Saturday Night Live
October 21, 2023
Puerto Rican rapper and singer, Bad Bunny (also known as Benito Ocasio), presented the writers of Saturday Night Live an unusual test last night: English is not the host and musical guest’s first language, and, based on last night’s performance, he’s not particularly a strong English-speaker. Lest you think I’m being insulting to Mr. Bunny, let me say right now that I have consistently pointed out that hosting a live comedy show as a non-comedian would be terrifying for anyone. So I have nothing but respect for this Spanish-speaking singer as he chose to go out on the Studio 8H stage and host in another language.
But as I started to say: the language thing was a challenge. The writers needed to come up with ways to write Bad Bunny into sketches that would not embarrass him or be too dialogue-heavy that he wouldn’t be able to relax and have fun with it. And for the most part, they came up with some very clever workarounds: one sketch is entirely in Spanish — and it works; they set another sketch entirely in the world of telenovelas; and they brought out Pedro Pascal a couple of times to assist.
Not all of the bits worked: the more Bad Bunny was required to speak in English, the more uncomfortable he appeared and the more it went off the rails. That said, ultimately it was a more successful episode than last week’s premiere, in large part because the writers were facing a unique challenge, one that forced them to not be lazy lest they make the host look bad.
The cold open returned to its default political mode, and who can blame them when the clown car that is the GOP is giving them so much easy material? Mikey Day brought out his Jim Jordan, reeling from losing three votes to make him Speaker of the House. He’s visited by two of the GOP’s most ridiculous characters, George Santos and Lauren Boebert, before the single most ridiculous GOP character of all, Former President Hezbollah is Smart Actually, arrives. It isn’t terrible or anything, it just feels easy and like it was written by Chat GPT.
So, Bad Bunny, as I mentioned, he does not speak much English, which is pretty much the entire point of his monologue. Well, that and the fact that he’s considered a sex symbol. The wonderful Pedro Pascal joins him on stage to “translate” but really to help keep Bad Bunny afloat and distract from the fact that he’s at such a linguistic disadvantage. And for the most part, it works! Bad Bunny gives off “I’m a huge star” vibes and we get bonus Pedro Pascal that we weren’t expecting.
Here, “Walter White Boy” competes in a rap battle with “Fuego” and opts to spill all of his dirty laundry himself so that Feugo can’t use it against him. Instead, Fuego pities White Boy and offers him emotional support for all the trauma he’s been through. It’s an interesting choice to have Bad Bunny in a rap sketch and not have him … rap? Especially since Mikey Day is not a great rapper? (On second thought, maybe that’s why they kept him from rapping … to focus on what Mikey Day was saying instead of how he was saying it.)
Easily the best sketch of the night is this pre-taped bit that is entirely in Spanish. Framed as a historical dramatization, a pair of explorers (one of whom is the delightful alum, Fred Armisen!) show off the bounty of the New World to an unimpressed Spanish king and prince, including a turkey (a chicken with testicles on its face) and a pumpkin (a herpes melon). Between this sketch being entirely in Spanish and pre-recorded, Bad Bunny is demonstrably more comfortable and able to show his funny side.
In this one-joke sketch, Punkie Johnson is an actress on a telenovela who doesn’t speak a word of Spanish. Also, Mick Jagger makes a guest appearance for some reason. Yes, that Mick Jagger. No, I don’t know why either.
In the evening’s “Please Don’t Destroy” bit, Bad Bunny, dressed as Shrek, approaches the guys with his idea for a Shrek movie. It starts strong, with the Please Don’t Destroy boys confused but bemused by Bad Bunny wanting to do a Shrek bit, but devolves as it goes along. It’s not bad, it just fails to end as strong as it started.
“Weekend Update” lands some solid jokes about President Biden’s recent speeches, the Jim Jordan debacle, and that lady who ate 48 oysters on a disastrous date.
Jada Pinkett Smith joins the “Weekend Update” desk to talk some MORE about her marriage to Will Smith (“marriage”) and Tupac. Frankly, I’m shocked the real Jada hasn’t shown up uninvited to the desk yet.
Back when Pedro Pascal hosted last year, one of the best sketches of the night featured him in drag as an overprotective Cuban mother meeting her son’s white girlfriend for the first time, and insulting her in her Spanglish. Since Pedro’s in the studio, the writers dusted this bit off, added Bad Bunny as a disapproving tia, and I hate to admit it, but it works. It’s maybe not quite as clever as the first time around, but it’s an excellent way of protecting the host and giving him material he can work with.
In comparison, this digital short, “The Right Track,” is also a reimagining of a sketch from last season, but it is not nearly successful. In the bit, Devon Walker has a very serious conversation about a recent job interview with James Austin Johnson on a subway platform. Meanwhile, in the background, things are going completely insane on the train, including a flasher and a very aggressive rat.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is basically a rewrite of the “Waffle House” sketch from Jenna Ortega’s episode last season. However, it’s far less funny than the original, in part because Waffle House has become something of a nationwide joke as a place where violence breaks out in a moment’s notice, and the New York subway — while it has its moments — just isn’t as much of a punchline. And in part, it doesn’t work as well because it feels so forced, like they are desperate to recapture the magic of “Waffle House” and we all know it.
When we saw everyone, including Bad Bunny, in nun costumes for his next sketch, I was concerned that we were about to revisit yet another sketch, the Ariana Grande Sound of Music bit. Instead, it’s an original bit in which a convent grapples with the news that a man is hiding in their midst, having sex with all of the nuns. It’s a dumb bit with a “twist” ending that left me feeling sorry for Bad Bunny who struggled through some of his lines.
The final, and decidedly worst sketch of the night takes place in a business meeting where Bad Bunny’s character only wants to talk about his daughter’s wedding. That’s it. That’s the joke.
Oh, and Lady Gaga was in attendance as well:
lady gaga introducing bad bunny on SNL speaking spanish omg… bilingual queen!! pic.twitter.com/TLaB0ML7ls
— allure (@allurequinn) October 22, 2023
Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC and streams on Peacock.