Saturday Night Live
Jason Momoa & Tate McRae
November 19, 2023
Jason Momoa first hosted SNL back in 2018, when he was still best known for being Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones. I gave the episode a B despite the lackluster writing, in large part for Momoa’s unbridled goofy enthusiasm. It’s been a long five years, what with Aquaman and Dune and Fast X and a global pandemic, but I’m here to tell you that not much has changed for Jason Momoa. He’s still that goofy, energetic guy whose enthusiasm is often the single thing that saves some pretty middling sketches from themselves. And you’ll never guess what grade this episode received.
The cold open features a President Biden press conference following his summit with China’s President Xi in which Biden celebrates his big diplomatic win, bringing the pandas back to D.C., and sharing the podium with a panda played by Bowen Yang. The sketch tries to make the legitimately important points that people aren’t paying enough attention to President Biden’s accomplishments and the fact that a second term for Former President Dementia
might will mean the end of democracy as we know it, but in the end, it doesn’t go nearly hard enough on either of these points.
Jason Momoa’s monologue is about how he got his first role on Baywatch? And then about his Earth-friendly water brand? And there is not a joke to be found? Legitimately, this is the least funny monologue that I have ever seen. It’s enthusiastic! But there is no attempt to be funny.
OK, this is simultaneously a high concept bit and a very very basic premise: a scholar appears on a PBS show, claiming to have early 20th-century film footage of Wizard of Oz author Frank K. Baum, possibly writing the book. But the footage is mostly interrupted by other people who see the camera and start mugging in front of it.
The reason it’s high concept is that for the home audience, the joke is mostly, “Oh look, there’s Mikey Day and Jason Momoa in early 20th century costumes making silly faces pretending to hump each other. Ha.” But in reality, it’s mostly a sketch for the live audience as the actors who are portraying the people in the film have to pantomime in a sped-up fashion to make it look like an old-fashioned movie. It’s not a great sketch — particularly for the home audience — but I suspect it made it onto the episode because it played well with the live audience at dress rehearsal.
Hey, remember how a couple of months ago, women were asking the men in their lives how often they think about the Roman Empire and the answers were almost uniformly, “All the time” and women were like, “WHAT THE FUCK?” This is a whole song about that. And it’s not bad, and I don’t blame them for waiting until Momoa hosted if only so they could dress him like a Roman Centurian. However, I didn’t like how much slapping is in it and I haaaaaaated the ending.
Grade: B+ (This was so close to being an A, or A+ had they just done a little editing.)
Marcello Hernandez is a nightclub bouncer trying to teach Momoa the ropes of how to gently decline patrons through the art of metaphor. But Momoa is very dumb and just keeps telling people that they are ugly. It might have been funnier if Momoa could even marginally do a Cuban accent. He can not.
In this bit, Bowen Yang and Ewo Nwodim are Newark airport gate agents and Momoa is a drunk pilot who are providing commentary on the Thanksgiving Weekend Airport Parade: including The Angry Couple Spending Their Last Thanksgiving Together; The Woman Who Took Her Ambien Too Early; and the only employees who are happy to be working that weekend — whose punchline I won’t give away. As someone who has spent an inordinate amount of time in airports this year, I loved this.
In this week’s Please Don’t Destroy, the boys are about to make a ramen order when one of them finds out he’s just been dumped. The other two pretend to console him, but are much more invested in completing their food order. It’s not hilarious, it’s fine, I’m not mad at it.
“Weekend Update” makes jokes about President Biden; George Santos; and Twitter, and they’re all fine. Michael Che then digs into the ol’ misogyny bag to make a cheap joke and irritates me all over again.
Bown Yang’s George Santos stops by the Weekend Update desk to talk about his eventful week, and is his usual hilarious lying self. We will, indeed, miss him when he’s gone.
So apparently there is a basketball player named Draymond Green who put another basketball player named
Frenchy Frenchman Rudy Gobert into a chokehold recently, and he comes to the Desk to defend himself. It’s mostly jokes about him threatening people. Maybe it would be funnier if I knew anyone involved?
“Remember Lizards” is the backup band of the night, and the entire premise is that they are an Imagine Dragons ripoff band and very very bad. It’s repetitive and not great.
Chloe Fineman and her husband, Andrew Dismukes, host for dinner her former fiance, Momoa, who has just been rescued from a deserted island. The entire punchline is: Jason Momoa. More specifically, it’s that meme: You vs. The Guy She Told You Not to Worry About Who is Jason Momoa.
In this pretaped piece, Sarah Sherman plays Charna Lee Diamond, a feminist tennis player who, before Billie Jean King, challenged a man to a match. Except the man she challenged is Ronnie Dunster, played by Jason Momoa. It doesn’t go well for Diamond.
It’s gory and funny enough but maybe I’m just feeling especially peevish today and seeing sexism everywhere, because it also feels a little misogynistic, like it’s mocking a genuine feminist win? Diamond might say it best herself: “Did I ruin it for women?”
Finally, Jason Momoa plays a cabbie who takes a call on speakerphone from his doctor who delivers incredibly embarrassing news as Kenan Thompson, the fare, listens on against his will and in horror. It’s a perfectly serviceable sketch that I will completely forget tomorrow.
Final Grade: B
Saturday Night Live airs at 10:30/11:30 p.m. Saturdays on NBC and streams on Peacock.