Idris Elba charms on the ever-rare consistent episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Idris Elba & Khalid
March 9, 2019

I KNOW THIS IS LATE AND I AM SORRY. I was on a plane when this episode originally aired, and while I guess I could have watched it on YouTube sometime last week I did not because of reasons. (I didn’t want to.) But I’m here now and am happy to report that last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Idris Elba, was a remarkably solid and consistent episode in an otherwise fairly sloppy season.

Idris Elba seemed genuinely thrilled to be hosting, the sketches were (for the most part) clever and none of them dragged on past their welcome, and did I mention the part where Idris Elba was the host? Because honestly, Idris Elba could just stand there being handsome for 90 minutes and it would still be a better episode of Saturday Night Live than the one Halsey hosted.

OOOOH, BURN, EPISODE OF SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOSTED BY HALSEY.

The cold open avoids politics for a refreshing change, instead tackling that completely bonkers interview Gayle King conducted with R. Kelly. In the event that you have been in a coma for the past two or three months — or 25 years — the guy who sings “I Believe I Can Fly” has been accused of raping young women and keeping a harem of women against their will in what is described as a cult. This asshole sat down for an interview with Gayle King a couple of weeks ago and proceeded to lose his damn mind, screaming at King and pacing around the interview while sobbing that he wasn’t the devil or something. It was insane.

In fact, it was almost too insane to spoof — almost. Kenan Thompson looks nothing like Kelly and in no way conveys the sense of menace that he radiated during the interview. Instead, Thompson leans into Kelly’s ridiculously inflated ego and misplaced victimhood and makes a misogynistic child rapist just seem … silly, which honestly might be the most profound way to hurt a narcissist like R. Kelly. While Thompson does most of the heavy lifting in the sketch, Jones does manage to capture the anger simmering under King’s calm demeanor. All in all, it was a successful spoof of one of this year’s most preposterous pop culture moments.

Grade: A

Idris Elba’s monologue is all about how Idris Elba broke into the business. The only remarkable thing about the story is that there was ever a time that Idris Elba wasn’t IDRIS ELBA because I mean, JUST LOOK AT HIM. Anyway, it’s not bad but it’s also not particularly memorable.

Grade: B

“Can I Play That” is “actors’ least favorite game,” in which actors evaluate whether they can play a certain role without huge backlash — a person who can see playing a blind character, for instance (and the answer is: “No, you can’t play that.”) It’s a swipe at Twitter, identity politics and cancel culture all at once, but even someone as obnoxious about political correctness as I am can recognize this shit is funny.

Also, bonus points for

“Can you play James Bond?”

Idris Elba: “I know that one!”

Grade: A

So, have you heard about this Momo thing? With the bird lady and the driving kids to suicide (which has not actually happened)? Well, Momo is selling fried chicken now.

Grade: B+

Teams of office workers make PowerPoint presentations, and one team made up of middle-aged secretaries struggle with the program. This is 1. a dumb idea for a sketch and 2. I feel like the bad slides could have been even funnier (although the music video one was hilarious) but 3. I enjoyed it anyway, thanks to Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon’s chemistry. It’s hard not to love those two when they team up.

Grade: B+

The best bit of the night is this digital short in which when angered, Idris Elba becomes “The Impossible Hulk” — an emboldened white woman with a cell phone and a sense of entitlement. I can’t love this more.

Grade: A+

In contrast, there’s “The Gold Diggers,” a sketch about a group of men who aspire to be the boyfriends and husbands of WNBA players to get their hands on the basketball players’ thousands of dollars, 2-bedroom condos, and Toyota Camrys. I wanted to like this bit but I could never shake the feeling that the WNBA players — and not the “gold diggers” themselves — were the butt of this joke. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive.

Grade: B-

Weekend Update was pretty good this week, maybe because it was shorter than usual. “Paul Manafort, who looks like he was born divorced … ” and “Batman turns 80 this month, which explains his arch-nemesis: Jamaican nurse,” both made me quite literally laugh out loud.

Grade: A-

So, remember that Heidi Gardner character who worked for Goop but couldn’t remember all of the bullshit about the Goop products and began panicking when she realized that Gwyneth Paltrow might be watching? Well, she’s back and getting an assist from Gwyneth Paltrow because GWYNETH PALTROW TOTALLY HAS A SENSE OF HUMOR ABOUT HERSELF AND CAN TAKE A JOKE, YOU GUYS. SERIOUSLY. SHE’S IN ON THE JOKE AND DOESN’T TAKE HERSELF AS SERIOUSLY AS YOU THINK. REALLY, THOUGH.

Grade: B

Pete Davidson comes out to say stuff that offends people again. This time, he pisses off the Catholics by comparing the Catholic Church to R. Kelly. On the one hand, “Catholic leaders” need to just step back: while R. Kelly and Michael Jackson are monsters, their crimes barely scratch the surface of the what the Catholic church has perpetrated for decades … centuries … since the beginning of the church. On the other hand, Davidson’s larger point here is to justify continuing listening to R. Kelly and Michael Jackson which, OH HELL NO.

But then also he addresses dating Kate Beckinsale. He frames it as though he’s defending their age difference, but I can see through you, Pete Davidson, and I know this is just your way of bragging that you’re dating Kate Beckinsale.

Grade: B-

Finally, Leslie Jones shares her funeral plans, and can I just say that if renting out Aquaman dressed as Khal Drogo is an option, sign me up.

Grade: B+

In a sketch that is not on YouTube for reasons I don’t understand — is it because they use a short clip from the English Premier League? — Elba plays a dumb soccer player who, while being interviewed by two commentators, says dumb things. It’s not a great bit, but as someone for whom English Premier League Football serves as the soundtrack to all of her weekends thanks to her husband’s obsession, it rang true.

Grade: B

Here, Elba is a magician — dressed as a vampire, for some reason — whose regular, and shorter assistant is replaced by Leslie Jones. Jones shows off her physical humor chops but the dark twist ending left me a little cold. It’s not that it’s dark as much as it just felt tacked on.

Grade: B-

In the final sketch of the night, a group of actors “celebrate” the news that one of them landed a television role. Mostly this is just an excuse for Beck Bennett to stomp around the stage and shout a lot.

Grade: C

Cut for time is this sketch about a new cast member who keeps being cut for time. ~cough~ Luke Null ~cough~

Grade: B+

Final Grade: B+ Not bad!

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

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