Nick Jonas is fine — but nothing more — in a hit-or-miss ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Nick Jonas
February 27, 2021

Nick Jonas has been on the 8H stage before: he and his brothers were a musical guest on SNL in 2009; and in 2016, he was a solo musical guest and was invited to participate in a couple of sketches. But last night was Nick Jonas’ first time hosting, and he was … fine. He wasn’t a natural who you could imagine joining the cast like some of his fellow superstar/pop star/former child star peers, notably Justin Timberlake and Drake. But he was fine. For me the big difference between Jonas and Timberlake and Drake is that Jonas seemed to be trying to maintain a modicum of dignity — he didn’t ham it up and didn’t seem willing to really allow himself to be the butt of the joke. He was fine! But in the end, Jonas was a supporting actor, not the comic lead.

As for the writing last night, it was hit-or-miss, but with a higher percentage of hit than miss, at least for me. (The Cockatoo helped, but more on that later.) It genuinely seems that the writers continue to feel the weight of the previous four years lift from their shoulders, and they are able to focus more surgically on political issues as demonstrated in this episode’s cold open. The show is going on a month-long hiatus — let’s hope the writers are able to keep this relatively strong streak going when they return.

Our cold open is Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Fauci hosting a game show called “So You Think You Can Get a Vaccine,” with judges Governors Newsome, Cuomo, and Whitmer choosing which deserving(-ish) contestant should receive a much-needed vaccine. The sketch manages to do a few things at once: it points out the flaws in our distribution system which vary wildly state-by-state and in some places can be impossible to navigate, and it addresses just how far from grace once-popular governors Newsome and Cuomo have fallen in recent weeks and months. It’s sharp and well-focused and does what satire is designed to: expose the powerful for their failures and hypocrisies and to highlight the problems of systems that we have put into place.

Grade: A-

Host Nick Jonas’ monologue devolves into song, and I can’t even be mad because when they have a singer host, you’re going to get some singing. Also, it’s short and doesn’t feel forced. Additionally, having brother Kevin Jonas in the audience earns both Jonas brothers some self-deprecating joke points.

Grade: B

Mirrors are spooky. It’s easy for the imagination run away with the idea that mirrors are a portal to a parallel dimension that looks exactly like ours, but … isn’t. And so these expensive exercise mirrors that have become increasingly popular in our pandemic lockdown moment, which project instructors into your living space from some other place … it’s a little creepy. That’s the entire premise of this sketch in which one of the instructors, Shannon Delgado, is not inside of the mirror of her own volition. It’s a horror movie in miniature and I, for one, really liked it.

Grade: B+

I spent yesterday afternoon folding laundry and watching the first couple of hours of Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel and all I have to say about this next sketch is that I FEEL PERSONALLY ATTACKED. HOW DARE YOU.

Grade: A++

So Prince Charming shows up at Cinderella’s house with a glass slipper except that it’s tiny … like super tiny … too tiny to belong to Cinderella. And that’s when Prince Charming comes to the realization that he actually hooked up with one of Cinderella’s mouse friends. So I guess horror is the theme of the night?

Grade: C

This is another song, this time about how weird bachelor parties that feature strippers are, that dudes are so excited to sit around together while aroused. The word “boner” gets used a whole lot. Juvenile — but funny — in the tradition of “Dick in a Box.”

Grade: A

This week’s “Weekend Update” earns an A for the joke: “For a preview of Trump’s (CPAC) speech, give your grandpa cocaine.” That A is then bumped up to an A+ for the Ted Cruz rant that begins: “Ted Cruz, who is always the ‘kill’ in ‘F, Marry, Kill …'” before skewering Cruz for trying to pretend he’s in on the joke — that joke being that he fled to a Ritz-Carlton in Cancun while his constituents literally froze to death.

Grade: A+

Kenan’s LaVar Ball is back at the “Weekend Update” hawking a basketball shoe made of chocolate. ~shrug~

Grade: C+

Cecily Strong specializes in lunatics, so it’s no surprise that she portrays Congress’ newest lunatic, Marjorie Taylor Greene, as she discusses the most recent culture war she set off by bullying a fellow Congresswoman over trans rights. SHE LOVES “THE SIENCE,” COLIN.

Grade: A

A group of teens at an amusement park choose who they want to sit with in a log flume ride, leaving Kyle Mooney’s character and his life-sized doll based on the lead character of the Pixar movie Soul, as the odd man out. That is literally the entire premise of the sketch, nothing else happens in it, and yet it goes on for nearly five minutes (while feeling much, much longer). Methinks someone is working out some high school bullshit in the writers’ room that would be better exorcised in therapy, Kyle.

Grade: C

The Dionne Warwick Talk Show is back and she somewhat confusedly interviews The Weeknd, Machine Gun Kelly, Dua Lipa, and Nick Jonas, whose penis she demands to see after pointing out that he’s married to the gorgeous Priyanka Chopra. And it’s funny! Ego Nwodim is just terrific as a Dionne Warwick who knows she’s a legend and has no fucks to give.

BUT. My favorite part of the sketch is that about halfway through, it is interrupted by some loud infernal screeching that everyone just chooses to pretend is not happening. But it is happening! Because they included in “The Dionne Warwick Talk Show” an animal segment featuring my favorite SNL guest star, The Cockatoo.

Last season, Daniel Craig hosted the very last episode to film in 8H before the world came to an end. One of the sketches in his episode was about a soap opera trying to film with social distancing rules in place, and Craig’s character was introduced with a prop: The Cockatoo. The Cockatoo utterly stole the show. JUST LOOK AT THIS GUY:

He’s a goddamned star.

But my love for The Cockatoo doesn’t end there, because — and this is super nerdy, but what else do you expect from me, honestly — I listen to a podcast called “Scary Stories to Tell on the Pod” which is hosted by two comedians, Andrew Farmer and Anna Drezen, who happens to be one of the head writers of Saturday Night Live. And to my delight, Drezen had a story to tell about the filming of the Daniel Craig episode, The Cockatoo, and who she called “The Cockatoo’s Wife,” a woman named Barbara. You don’t have to listen to the entire episode, just fast-forward to the 50:15 minute mark. But I promise, if you remember The Cockatoo from last year, it will not only make you love the gifs above just a little bit more, it will give this week’s sketch a little something … extra.

Grade: A

The final sketch finds two sophisticated strangers at the Oak Room bar at the Plaza Hotel on their first outings after lockdown. The joke is that it has been so long since they’ve flirted or even interacted with another person, that they are incredibly awkward and weird. You know that recurring Kate McKinnon sketch where she’s a weirdo at last call, and it ends with her making out grossly with the last guy in the bar while Kenan the Bartender stares on in horror? This is kind of like that but in nicer clothes and no making out because safety protocols won’t allow it.

Grade: B

This sketch in which an apartment where a pair of bachelors live is given a home makeover was cut for time, but it really should have replaced that amusement park sketch. It’s the same length, for crying out loud! What were you guys thinking??

Final Grade: A-. (My calculations actually came out to — and I’m not making this up — an 89.991, so I’m rounding up for The Cockatoo.)

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

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