Nate Bargatze proves on ‘Saturday Night Live’ why he should be a household name

Saturday Night Live
Nate Bargatze & Foo Fighters
October 29, 2023

Look. If you didn’t know who Nate Bargatze was before last Saturday night (and still might have some questions even after having seen the episode) don’t worry — he’s not exactly a household name. What you need to know: Bargatze is a stand-up comedian who has been around for a minute, well-regarded amongst fellow comedians and comedy nerds for a decade or so. He’s known as a “nice guy” in the comedy world because his material is pretty PG and also, he’s just a nice guy. He has some stand-up specials on Netflix. And he is just as confused as anyone as to what he’s doing hosting SNL.

And now you know as much as there is to know about Nate Bargatze.

Well, that, and that he hosted easily the best SNL of the season so far, and should absolutely be invited back.

The cold open features Mikey Day’s President Biden decorating the Oval Office for Halloween as a means to make “Joe Biden is Old” jokes. He also meets new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, and his “adopted” Black son who is 11 years younger than him, which is totally normal and we shouldn’t look into at all. And then Christopher Walken shows up? And starts talking about being the “Spirit of Halloween?” And feels like he was shoehorned into the sketch because Lorne found him out on the sidewalk in front of 30 Rock that afternoon? I don’t know.

Grade: B-

Nate Bargatze’s monologue gets off to a rough start, just because he’s clearly nervous never having been on a stage quite this big before. But once he realizes this is just another stand-up set, like the thousands of stand-up sets he’s done before, he settles down and begins to shine. When he starts talking about the carnival, it’s clear he’s in his groove and it really begins to roll.

Grade: A

In this “Chef Showdown” bit, Bargatze and Ego Nwodim are chefs going head-to-head in a soul food competition. The Black judges assume Nwodim is the chef of the winning dish, but when it becomes clear Bargatze is the actual winner, he becomes incredibly apologetic, as unclear as anyone how he managed to pull it off. (WAIT — IS THIS A METAPHOR FOR HOSTING THE SHOW THIS WEEK???)

It’s funnier than it sounds (even if it drags on a little long). Oh, and Padma Lakshmi makes an appearance and manages to dig the hole a little deeper for our winner. 

Grade: A

It’s a Hallmark holiday movie, but the holiday is Halloween. Alternatively, it’s a horror movie, but make it Hallmark.

Grade: B

For my money, the best sketch of the night is “Washington’s Dream” in which George Washington delivers an inspiring speech to his men about what they are really fighting for: a country of their own, where they can choose their own laws and leaders, and system of weights and measures. This is one of those bits that grows organically, becoming funnier the longer it goes on. And, for once, they end it perfectly.

Grade: A++

This digital short is a Nu Country Rock song called “Lake Beach” in which Bargatze, Andrew Dismukes, and James Austin Johnson sing about the white trash delights of getting drunk on the muddy, slippery shoreline of a dirty lake. Dave Grohl sneaks in for a cameo and as an audition to host himself.

Grade: A-

So what you should know is that Fran Drescher is the President of the actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA, who is currently on strike. She suggested that people, but actors in particular, shouldn’t dress up as characters from struck productions for Halloween, so as to not promote any movies or TV shows. ANYWAY. Here, Sarah Squirm’s Fran Drescher offers some suggestions on alternative costumes kids can wear. It’s … fine. Extra points awarded for little Hoda.

Grade: B

“Weekend Update” is fine this week, taking some shots at Mike Johnson, Mike Pence, a brutal King Charles joke, and a satisfying swipe at Donald Trump and Michael Cohen.

Grade: B+

Joining the Weekend Update Desk is Sarah Squirm as Colin’s agent, J.J. who pitches him new acting jobs as soon as the strike is over. Basically, it’s a new way for Sarah to make jokes at Colin’s expense, and I am here for it.

Grade: A

In easily the weakest sketch of the night, a woman goes into labor on an airplane and asks if there is a doctor present. Instead, a bunch of passengers begin debating what the “second best” job is after doctor, and by “second best,” I suppose they mean “second hardest?” It’s mediocre at best.

Grade: C+

Please Don’t Destroy’s video has the boys singing up for a meal delivery service called “Dawg Food” which is just … dog food. It’s kibble.

Grade: B

Saturday Night Live also paid tribute to Matthew Perry, who died earlier that night. He hosted the show in 1997.

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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