Saturday Night Live
RuPaul & Justin Bieber
February 8, 2019
I’m just going to be honest: there are some people who host Saturday Night Live who I am just completely incapable of grading fairly because I love them so much. RuPaul Charles, Mama Ru, the Queen of Drag, is one of those people. RuPaul is unquestionably the world’s most famous drag queen, having managed to break into straight pop culture awareness back in 1993 with his single “Supermodel” and then bringing the universe of drag into all of our homes with RuPaul’s Drag Race, his drag competition series that started out as a spoof of Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model, but which has become so much more. RuPaul, more than anyone else, is responsible for making drag culture part of the popular lexicon. But more than that, RuPaul helped create a more understanding, and accepting culture, giving drag queens and transwomen agency over their identities instead of just being the butt of jokes.
One of my few pop culture bragging rights is that I saw RuPaul in a small teen club in Houston, Texas in 1986. A 6’4″ black man in platform boots, what appears to be football shoulder pads covered in streamers and little else, flanked by two shirtless men in tight pants and brandishing toy guns, all singing “Starbooty, Starbooty, Starbooty, yeaaaaaaaah! Starbooty, Starbooty, Starbooty, awwwwww!” in falsetto — it left quite the impression on a 13-year-old me. It was wild and funny and unlike anything I had ever seen before, and in a small way it shaped me. The performance begins at the 1:20 mark in the video below.
And this is going a long way to basically say, no matter how Mama Ru did on Saturday Night Live, no matter what garbage they gave her to work with, she was going to come away with a high grade from yours truly.
The only upside of the endless Democratic primary debates is that it gives fodder for SNL Democratic debate parodies, and a chance to bring back the always delightful Jason Sudeikis. And though after Iowa it’s looking increasingly less likely that Elizabeth Warren is going to be the nominee, I sure wish she would be only if we could have more of Kate McKinnon’s great impersonation of her.
RuPual’s monologue wasn’t hilarious, but it was him: accessible, funny, inspiring and sweet.
A black family challenges a white family in a high-stakes game of charades in this bit, and don’t play by the rules to the irritation of the white family. But even when they do play by their rules, they still win. I can’t explain why this works, but it’s great.
Turns out Chad is the next generation of drag superstardom … or not. This bit is dependent on how much you like the whole “Chad” thing, or how funny the idea of Pete Davidson in drag is to you.
I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening in this sketch in which Cecily Strong and RuPaul are typically quiet coworkers at a birthday dinner who suddenly become adamant defenders of a third woman at the table when it comes time to split the check. But then, something clicked at the end of the sketch and I GOT IT: THEY ARE DOING DESIGNING WOMEN. They are doing the whole strident Dixie Carter giving a self-righteous speech thing! I get it! I liked it, but I also wondered if the reference was obvious enough to other people?
The commercial spoof of the night is for a game called Boop-It (based on an actual toy-game thing called a Bop-It — which I only know because my kids have one). The dad is incompetent at playing it and it drives him to drink. ACCURATE.
In my favorite sketch of the night, THE LIBRARY IS OPEN and RuPaul READS TO THE CHILDREN.
Forgive me if everyone already knows all of this, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with RuPaul’s Drag Race or drag vocabulary in general, to “read” someone is to wittily insult them by pointing out their flaws. On the show, RuPaul will do a segment where he declares “the library is open” and the queens must read each other. It’s hilarious.
ANYWAY, this whole sketch was fucking perfect.
Between the Super Bowl, the Iowa caucuses, the Senate impeachment trial, the State of the Union, Rush Limbaugh receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Prayer Breakfast, and Trump’s batshit insane acquittal “celebration,” “Weekend Update” had PLENTY of material after this shitshow of a week and they did not disappoint.
“Say what you want about Rush Limbaugh.”
Chloe Fineman stopped by the “Weekend Update” desk to demonstrate how she landed a spot on the cast. Her Timothy Chalamet is great and points for doing a great Scarlett Johansson impersonation right next to ScarJo’s fiancé.
For a crack head, Cathy Anne is quite politically astute.
It was bold for Saturday Night Live to revisit the “thirsty cops” sketch, considering when they did this sketch originally last season with Seth Meyers, it riled up a lot of people who don’t think sexual harassment is funny, including the Baltimore Police Union. (I gave the sketch a hard F last time.) But here we are again, this time ogling Pete Davidson. I still think it’s gross, but if I’m being honest, RuPaul made me laugh a time or two.
In the final sketch of the night, Bryant and McKinnon are a pair of old biddies who reminisce with their mutual ex-husband, RuPaul’s character, about the good old days of New York City: 1994 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. I can’t give it a high grade because it’s not particularly funny. But that said, for a number of weird personal reasons that I will not get into here, this sketch cuts JUST A LITTLE TOO CLOSE TO THE BONE FOR YOURS TRULY.
It’s a shame Bowen Yang wasn’t used more in this episode. This sketch cut for time in which he and RuPaul play feuding mine bosses shows us the chemistry we were all denied:
Final Grade: A-.
Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC.