‘Saturday Night Live’ introduces the next big thing: Ariana DeBose

Saturday Night Live
Ariana DeBose & Bleachers
January 15, 2022

Ariana DeBose is not a household name … yet. But the recent Golden Globe-winner and Broadway star has talent and charm for days, which is why Saturday Night Live invited her to host — after all, it never hurts to have a triple threat lead your show. Particularly when that show’s last airing was … weird … to say the least, has recently lost one of its talented head writers, and most of its writers are still mentally on holiday break — at least based on the weak sketches from this week’s show. As someone who performs regularly in front of live audiences, it’s no surprise that DeBose handled the assignment like a pro. It’s just a shame the material she had to work with didn’t exactly live up to her multitude of talents.

The cold open this week is one-note: President Joe Biden addresses the country on the spread of the Omicron variant, and he has a solution — everyone needs to stop going to see Spider-Man: No Way Home. Connecting the spike in cases to the release of the popular film, Biden then blames the movie for all the administration’s recent woes, including inflation, voting rights, and the crisis in Ukraine. It’s not great, but I’m still so relieved that Jim Carrey is nowhere to be seen that I’ll take it.

Grade: B

Our host Ariana DeBose’s monologue mostly serves as an opportunity for Kate McKinnon to come out and sing West Side Story songs with her. As I’ve well established, I hate the opening monologues that devolve into song. But putting my bias aside, this is just … lazy. I mean, yes, DeBose and McKinnon are both charismatic and have great chemistry, but there’s literally nothing original or new happening here.

Grade: B

In this bit, the NBA on TNT team, including Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Yao Ming, analyze the Sacramento Kings/Brooklyn Nets game which, at the half, is remarkably one-sided, with the Nets leading 268-1. Turns out, the Kings have all tested positive, and have been replaced by fans and arena support staff, which, as Ming helpfully explains, are “tiny people too small.” Maybe it’s my Houston bias between the Yao Ming, James Harden, and Kenny Smith references, but I was charmed by this one.

Also, the bit where Charles Barkley and Yao Ming compare hand sizes?

This is LITERALLY my life. This is my hand compared to my youngest child’s:


Grade: A-

Peacock recently released the trailer for Bel-Air, their dramatic interpretation of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which was something of a layup for comedy writers. Last week, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert imagined a dark Alf, and here SNL imagines a dark version of Family Matters with a violent Urkel.

Eh. Maybe if Colbert hadn’t gotten here first.

Grade: B-

In this commercial spoof, a store sells everything your daughter needs for her winter formal: dresses, corsages, limos, and a date with their awkward son who has a crusty mouth, swamp pass, and absolutely will not have sex with her.

Other than Pete Davidson doing an irritating Adam Sandler impersonation, it’s fine. It belongs to a particular category of SNL sketch, those which make fun of a specific type of local NYC-area commercials, usually advertising Long Island event venues. It doesn’t necessarily hurt the sketch to not be familiar with those commercials, but it might make the sketches a little funnier if you are.

Grade: B

Speaking of local context, I know that by virtue of being the largest city in the country, people outside of New York might be more familiar with the city’s local politics than they are with, say, the local politics of Cleveland, or Miami, or Houston. That said, this overly long sketch about New York’s new mayor Eric Adams suffers from the writers assuming a lot about the audience outside of New York City’s interest in or awareness of their mayoral politics.

Grade: C+

“Weekend Update” starts off a little rough with a long bit about Biden’s political stumbles, but recovers with some better jokes about Robert Durst and Maya Angelou’s quarter. Like every week: It’s fine. It’s fine!

Che does make fun of the one-eyed Oath Keeper guy who was arrested recently for sedition, though, and if history is any indication, that asshole will be on “Weekend Update” next week wringing out an apology from Che and will somehow end up becoming my next congressman. I’M STILL MAD, PETE DAVIDSON.

Grade: B+

Last week, Sesame Street‘s Elmo went viral on Twitter when people shared a video of his feud with his friend Zoe’s rock pet Rocco. It doesn’t make sense to explain it, just watch:

Funny, right? So SNL decided to just … recreate this bit? At the “Weekend Update” desk? Without actually changing anything? LAZY.

Grade: C+

So, it’s The Sound of Music, but DeBose plays a new governess who brings a much more contemporary twist to “Do-Re-Mi.” It begins as a fun way to use DeBose’s singing talents but quickly goes off the rails when Kenan begins singing about Arby’s for no good God-damned reason.

Grade: C+

In this sketch, DeBose and McKinnon are two professors who have translated Sappho’s poems revealing that the classic poet’s works have relevance in contemporary lesbian life, with references to fostering animals, moving in together too soon, and sandals.

Grade: A-

The set-up here is that on New Year’s Eve, the kitchen staff in a Texarkana “Longhorn Steakhouse” are irritated with one another, and making fun of the weird things they each say, but they are all doing so in these ridiculous accents and … I don’t know … I have no idea what this is. I’m not mad, I’m just confused.

That said, I have a theory: Andrew Dismukes, who is in this sketch, is from Port Neches here in East Texas, and I wonder if he didn’t come home to visit for the holidays, and then returned to New York City with some stories about East Texas accents (which, to be fair, can truly be … something). I’m going to take the fact that Reddit attributes him as the writer of this sketch to be confirmation of this theory — but also to reaffirm that sometimes very local jokes, as we have seen earlier in this episode, just fail to land.

Grade: C-

Cut for time is this video in which a boastful rapper encourages everyone at the club to drink on him … until he realizes how much, exactly, it is going to cost. It’s not great, but it’s also better than at least three of the above sketches. Maybe four. Five?

Final Grade: C+.

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

2 thoughts on “‘Saturday Night Live’ introduces the next big thing: Ariana DeBose

  1. I was waiting on your recap for this one. The Winter Formal sketch was bad Sandler and Rachel Dratch impressions it felt like.

    But the one that was so confusing was the accents on the last sketch. I thought the same thing about Dismukes being from SETx and it makes even more sense if he’s the sketch writer. I went to school in the town directly across the train tracks from Port Neches and actually lived in PN growing up. The area is heavily influenced by Cajun culture and dialect which explains the accents I guess? BUT to set it in Texarkana and use south Louisiana accents makes no sense. Texarkana is East Texas or Arkansas, not the bayous. It was fine but just super weird.

Leave a Reply