Keke Palmer delivers a healthy ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Keke Palmer & SZA
December 3, 2022

I came late to the Keke Palmer game. Being a member of Generation X, it wasn’t until Ryan Murphy’s 2015’s Scream Queens that I was introduced to the multi-talented star, but by that point, she had been in the business for 11 years, with 15 movies, 26 TV shows, 1 album, and 8 singles behind her. And she hasn’t slowed down since, having earned a Primetime Emmy, an NCAAP Image Award, she has been recognized as one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People in the World, has starred in countless other TV and movie roles, and hosted her own talk show.

Also, she had no idea who Dick Cheney was, which is just queen shit.

Anyway, this is a long way to go to say that Palmer hosting Saturday Night Live is LONG OVERDUE, and that anyone even slightly familiar with her work knew she would pull it off with aplomb.

I’m happy to report that indeed, she did. Palmer was a giddy delight, full of energy and genuine excitement to be there, and I’d love to see her back on the 8H stage as soon as she has that baby.

On Tuesday, the good people of Georgia will choose between the sitting senator, Reverend Raphael Warnock, and Texas citizen and head injury survivor Herschel Walker to represent them in the United States Senate. Anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention knows that Mr. Walker is, to be generous, not particularly bright, and focused more on the comparative properties of vampires and werewolves than, you know, real things that affect real Georgians.

This is a long way to go to say this week’s cold open is a lazy sketch that makes fun of Walker without actually being funnier than any of the crazy shit that he’s actually said. If you want to see someone really roast Walker, you should take five minutes and watch this Stand-up Comedian President Obama clip in which he reads Walker for filth while also managing to be human about it:

Grade: D

The delightful Keke Palmer comes onto the stage wearing a strange, bulky coat and tells the story of working with Samuel Jackson Lawrence Fishburn [Ed. note: Thank you, Jason. Happy?] on Akeelah and the Bee, only to reveal that she’s PREGNANT, Y’ALL! I don’t know that it was a very funny monologue, but props for pulling a Beyoncé, ma’am!

Grade: B+

In this parody of a 1990’s soap opera (although, let’s be honest, it’s an 80’s soap opera), Keke Palmer and Cecily Strong play two alpha women who have a Crystal-and-Alexis knock-down drag-out style fight, except Keke and Cecily are poorly replaced with obvious stunt doubles. The reason this bit worked as beautifully as it did was in part because of Palmer’s pregnancy reveal just moments before. When Keke and Cecily initially disappeared behind the couch only to pop back up and perform some wrestling moves, I was initially shocked. KEKE JUST TOLD US SHE’S PREGNANT, SHE CAN’T DO THAT! And of course, she can’t. That initial surprise and the process of coming to understand what you are actually seeing, combined with the utter cheesiness of it all — it’s not a perfect sketch, but it’s pretty good. Kudos to the writers for figuring out a way to use Palmer’s pregnancy for maximum impact.

Grade: A

The ladies of SNL perform a song extolling the virtues of “Big Boys,” large men who can keep them warm in the colder months. Even Punkie Johnson, a lesbian, gets in on the song, because who doesn’t appreciate a big man who can take care of business?

Grade: B+

All of Drake’s exes, casual hookups, and women who have just crossed his path and found themselves the subject of his songs band together to support one another in this PSA that mostly seems to exist to let people know that Keke Palmer is not that Keke.

Grade: B

In one of the more absurd sketches of the night, Sanrio employees learn the background story of Hello Kitty and are utterly horrified. I don’t want to ruin the joke, because it’s played to perfection by Palmer and Bowen Yang. That said, this bit, which starts off so strong, devolves into ridiculousness by the end and Natasha Lyonne shows up? For some reason?

Grade: A

In what is framed as a faux documentary, Keke Palmer and Kenan Thompson tell the story of Palmer’s idea for a reboot of Kenan and Kel, but with Keke in the Kel role: Kenan and Kelly. Keke turns the project dramatic in a search for an Emmy, and the original Kel, Kel Mitchell shows up for the obvious cameo. Enjoy the nostalgia, Millenials!

Grade: A-

An Arby’s ad boasts five roast beef sandwiches for $10 which leaves customers with more questions than answers. The bit goes on a little too long for a one-joke sketch, but still, it does ask some very profound questions.

Grade: A

“Weekend Update” takes on this week’s lowest-hanging fruit: Kanye, and who can blame them? Despite a couple of rough jokes, it’s a serviceable outing. I’m not even mad at Che this week!

Grade: B+

Michael Longfellow, child of divorce and the son of a divorce attorney, speaks on the benefits of having your parents split up. Longfellow is charming and funny, and while I tend to think just doing your stand-up from behind the Weekend Update desk is lazy, it seems to be working for him. And I don’t just say that because he’s cute. Though people are losing their minds over him:

Grade: B+

Sarah Sherman appears at the Weekend Desk as the President of the Peppa Pig Fan Club who is upset at the show’s inclusion of same-sex polar bears. Basically, the bit is just Sherman saying the phrase “anally entering each other” repeatedly, but with her manic energy behind it, it delivers.

Grade: A

Keke Palmer’s pregnant character goes in for an ultrasound, only to discover her twins, played by Bowen Yang and Sarah Sherman, are behaving wildly in there, breakdancing, smoking, ordering McDonald’s. It’s a revisit of one of my least favorite sketches from last year’s Selena Gomez episode. I hated it then; I might like it even less now. Extra points deducted for not knowing how to end the damn thing.

Grade: C-

Palmer shows up as the new student at a Christmas choir practice where she immediately lands the solo. Listen, this is just a platform to show off Keke Palmer’s singing chops and remind us that she is (at least) a double threat. (That said, I thought it was interesting to watch Cecily Strong obviously pull her punches here to make Palmer shine. We all know Strong can sing and sing well.)

Grade: B-

In the final sketch of the night, Palmer and Nwodim are a pair of stewardesses celebrating reaching one million flight miles on a dangerously old plane. I’m seeing some hate online for this bit, but I enjoyed it, in part because Nwodim and Palmer are clearly having fun; and in part because despite being a pretty frequent flyer myself, I still have a deeply rooted fear of flying and I totally get it. 

Grade: B

Final Grade: A solid B+. If only the cold open had been better, this would have been an A.

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

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