Jerrod Carmichael hosts a slapstick-heavy edition of Saturday Night Live.
This week’s broadcast of Saturday Night Live avoids going directly into The Thing, except for a short reference late in the cold open, in a rare and surprise display of restraint. Instead, the show starts with a new episode of Fox & Friends, in which morning talk show hosts and rightwing stooges Steve Doocy (Alex Moffat), Ainsley Earhardt (Heidi Gardner), and Brian Kilmeade (Mikey Day) ask Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas (Kenan Thompson) and his wife Ginni softball questions (Kate McKinnon).
Ginny – dubbed “the Yoko Ono of the Supreme Court” — unconvincingly rejects her participation in the Capitol riots, even as she invokes “a tidal wave of Biblical retribution to sweep away the Biden criminal family all the way to Gitmo.”
After a lengthy outburst by the network’s resident wino, Judge Jeanine Pirro (Cecily Strong), about Disney “making your kindergartener queer,” the hosts are visited by former President Trump (James Austin Johnson), who calls in from his bed at Mar-a-Lago. He rambles on about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars (“I did see slap, I enjoyed slap, I was very impressed with my Hitch”) before admitting to his role in the coup (“In many ways it was an intentional planned coup, yes”) and its cover-up (“I was too busy with phone call, and burner phone, and coup.”).
Although this cold open lacks the narrative and thematic continuity that most Fox News programs do, Johnson’s movie-obsessed, definite article-allergic Trump continues to be a crowd favorite.
Jerrod Carmichael, a standup comedian, is the night’s host. Carmichael declares right away that he’s “not going to speak about it…,” before doing just that, even though he never specifies what “it” is. Instead, he speaks on how we’ve all been “talking about it for so long,” and wonders aloud, “Doesn’t it seem like it occurred somewhere between Jamiroquai and 9/11?”
Despite his reservations, he claims Lorne Michael persuaded him he needed to talk about it because “the country needs to heal.” He’s taken aback by Lorne’s decision, considering that he “had to be the least renowned host in SNL history.” Nonetheless, he takes advantage of the chance to introduce himself and promote his new HBO show Rothaniel (in which he comes out as homosexual), albeit he defers to former President Obama when it comes to the weight of national duty.
The night’s first sketch is a game show called Is My Brain Okay?, in which contestants must identify simple things they “definitely knew before Covid,” such as wheelbarrows (guesses include “bicycle,” “farm bicycles,” and “wheelmonkey”), days of the week, close friends’ names, and conversation starters. It’s a creative premise that tries to capitalize on its ingenuity, but the funniest parts are just Sara Sherman behaving strange.
Pete Davidson, musical guest Gunna, Chris Redd, and Red Rocket actor Simon Rex team together for a new musical performance called Short Ass Movie. They rap on how their short attention spans prevent them from viewing anything more than 90 minutes in the video. It’s a ploddingly apparent piece of man comedy that doesn’t even match the examples they give: we’re supposed to think modern-day guys can’t hang with Heat but would gladly throw on Eraserhead? Please. Rex saves the film with amusing lines about his love of Ernest films and a jab at Davidson’s protracted comedy vehicle The King of Staten Island, yet his participation is odd, particularly given that his recent breakthrough came in a 128-minute film.
On Shop TV, feisty southern presenters (Strong, Day) invite a dollmaker (Carmichael) to demonstrate his newest creation: Riley Rainbow. Everything is going swimmingly until he redresses the doll, showing a massive rainbow-colored bush emerging from her crotch. He clarifies that it’s not what it seems to be – a “vagafro,” as one irate caller puts it – but rather “the end of the head-spool inside… it’s an anchor point, as any dollmaker would know.” His reasons are unconvincing, but the doll remains a popular item among the home – or, in one caller’s case, jail – audience.
The episode then moves on to the elephant in the room, which is ultimately addressed. At the Oscars, Carmichael plays a seat filler who happens to be sitting exactly behind his idol Will Smith (Redd) as Chris Rock takes the stage. Before, during, and after his violent outbursts, Smith’s extreme friendliness progressively reveals the depths of his lunacy. Although Redd’s full-throated delivery of “Get my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!” receives some huge laughs, as does his near breakdown when talking about his notorious appearance on wife Jada Pinkett-Red Smith’s Table program from 2021, it’s not a very great take on the tale.
After Gunna hits the stage for a performance of Banking on Me, Weekend Update devotes practically the entire first news segment to the Oscars disaster. “You can’t expect him to sit there and watch another guy bounce all over his wife… without signing an NDA,” Michael Che says he understands Smith’s point of view. He’s also fed up with claiming that everyone was aware of Jada’s alopecia diagnosis: “As much as we heard about Jada and Will’s personal life, you can’t expect us to remember everything.” “Don’t pretend like you didn’t know about my psoriasis!” Kanye exclaims.
Meanwhile, Colin Jost is perplexed that the Oscars let Smith to remain just because Chris Rock said so: “So now we just ask the victim immediately after they got struck in the head, ‘Hey, you okay if the man who just assaulted you linger around for a while?'” You don’t want to irritate him any further.’ “I can’t believe the Academy’s concussion protocol is worse than the NFL’s.”
Jost finally invites Republican senator Marsha Blackburn to join them. “What is woman?” she justifies questioning Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson (Strong). then adds to her sensationalist queries by bringing out one of her ilk’s favorite “huge, stupid, dumbass boards with large, stupid, dumbass photos.” Strong’s Blackburn imitation is almost identical from her Marjorie Taylor Greene impersonation, which arguably says more about her than the Republican Party.
Che returns to the Oscars topic one final time by bringing in OJ Simpson (Thompson) to express his opinion. He attempts to see both sides of the argument, joking that “they both seem like wonderful people,” but he becomes irritated at many times, such as when Che discusses the academy considers taking Smith’s prize away. Aside from the outbursts, nothing here compares to the actual OJ’s film on the matter in terms of bizarreness or shamelessness.
Following that, a family and two mortuary attendants assemble along a seashore cliff to look to their grandfather’s remains. The family anticipates a traditional ashes scattering, but they are shocked to see the morticians dump their loved one’s whole carcass over the edge. It’s a shame the skit couldn’t have concluded on this brilliantly easy sight joke, since the rest of it drags on uncomfortably.
Kyle Mooney plays an uncomfortable visitor who becomes much too engrossed in a friend-of-a-tedious friend’s narrative about a New York lunch in the next sketch, which has the same discomfort.
Gunna returns to the stage to play Pushing P with Future before the performance concludes with a pre-recorded skit about gay-friendly baby T-shirts with messages like “Future Twink,” “Little Les,” “No Kink at Pride,” and “I Heart Kristen Stewart.” It’s just as irritating as the theatrical types it mocks, but at least it’s over soon.
After skipping over the main event of the day for the first half of the program, SNL made it a point to focus on it in the second half. They also did a good job, especially considering how horrible it might have been. The program was extremely explicit in adopting Rock’s “side,” going against Smith as hard as they appear ready to go against anybody other than rightwing politicians. Many people will be offended by this, but you had to expect SNL to defend one of their own.
Even outside of Carmichael’s monologue, there was an air of bleak inevitability about how our social media-driven society entirely exhausts any given event within days or even hours of its occurrence, calling into question the very need of Saturday Night Live’s continuing existence.