Willem Defoe’s first ‘Saturday Night Live’ is a messy affair

Saturday Night Live
Willem Defoe & Katy Perry
January 29, 2022

Considering how successful Christopher Walken has been on Saturday Night Live over the years, it might surprise you to learn that this week was the first time fellow weird actor Willem Defoe has ever hosted SNL. Unsurprisingly, he was a natural, throwing himself entirely into each role, be it a dog show announcer, an onanistic cartoon character, or himself. The episode itself was all over the place, weighed down by too many sketches that were too long and immature. But between a few sketches that had moments of universal truth and Defoe’s commitment to the task at hand, the episode wasn’t a total loss.

Our cold open features President Biden receiving a briefing on Russian disinformation campaigns about Ukraine, with headlines like “Ukrainian Border Encroaching on Russian Troops,” memes, and commercials featuring Aaron Rodgers promoting Russia. You get it. To fight fire with fire, they’ve hired a mean girl from high school as the new Secretary of Defense. It goes on WAY TOO LONG.

Grade: B-


Willem Defoe’s monologue spends a lot of time talking about his career and how people want him to play the Joker before diverting into a weird cul-de-sac where a couple from his hometown in Wisconsin stand up in the audience to tell him how proud they are of him? It feels like it was written directly from his Wikipedia page, and it’s not great. It’s really not great.

Grade: C+

A building holds a tenant meeting in which the residents air their grievances from the raising of the maintenance fee, to everyone calling the doorman the wrong name, to wanting to kill their neighbor’s dog, to paying $6,000 a month and there not even being a toilet in their apartment, to New York City losing its edge. It manages to use the entire cast in the sketch, making it entirely too long.

That said, anyone who has ever dealt with New York real estate feels this sketch in their bones. True fact: there was an essay in the New York Times this week that I’m pretty sure at least partially inspired this sketch, in which the writer bemoaned the process of finding a new apartment, including the part where he was shown a $2000-a-month apartment that LITERALLY did not have a toilet — and how, out of sheer desperation, he considered renting it.

Grade: B+

Showing up early in the episode is this week’s rap video, in which Chris Redd and Kenan Thompson sing about all the things that are waking them up in the middle of the night, from the need to pee to existential dread. Again: can relate.

Grade: A-

Speaking of being able to relate: The Badminster Dog Show is a dog show for bad dogs who ruin their owners’ lives. In the Shaky Dog Group is Luna who hates the Netflix Startup Sound and hides behind the toilet; in the Mean Dog Group is Pigeon who is a “sexual predator,” in the Non-Walking Group is Blueberry who only poops in the middle of the street; and in the Medical Group is Gizmo who has penis issues.

As the owner of a dog I have to medicate with doggy Prozac, I am in no place to judge any of these good dogs; I’ll just say it again: I get it. But I also need to add that the casting in this sketch was perfect — even if Pigeon appeared to be the world’s sweetest Beagle and had no business in the Mean Dog category at all.

Grade: A

In this spoof of ads of medications that treat low testosterone, a pair of celebrity athletes and Willem Defoe playing himself recommend a medication for a man who has just turned 40, who they insist over his protests, “can’t get hard anymore.” It’s super repetitive, plays in the shallow pool that is male fear of humiliation, and honestly, feels like something that would have been on SNL when Viagra came out. Also, the ending is incredibly stupid. 

Grade: C

“Weekend Update” is just fine, with middling jokes about Ukraine, the Supreme Court, the bridge collapse, and Peloton.

Grade: B-

I love both Bowen Yang and Aidy Bryant but this “Trend Forecasters” bit ain’t it.

Grade: C-

Payton Manning shows up to the “Weekend Update” desk ostensibly to talk about the NFL playoffs, but he reveals he binged Emily in Paris instead of watching them. Manning is a natural comedian, and though this is a one-joke bit, he’s very entertaining.

Grade: B+

In this sketch, Belle from Beauty and the Beast uses the Beast’s magic mirror to check in on her father and sees him … enjoying himself. It’s exactly at the 7th-grade level that you think it’s going to be, but I’ll hand it to him: Defoe commits.

Grade: C+

In this “Please Don’t Destroy” bit, Martin is hanging out with a 10-year-old kid to the confusion of the other guys. It’s not terrible, but it’s also not actually good, and they clearly had no idea how to end it.

Grade: B-

A local morning show mistakenly calls a self-help book “Blowing Yourself” when it should be “Knowing Yourself,” which causes the interview to sound a lot more filthy than it actually is. Juvenile, for sure, but successfully so (unlike that “Beauty and the Beast” bit). Also, they’ve done at least one sketch similar to this a while back, but it’s been long enough that it doesn’t feel rehashed.

Grade: A-

In the final, weird sketch of the night, an intern tries to join in on an impromptu song his co-workers are singing, and it goes … poorly. This is an appropriate way to end the episode.


Grade: B

Final Grade: B-.

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

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