15 years later, Jake Gyllenhaal finally returns to ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Jake Gyllenhaal & Camila Cabello
April 9, 2022

The most surprising thing about this week’s Saturday Night Live is the revelation that this is only the second time Jake Gyllenhaal has hosted, the first time being 15 years ago. For some perspective, 15 years ago, Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, and Darrell Hammond were still on the cast. (And so was Kenan Thompson, so the more things change and all that.) Parks and Recreation was still 2 years from premiering! That’s how long ago it was!

So what took so long for someone like Gyllenhaal, who seems to have a healthy sense of humor and natural comic timing, to return? Did he think appearing on SNL might hurt his Serious Actor status? Did he feel pressured to do a sketch he hated? Did he insult someone on the writing staff who has since left? DID HE INSULT SETH MEYERS? IS SETH MEYERS A SWIFTIE?

Whatever the reason, it was good to have Gyllenhaal back: he’s loose, game, and funny, and he needs to not be such a stranger to Studio 8H in the future.

The cold open features Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson contemplating her historic appointment to the Supreme Court in the Oval Office, where she meets with the spirits of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Thurgood Marshall, Harriet Tubman, and Jackie Robinson. It’s fine, mostly serving to give RBG one last “Ginsburn” at Ted “Cancun” Cruz’s expense.

Grade: B

Jake Gyllenhaal reveals he hasn’t been on Saturday Night Live since 2007, when he did the monologue in drag, singing “And I’m Telling You” from Dreamgirls. There’s a lot of talk about how he is known for being a Serious Method Actor and … I mean, is he? I know he’s not considered a comedian, and I just looked over his IMDb page and admittedly did not see many comedies since 2007, but I don’t know, I’ve never thought of Gyllenhaal as someone who takes himself all that seriously? ANYWAY. It ends with him singing “It’s All Coming Back to Me” and while I usually hate song monologues, it works here.

Grade: B+

The game show spoof of the night is “Why’d You Like It?” in which contestants have to get REAL HONEST about why they liked certain Instagram posts. The answer usually boils down to “wanting to have sex with the person who posted it.”

It’s obvious, but the obviousness is what makes it work.

Grade: A-

In this spoof of Property Brothers, the Dream Home Cousins design a house for a couple, his mother, and her 27-year-old cat. Kate McKinnon, playing the mother/mother-in-law carries this entire sketch on her back and is hilarious.

Grade: A

In this bit, a cabaret quartet sings a song about being utterly mediocre and being cool with that. It’s fine, but aside from Countess Luann De Lesseps, are there cabaret acts still a thing?

Grade: B-

A bed of flowers celebrates the spring, until Bowen Yang’s bumblebee begins humping the backs of their heads; Kyle Mooney’s weed pops up wanting to choke them out; and a dog pees all over them. It’s not juvenile, it’s just bad. Bad and somehow over five minutes long.

Grade: C-

Sarah Sherman is Chucky, who, it turns out, is a terrible co-worker. Also, he’s terribly rendered. 

Grade: C

It turns out, “Weekend Update,” like all Saturday Night Live sketches, is best when it’s short and sweet. This week features some good jokes about Brown Jackson’s confirmation, the Gridiron Superspreader event, the rabid fox in D.C., and Will Smith’s “punishment” for The Slap.

Grade: A-

Less successful is the return to the “Weekend Update” desk by Aidy Bryant and Bowen Yang’s “Trend Forecasters,” though I have to admit I liked them more this time around than their first appearance.

Grade: B-

Hey, remember the 1993 western Tombstone, in which Val Kilmer starred as a TB-ridden Doc Holliday? Yeah, so this is that, but if Val Kilmer played Holliday a lot more sick — vomiting blood, crapping his pants sick. It’s very juvenile and stupid funny, hearkening back to SNL‘s earliest days.

Grade: B+

In this bit, a couple goes to counseling, only to have their counselor have her own relationship drama that crashes into their session. But that is only part of the joke here, the other part being that Gyllenhaal’s character, as a straight white man, is forced to read out loud the tweets of a couple of Black lesbians, and navigate that particular minefield. The sketch doesn’t necessarily land everything, but at least it’s original.

Grade: B+

The final bit of the night is an ad for a CD of trucker songs, mostly involving truckers having to pee in their cabs. So, I am guessing this sketch was at least partially inspired by last week’s Last Week Tonight episode in which John Oliver explored how difficult it is to be a trucker. But I am pretty sure someone in the writers’ room must have seen one or two of these ads for the trucker singer, Red Sovine’s greatest hits. This is not a spoof:

Grade: B

Cut for time is this take on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf which also runs too long but would have been a much more welcome bit than the “Spring Flowers” sketch.

Cut for time is also this Kyle Mooney bit in which Mooney makes a “serious” sketch with his own money. No comment.

Final Grade: Solid B.

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

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