though.

Grade: B-

I actually liked this John Cena opening monologue, mostly because it threatened to be a musical number and I was all, “OH BROTHER.” But then to my delight it veered to the left and became a bit about wrestling. Related: I would definitely watch a Cena/Jones match and I hate wrestling.

Grade: B+

The first sketch of the night is a spoof of an MTV dating show (do they even have those anymore?) wherein the contestant falls for the host because the host is John Cena. This is a thin concept to begin with but then to end it with two of the male contestants kissing — DO YOU GET IT? THEY’RE DUDES AND THEY’RE KISSING AND EWW! — just makes me so angry. Please, writers’ room, it’s time to graduate from 7th grade already.

Grade: C 

This digital spoof of the Karate Kid is fine. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s fine.

Grade: B

In this sketch, John Cena plays a college football player who insists on earning his grades, and so his professors oblige him. It’s one of the funnier sketches of the night, scoring points on both concept and execution. Also, college sports are dumb and corrosive!

Grade: A

It’s another episode of “Dykes & Fats”! And it’s still funny, but maybe not as funny as the first time around!

Grade: A-

Here is your “Weekend Update,” which, especially in the absence of a Donald Trump spoof at the top of the episode, feels a little toothless.

Kate McKinnon is a genius, and her Angela Merkel is very good but this whole bit feels like something of a shrug.

Grade: B

I’m always made uncomfortable by the “Cathy Anne” character on “Weekend Update.” The truth is, this conspiracy-minded addict reminds me of someone in my life and it’s literally too real for me.

Grade: Null

“Where’d Your Money Go” is an example of a sketch that is terrific in concept, but just didn’t live up to its potential. Athletes CAN be very dumb with their money! John Daley IS a ridiculous human being! This is all excellent comedy fodder! But somewhere along the way it just sort of loses steam. Also, a friendly suggestion: how about limiting yourselves to one game show sketch an episode, guys.

Grade: B-

In this weird, underdeveloped sketch, poor Joanne finds out how much her co-workers value her in a most unfortunate way. Where did this even come from?

Grade: C+

“Through Donald’s Eyes” imagines the world as Trump must see it, in which he is a John Cena lookalike with giant hands and the news is either “fantastic” and “huge” via Fox News or “LIES LIES LIES” from the failing New York Times. Scathing and clever and far more insightful than anything else in this episode, this sketch truly gets into the psychology of our Petulant-elect.

Grade: A+

I get it: someone in the writers’ room said, “I know! We could make John Cena a romance novel cover guy! He’s got all those chest muscles and stuff!” and then they had to write a sketch to build around that flimsy idea and this is what they came up with.

Grade: C

This sketch about a puking, shitting owl on an America’s Got Talent-like competition show is, appropriately enough, the final sketch of the night. I just … I don’t have anything on this. I just … I don’t. A question, though, for the writers about this: on a scale from 1 to Chong, just how high were you guys when you wrote this?

Grade: B-

Final Grade: C+

What did you think?

big hands trump snl cena.png

Next week: Casey Affleck & Chance the Rapper

Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.

One thought on “John Cena is brawny and brainy on an uneven ‘Saturday Night Live’

  1. “I’m here because I burned some bridges at Wendy’s.”

    “Did they put you in a male prison?” “They put you where they put you, Michael Che.”

    “Everybody needs to get off the damn internet for a few days. Including Donald Trunk. – I know he’s watching.”

    “In the words of my hero Michelle Robama, ‘They go low, I get high.'”

    Cathy Ann killed me this week. Cena was great!

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