Travis Kelce is a goddamned delight on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Travis Kelce & Kelsea Ballerini
March 5, 2023

Every so often, Saturday Night Live feels compelled to invite an athlete to host the show, and most of the time, it’s a disaster. Athletes are not comedians — they aren’t even actors (well, I mean aside from European soccer players but that’s a whole other story) — and as such, performing on a live comedy television show is a huge ask. It’s a huge ask for anyone, but it’s a particularly huge ask for people who are not usually expected to speak in public that often. In fact, there have only been a handful of athletes who have managed to pull it off; notably, Peyton Manning, Charles Barkley, John Cena, The Rock, and Houston’s beloved J.J. Watt. And two of those five were professional wrestlers, who might as well have been soap opera actors.

To the disappointment of all Eagles fans out there, it looks like we’re going to have to add two-time Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce to the list of successes. Despite being a football player by trade, Kelce is a natural comedian: he is charming, has good comic timing, and is willing to mock the concept of himself as some sort of masculine ideal. He turns out to be the perfect foil for jokes about toxic masculinity because he so openly challenges those stereotypes. I never would have guessed that an athlete would have delivered one of the best SNL‘s this season, but dammit, here we are.

True fact: the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against Fox News is not a story that Fox News is covering, despite it being, you know, a pretty big news story. I understand: they are the defendants in the case and so reporting on yourself is kinda awkward. It also conveniently shields their viewers who tend to only watch Fox News from ever hearing about the way Fox News lied and lied and lied about election fraud, and how some of their hosts (Tucker Carlson) literally “hate” Former President QAnon.

Anyway, the cold open is what Fox & Friends would look like if they did cover the lawsuit. It lands some safe, obvious jokes but should have had a lot more bite. And I know that the cast and writers who came up with the brilliant Fox News apology scroll are long gone, but if there was ever an opportunity to use it …

Grade: B

Travis Kelce’s monologue is … delightful? Is it delightful? You know what? I think this sonofabitch is delightful! Kelce makes fun of himself and his eloquence on the field, mocks Pat Mahomes’ accent, laughs at his own reality dating show experience, gets choked up, and points out his family in the audience, including his brother Jason, whom he beat in the Super Bowl. And Jason? He’s delightful, too. NFL players aren’t supposed to be this delightful, you guys.

Grade: A

Kelce plays a grown-ass man who goes to the American Girls Cafe alone but for his two dolls, whom he treats like two older teens. The staff is concerned that he’s a pedophile or at the very least a creep, but he’s just a dude who is really into American Girl dolls. This shouldn’t work, but in large part because of Kelce’s size and masculinity, it does.

Grade: A

The Please Don’t Destroy boys take a self-defense class led by Kelce after some SNL interns insult them. This is the most linear Please Don’t Destroy sketch yet, and it feels like they are becoming better writers. (And because I wrote that, they will come next week with some surrealist nonsense, just watch.)

Grade: B+

Looks like someone found out about the … let’s say “unusual” … practice in New Orleans where some funeral homes pose the dead like they are still alive. The tweet below is real, by the way:

Because this sketch is essentially that picture above.

Grade: B+

In my favorite sketch of the night, Bowen Yang sells a “Straight Male Friend” to his gay counterparts who need a break from the emotional exhaustion of their female friends. It’s a clever take on toxic masculinity, in which straight men’s inability to access or process their emotions is shown as a positive. They manage to mock stunted men, without being shrill or mean. Be sure to check out the fine print on the side effects of having a straight male friend at the bottom of the screen.

Grade: A++

In this sketch, Heidi Gardner (who reportedly had been advocating for Kelce to host for a while now) plays Kelce’s ex-girlfriend who unexpectedly runs into him at a bar … with his finance. There is a lot of crying, and a twist ending that didn’t stick quite as cleanly as I think they’d hoped.

Grade: B

“Weekend Update” takes on everything from the Dilbert guy being a raging racist; drag performances being banned in Tennessee; to the Jesus Christ lizard. It’s just OK.

Grade: B-

Dilbert comes to the “Weekend Update” desk to discuss his creator Scott Adam’s virulent racism, only to conclude that the race wars are coming and he knows which side he will be on. It goes on a bit too long.

Grade: B+

There’s a classic Mother’s Day SNL sketch advertising a “Mother Celebrity Translator” to help you figure out which celebrity your Mom is talking about when she calls them the wrong name. Mikey Day and Punkie Johnson join the “Weekend Update” desk to reveal that Punkie is spiritually a Mom who once called Tony Hawk “Tony Hawking” to his face, because as she puts it, “they’re both white men on wheels.” I don’t want to give away the other celebrities she calls the wrong names, but they’re pretty good.

Grade: A

Sarah Sherman News is my favorite thing that Sarah Sherman does on this show, and it might be — no, it is — currently my favorite “Weekend Update” bit. No notes.

Grade: A+

In this bit, a mother and father reveal to their children via song that they are in a throuple with Sucre, Kelce’s character. It’s not the worst sketch of the night, but it’s not the best, and mostly seems to be an excuse for James Austin Johnson to show off his Michael McDonald impersonation.

Grade: B-

Heidi Gardner and Kelce’s post-coital cuddling session is interrupted by Garrett, the guy that Gardner’s character met on Hinge and blew off. It’s a dark bit in which Bowen Yang’s Garrett character is awkward and stalkery and fantasizes about killing both Gardner and Kelce. What is interesting about this sketch is that it is the dark side of toxic masculinity from “Straight Male Friend” — the dangerous obsessive side. As a woman who has been stalked and made to feel unsafe by men, I don’t find it particularly funny, and I think it is very telling that it was written entirely by men.

Grade: C

The final sketch mocks Netflix’s ridiculous dating show, Too Hot to Handle. So, thanks to the recent release of Perfect Match on Netflix, I have myself been sucked into watching Too Hot to Handle despite my best efforts. The concept of the show is that 10 adult sluts move into a house together and have to keep their goddamned hands to themselves in an effort to mature them emotionally. If they do get it on with someone (or themselves) they lose money from a $100,000 pot that they will split in the end.

ANYWAY. That’s a long way to go to tell you that the concept of this sketch is that Chloe Fineman is supposed to be an unattractive contestant on this show who Kelce just can’t keep his hands off of. It doesn’t work for a number of reasons: 1. Maybe it’s the terrible attempts at Australian accents? 2. Maybe it’s the fact that even in a bad wig, it’s hard to believe anyone would find cute Chloe Fineman unattractive? 3. Maybe it’s because Too Hot to Handle is so absurd in and of itself that it is unparody-able? In any event, this should have been replaced with the cut for time sketch below:

Grade: C-

Cut for time: NFL Gives Back. And by “gives back” they mean NFL players throw around nerdy guys’ girlfriends for them. Great sketch; should have been in the show.



Final Grade: A-.

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

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