Lizzo sparkles on an otherwise so-so ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
April 16, 2022

Lizzo, as everyone and their momma know by now, is the Grammy-award-winning hip-hop artist who had her big breakthrough in 2016, and became world famous by 2019. She also was one of the last concerts I saw in person before the world shut down, but I digress. Lizzo’s magic is not just that she’s musically gifted — which she is as a singer, rapper, and improbably, a flutist — but that she is deeply inspirational. Her message of body positivity and self-love resonates with so many communities of people who have been taught their entire lives to be ashamed of who they are: whether they are heavy or skinny, or gay, or trans, or a person of color, or simply had the misfortune of being born a woman in this world. Lizzo celebrates herself, and by extension her audience, in a way that is accepting, warm, and deeply funny. You don’t write a line like “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch,” without a sense of humor.

And so it is hardly a surprise that Lizzo with all her bravado and comedic talents would be a natural fit on the Saturday Night Live stage. Unfortunately, the writing didn’t live up to Lizzo’s charisma (something I feel like I say most weeks) but she didn’t seem to mind, clearly enjoying herself through the entire night.

Our cold open begins with a message from Bowen Yang’s Easter Bunny, but then just becomes a weak excuse for a bunch of impersonations: Dr. Fauci, Elon Musk, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, Jared Leto, Eric Adams, Britney Spears, and, of course, Donald Trump. It feels hastily put together, honestly.

Grade: C+

Our host/musical guest Lizzo has charisma, charm, and confidence for days, and it all comes out in her monologue, in which she promises to break the record for the amount of times “bitch” is said on live TV. After a few jokes, Lizzo ends the monologue with her signature self-empowerment and self-love message. It’s all very Lizzo and wonderful.

Grade: A+

Another week, another game show hosted by Kenan sketch, not that I’m complaining. In this bit, a typical trivia contest goes off the rails when Lizzo’s character begins questioning the host’s authority. Funny and sassy, Lizzo’s comedy chops shine here.

Grade: A

It’s the clever scrolling through TikTok bit again. Honestly, it’s one of those sketches that is hard to critique: nothing lasts more than a few seconds and the entire setup avoids the typical SNL sketch pitfalls, of going too long and not having a way to end it. Also, extra points for the you’re/your lesson. Some of y’all need to pay attention.

Grade: A

Aidy and Lizzo play two producers trying to help the Black Eyed Peas flesh out the lyrics to such musical poetry like “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling.” It’s genuinely inspired.

Grade: A+

And then things take a turn for the night. In this sketch, Lizzo’s character brings a date back to her house where she lives with her grandpa: the Six Flags guy. In fact, her grandma is the Six Flags guy, too, and all their friends are the Six Flags guy.

Some positive comments:

Points to Sarah “Squirm” Sherman for her Six Flags guy impersonation: it’s perfect and creepy and perfectly creepy.

And Lizzo’s subtle jokes about how Mikey Day’s character isn’t going to satisfy her are well-played.

And I certainly appreciate that it is an original idea.

All that said, it doesn’t really go … anywhere. It’s very much a one-joke bit that doesn’t need to ramble on for 5 and a half minutes.

Grade: C+

Lizzo goes to the Please Don’t Destroy Guys to ask that they write her a “Black Woman Anthem,” and they come up with a song about a “horny zookeeper.” I don’t know.

Grade: C+

“Weekend Update” tackles Biden’s sinking approval ratings, Elon Musk wanting to buy Twitter, and ghost gun regulation, but it was the Barbie joke that made me actually chuckle.

Grade: B

Melissa Villaseñor plays Colin Jost’s Uber driver, who is giving stand-up comedy a try, except all his jokes come at the expense of his pre-pubescent nephew. It’s fine, I guess.

Grade: B-

Another high-concept sketch that almost works: a pair of party-planners audition folks for different roles at a royal orgy in the year 2000 BCE. I want to like it — Lizzo in her small role as “Sensuous Woman and her Tender Boy” is terrific (and there seems to be actual chemistry between her and Andrew Dismukes?) — but her role is too small, the sketch is too long and then Kyle Mooney appears. And as well all know, all it takes to ruin a good orgy is one Kyle Mooney.

Grade: B-

An orchestra is missing a flutist for their big performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Enter Lizzo’s character, who is a brilliant flute player — but only while she’s twerking. Soon the entire orchestra is twerking.

It’s fine, but it also sort of feels like a sketch idea the writers came up with ahead of time to make sure Lizzo had a bit where she could do her thing and not worry. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! More Lizzo twerking is never a bad thing! But it just felt … predictable, I guess. It is exactly the kind of sketch you would expect on an episode Lizzo hosted — instead of one that trusts that she has comedic skills of her own that don’t depend on the things that people already know about her.

Grade: B-

The final sketch of the night finds Lizzo and Dismukes as a married couple who announce to their friends that they’ve quit their jobs and are planning to travel around the world using the fortune from his Beanie Baby collection. Things go south when they learn that his collection is virtually worthless. Lizzo is clearly enjoying herself here and breaks a number of times. And, again, the chemistry between her and Dismukes seems real. This could be your Kim Kardashian moment, Dismukes!

Grade: B+

Cut for time is this “Dick in a Box” ripoff about eating dinner alone while watching YouTube. It makes some funny points about the algorithm but otherwise feels like a too-thin copy of a classic sketch. 

It’s the Aidy/Bowen “Glitter Revolution” characters pitching dumb songs for tweens to Costco, this time with Lizzo, who really should make this work — and yet …

Oh! And here are her musical performances — the second of which features a subtle shout-out to Houston. (As someone who lives two blocks from Bissonnet, I was pretty excited.)


Final Grade: B+.

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

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