Dan Levy charms in a hit or miss ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Dan Levy & Phoebe Bridgers
February 6, 2021

I’d call Dan Levy a national treasure, but he’s Canadian, so technically we don’t have any claim to him. Still! We get to borrow him from time to time, including last night when he hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time. The creator of Schitt’s Creek was light, charming, and did the best with what he had to work with: which was a mixed bag. None of the sketches were terrible or offensive — so credit where credit is due, I guess — but a couple of them just didn’t land the way I think the writers hoped. Still, all in all, it was a competent episode helmed by a talented and enthusiastic host who I would love to see return to the 8H stage in the future.

Hey did you know it’s Super Bowl Sunday? I kinda did! But don’t ask me who’s playing because who cares! The cold open is a Super Bowl pregame show that that goes on too long, is all over the place, and relies too much on impersonations of sports commentators and figures. “Do we need this many hosts?” asks “Phil Sims” early on, and I’m inclined to agree.

Aidy Bryant is … I’m guessing the coaches of both teams? Again, I have no idea what is happening today, so I’m just going on context clues — but the most impressive part of her impersonations is that she goes from these costumes to an entire third costume and wig for Dan Levy’s monologue just a few minutes later.

Easily the best part of this cold open is the Super Bowl commercials which are unabashedly political, particularly the Papa John’s ad. If this sketch had just been more of that, this would have earned an easy A.

Grade: B+

Dan Levy’s monologue is all about the COVID protections the show is implementing to keep everyone safe, including putting his father, the comedy legend Eugene Levy, in a quarantine box. It is not a terrible monologue and Dan Levy’s delightful personality shines, but the audience just does not seem that into it and the whole thing just lacks energy —  though through no fault of Levy.

Grade: B

In this sketch, Dan Levy is a Universal Studios tour guide trainee who makes inappropriate jokes about Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and Seinfeld, derailing the tram tour. The jokes are puerile, but they work, and anyone who has been on one of these obnoxiously smarmy tours can appreciate the idea of taking the piss out of them.

Grade: A-

The best bit of the night is this ad for Zillow, the new porn for people in their late 30s. As someone well past her late 30s: can confirm.

Grade: A+

Oh, it is yet another pandemic pod sketch. Unlike last week’s pandemic pod sketch, no one gets arrested for storming the Capitol. Instead, a group of friends who have been SUPER CAREFUL gets together to watch the Super Bowl, the masks come off, and then they all reveal all of the little ways they have been violating basic safety measures, like giving mouth massages and participating in wrestling clubs. And it’s fine! Until they start eating chili with their bare hands for some unexplained reason. Also, Psy from “Gangnam Style” shows up because instead of trying to come up with an ending for the sketch, they have decided to just double down on absurdity.

Grade: B-

In honor of Black History Month, we have this sketch, a BET show Lift Our Voices where Black people try to celebrate their White allies who are trying their best but still manage to get it all wrong. Good idea in principle; doesn’t really work in practice. 

Grade: C+

“Weekend Update” is still trying to find its feet in a mostly Trumpless news world. They manage to get a few good swings in at Marjorie Taylor Greene, but their best jokes still come at “former social media influencer” Trump’s expense.

Grade: B

Visiting the “Weekend Update” desk are the founders of the “Child Cancellation Project” which is exactly what it sounds like: they advocating canceling kids they find offensive. Eh.

Grade: B-

You have certainly by now seen the YouTube video of “TwinsTheNewTrend,” a pair of teen twin boys, hearing Phil Collins’ classic song, “In the Air Tonight” for the first time. Their energy is infectious, but, as this bit in which the twins (played by Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd) stop by the “Weekend Update” desk points out, it’s improbable they had never before heard classic songs like “In the air Tonight” or “Jolene.” Thompson and Redd capture the twins’ enthusiasm and joy, as they hear songs like the Friends theme and “Baby Shark” for the first time.

Grade: A

A pair of bartenders at a bar where the television is broken on Super Bowl Sunday try to entertain the disappointed customers with a performance of “football songs” which turns into a whole Broadway-esque performance. Kenan Thompson’s reaction shots demonstrate once again why he’s SNL’s MVP.

Grade: B

Dan Levy and Kate McKinnon, who has been weirdly absent from this episode, are two asshole guests at a wedding who interrupt during the “objection” part to passively-aggressively suggest to the bride that they don’t approve of her groom. It feels long and painful and the audience is practically silent and there was another sketch that was cut for time that should have gone here instead.

Grade: C

On the 10th anniversary of the “It Gets Better” project, participants of the initiative check in to reveal that life did get better before … you know, taxes and kids and divorce and having the wrong opinions on Lady Gaga and the difficulties of adult friendships.

Grade: A+

This sketch which was cut for time is a commercial spoof for men’s makeup — BUT DON’T CALL IT THAT because “makeup” implies lady stuff and men need manly things to be in black packaging and to smell like pizza to be tricked into using them. Though this is funnier than the wedding sketch, I think ultimately they cut it because 1. they already had done several commercial spoofs in this episode, and 2. they’ve made this same joke about toxic masculinity before — in fact, they did so just last year in the pre-Super Bowl episode with J.J. Watt, and this GE Big Boy Home Appliances ad with Jason Momoa was from two years ago. The point is: MEN BE FRAGILE.

Final Grade: A solid B+.

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

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