Austin Butler hosts a goodbye party for Cecily Strong on ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Austin Butler & Lizzo
December 17, 2022

For all of my fellow olds out there; Austin Butler is the kid who played Elvis in that recent Baz Luhrman movie, but he got his start in Nickelodeon shows in the early 2000s. This is why if you remember watching Eddie Murphy on SNL when he was originally a cast member, you probably have no idea who this kid is. But that’s OK — all you need to know is that he’s handsome, he has a certain charisma, and he does bear something of a resemblance to Elvis.

But how was he as a host of Saturday Night Live? The answer is: fine. He seemed a little nervous early in the night, which is pretty typical for first-time hosts with little live performance experience. But he was very loose and natural in a digital sketch, and later in the night, he was clearly enjoying himself in a bit where, ironically enough, he played an enthusiastic Elvis fan.

As for the episode itself, it was a perfectly middling outing that was overshadowed by the news that after 11 seasons, this would be Cecily Strong’s last episode. The show says goodbye to her twice, which is only fitting as she joins Fred Armisen and Al Franken as the fourth longest-running cast members. Strong has left her mark on the show and will be missed.

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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.

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Natasha Lyonne hosts an exceptional and emotional ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Natasha Lyonne & Japanese Breakfast
May 21, 2022

It’s almost unfair: Natasha Lyonne is one of my favorites — a wonderful actress and a New York classic, and if she had hosted any other episode, that would be the story. Fortunately, she hosted one of the best episodes of the season. Unfortunately, it was the final episode for four now-legendary cast members: Kyle Mooney; Aidy Bryant; Pete Davidson; and the great Kate McKinnon, who, along with Kennan Thompson, has been carrying this show on her back for ten years now, and that will be what this episode is remembered for. Not that it’s a bad thing: the goodbyes are sweet and funny and well-deserved. I just hope Natasha Lyonne is invited back soon: she had great chemistry with the cast, had terrific comedic timing, and held her own in a challenging episode.

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Selena Gomez is saddled with maybe the worst ‘Saturday Night Live’ episode of the season

Saturday Night Live
Selena Gomez and Post Malone
May 14, 2022

I didn’t realize I was a fan of Selena Gomez until her absolute star turn in Only Murders in the Building (although her 2017 song “Bad Liar” is fantastic; strongly recommend). In that series, she is the third, paired with comedy superstars Martin Short and Steve Martin, and she not only does she hold her own, she is the magic that makes the series work as well as it does. So I was hopeful that she would command a strong Saturday Night Live this week — after all, she has the comedy chops, she just needs the right material to make it all work.

Sadly, friends, she was not given such material, but instead was burdened with perhaps — and I say this hesitantly because it just wasn’t all that long ago that the disastrous Paul Rudd episode happened — the worst episode of the season? Maybe the worst episode of the season! I mean, we still have an episode to go, but this episode is a strong contender for the worst episode of the season. It’s not just that the cold open is terrible or that Baby Yoda makes another appearance, it’s that there are sketches in this episode that feel half-written, or worse, not written at all, just glimmers of an idea jotted down on a cocktail napkin. It just feels like there was very little episode put forward this week.

Anyway, I’m mad at this episode and think Selena Gomez deserves a do-over.

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Saturday Night Live: Cumbernotterrible

Saturday Night Live
Benedict Cumberbatch & Arcade Fire
May 8, 2022

Benedict Cumberbatch first hosted Saturday Night Live on the last episode before the 2016 election. I do not hold this against him, and I blame him for nothing. That said, he should be happy that … other events overshadowed that episode, and most people have little to no memory of the appearance. Because honestly, through no fault of his own, it was not great, to say the least.

On this, his second time on the Studio 8H stage, Cumberbatch, who is a brilliantly talented actor with a natural sense of humor, had much better material to work with. It wasn’t all perfect, heaven knows. But thanks to current events which have many of us laughing through ABSOLUTE RAGING FURY, the material he was given was at times inspired.

