Rami Malek leads a weirdly good ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Rami Malek & Young Thug
October 17, 2021

Rami Malek is not exactly known for his comedy chops. His lane in Hollywood is more “weirdo outsider” and/or “wild-eyed villain.” And he’s excellent in that lane! So it wasn’t a given that he would be able to navigate hosting a live comedy show. But thanks to his obvious acting talent, his sense of humor and ability to laugh at his own persona, and a series of sketches that were daringly strange and actually pretty funny, all in all, this was the best Saturday Night Live of the season so far. (Of course, we’re only three episodes in, but let’s not dwell on that.)

The cold open is an over-long spoof of the NFL’s current problems in the form of an NFL press conference that is basically just a series of not-great impersonations of people most people don’t really know, like Roger Goodell and Mark Davis. To be completely fair, it also wouldn’t have been particularly funny if it had been only three minutes long, but at over eight minutes, it’s a real slog.

Grade: C-

Rami Malek’s monologue is all about his reputation for playing intense characters and how he has empathy for villains. He seems a little nervous, but it’s charming enough.

Grade: B+

After not being much of a presence in the past couple of episodes, Bowen Yang is BACK and completely steals the show as Daddy Longlegs in this sketch about a middle school assembly on bugs. Fierce and fabulous, Daddy Longlegs is the kind of character who in seasons past would be given a catchphrase and become recurring. (This is NOT A SUGGESTION. As much as I love Daddy Longlegs, PLEASE DO NOT MAKE DADDY LONGLEGS RECURRING.) It’s just a shame they couldn’t figure out how to end the sketch.

Grade: A

Pete Davidson and Rami Malek sing a country song — yes, a country song — about being in debt and forced to play Squid Game. It’s kinda perfect? WARNING: There are SO MANY SPOILERS in this video. Do not watch if you haven’t yet watched Squid Game and want to remain unspoiled.

Grade: A

I love Prince. I did not love this sketch in which Rami Malek and Kenan Thompson audition for the Jordan Peel biopic about Prince. It was already not very good, and then Daniel Craig goes and gets involved.

Grade: C

Tonight’s obligatory game show sketch is “Celeb School” in which celebrities have to answer questions on behalf of the two players, and you’ll never guess, but the celebrities are kinda dumb. The real point of this sketch, however, is for Rami Malek and Pete Davidson to do not-great impersonations of each other. They seem to be having fun at least.

Grade: B-

“Weekend Update” takes some swings at Joe Manchin, President Biden, and President Reagan’s ranch, some of which are pretty good, but points deducted for Michael Che being misogynistic. Yes, again.

Grade: B-

Bowen Yang joins the “Weekend Update” desk as a “Proud Gay Oompa Loompa,” as Jost describes him, except he’s not out to his Oompa Loompa family … well, he wasn’t out to his Oompa Loompa family. Yang is hilarious, again, and between this and “Daddy Longlegs” he owns this episode.

Grade: A++

Chris Redd also joins the desk to discuss “important unimportant things” like blimp drivers. But in reality, Redd is there to discuss how the last time he was at the desk — in February 2020 — he yelled “Black people can’t get the coronavirus” at the end of his bit. OOPS.

Grade: A-

Kenan Thompson plays an NBC security guard who becomes the unwitting victim of a not-great hypnotist in a bit that feels like it could have been its own sketch rather than a “Weekend Update” bit, but OK. It’s still pretty funny thanks to Thompson.

Grade: A-

In one of my favorite sketches of the night, Aidy Bryant and Rami Malek play a married couple who, while shopping for a mattress, test them by reenacting their arguments and marital dramas. “YOU REEK OF VERMOUTH AND WHORES!” is something I’m going to start yelling at my husband for no good reason.

Grade: A

So, Angelo. This is one of those sketches that I think will be very divisive. New cast member Aristotle Athari brings his character, Angelo, an “international singing sensation,” to the stage, accompanied by  Rami Malek as “Todd,” who is “what’s next in dance.” It’s one of those sketches that relies on repetition and absurdity, and I, for one, enjoyed it … but I can see how someone might hate it. A lot. 

Grade: A-

There were three sketches cut for time this week. I’ve added them in order from worst to best:



Final Grade: A-.

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

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