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Lizzo sparkles on an otherwise so-so ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
April 16, 2022

Lizzo, as everyone and their momma know by now, is the Grammy-award-winning hip-hop artist who had her big breakthrough in 2016, and became world famous by 2019. She also was one of the last concerts I saw in person before the world shut down, but I digress. Lizzo’s magic is not just that she’s musically gifted — which she is as a singer, rapper, and improbably, a flutist — but that she is deeply inspirational. Her message of body positivity and self-love resonates with so many communities of people who have been taught their entire lives to be ashamed of who they are: whether they are heavy or skinny, or gay, or trans, or a person of color, or simply had the misfortune of being born a woman in this world. Lizzo celebrates herself, and by extension her audience, in a way that is accepting, warm, and deeply funny. You don’t write a line like “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch,” without a sense of humor.

And so it is hardly a surprise that Lizzo with all her bravado and comedic talents would be a natural fit on the Saturday Night Live stage. Unfortunately, the writing didn’t live up to Lizzo’s charisma (something I feel like I say most weeks) but she didn’t seem to mind, clearly enjoying herself through the entire night.

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15 years later, Jake Gyllenhaal finally returns to ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Jake Gyllenhaal & Camila Cabello
April 9, 2022

The most surprising thing about this week’s Saturday Night Live is the revelation that this is only the second time Jake Gyllenhaal has hosted, the first time being 15 years ago. For some perspective, 15 years ago, Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, and Darrell Hammond were still on the cast. (And so was Kenan Thompson, so the more things change and all that.) Parks and Recreation was still 2 years from premiering! That’s how long ago it was!

So what took so long for someone like Gyllenhaal, who seems to have a healthy sense of humor and natural comic timing, to return? Did he think appearing on SNL might hurt his Serious Actor status? Did he feel pressured to do a sketch he hated? Did he insult someone on the writing staff who has since left? DID HE INSULT SETH MEYERS? IS SETH MEYERS A SWIFTIE?

Whatever the reason, it was good to have Gyllenhaal back: he’s loose, game, and funny, and he needs to not be such a stranger to Studio 8H in the future.

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‘Saturday Night Live’: Re-introducing Jerrod Carmichael

Saturday Night Live
Jerrod Carmichael & Gunna
April 2, 2022

Jerrod Carmichael is an interesting figure. Despite having starred in The Carmichael Show, his semi-autobiographical and critically-acclaimed network sitcom for three seasons, he’s hardly a household name. (It probably didn’t help that NBC aired the series in the doldrums of the summer, instead of trusting it to run in the fall or midseason schedules.) Instead, Carmichael is one of those comics’ comics, a performer who despite being very successful on paper is almost something of an industry secret. Hopefully, his smooth and unflappable hosting of Saturday Night Live last night will help familiarize the rest of America with this talented writer, actor, and producer.

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The perfect Zoë Kravitz isn’t a perfect fit for ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Zoë Kravitz & Rosalia
March 12, 2021

(No, there wasn’t a new Saturday Night Live last night — I just came back from vacation and have finally gotten around to writing about last week’s episode. Sorry if there was any confusion!)

The genetically blessed Zoë Kravitz hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time last week, fresh from starring as Cat Woman in the critically-acclaimed The Batman. Kravitz radiates a lot of the same cool-girl energy that made her mother famous, which does not necessarily make for the best fit on a live comedy series. Kravtiz, who is undeniably talented and beautiful, always felt a little removed from the wackiness of the live bits, a little aloof. The taped pieces were more successful as a whole, which I think just goes to show that performing live in front of an audience is a lot more daunting than those of us watching from home appreciate. In any event, Kravtiz held her own on a middling episode, though I don’t see a lot of physical comedy in her future.

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Oscar Isaac charms his way through ‘Saturday Night Live’

Saturday Night Live
Oscar Isaac & Charli XCX
March 5, 2021

It’s kinda hard to believe, but this is the first time Oscar Isaac has graced the Studio 8H stage with his magnetic presence (I’m going to do my best to not be too gross in my drooling over Isaac through this recap, but I’m only human). Isaac is one of those Very Serious Actors who is also incredibly charismatic and clearly has a sense of humor — have you seen the red carpet video with Jessica Chastain? So it is somewhat surprising that it took us this long — nearly 10 years after his breakthrough role in Inside Llewyn Davis (which, admittedly, no one saw) — for him to grace the stage he is so natural on. It’s not a perfect episode by any means, but Oscar Isaac is a comfortable fit, and I hope will be back soon.

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