Each week, Nick Phillips (@Nicckulus) will be reviewing the latest episode of Saturday Night Live! You may recognize the last name… Nick is our very own podcast co-host’s cousin! Check back each week for the latest. We’re starting with episode 2 here (and may jump to the great Halloween episode from this weekend) because, in the spirit of SNL, we’re so random!
Season 48, Episode 2 – October 8, 2022: Brendan Gleeson & Musical Guest Willow
I know it’s weird that I’m starting this series on episode two, but it took a couple weeks for my ADHD hyperfocus to kick in, so here we are! Since this is the first in this series—I want to share a couple of broad thoughts on SNL. If you’d rather get straight to the review, head down to the section titled Cold Open (Wait, has the show started!?).
SNL is an American Institution and a live sketch comedy monolith, yet somehow, in the nearly 50 years of the show’s history, no one ever seems to like it in its current incarnation. It feels like everyone I talk to yearns for a bygone era when SNL was “still funny” (obviously the Farley era was the best, don’t @me). And yet, SNL has enjoyed extraordinary staying power even if no one can seem to agree on whether it’s any good. Through the ups and downs, the show has consistently propelled some of the greatest comedians dead or alive into the upper stratosphere of comic stardom, entrenching itself as one of the most fertile launching grounds and comedy incubators in the entertainment landscape.
Ultimately, the ebbs and flows in public appreciation, waxing and waning critical appeal, and rising and falling star power are features and bugs for those of us who continue to tune in religiously each week. On Saturday nights we gather in hopeful anticipation that we might catch an all-time classic sketch, an unplanned mishap that will make the highlight reels for years to come, or the birth of a comedy legend’s career. Plus, who doesn’t feel cool staying up late on Saturday night?
Now, ladies and gentlemen, the review:
Cold Open (Wait, has the show started!?)
The cold open is one of the most familiar elements of the SNL brand as we start the show with nervous giggles waiting for the cast to deliver that iconic line: “Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night!” This week’s cold open went with a standard SNL format—the game show. The cold open is traditionally one of the most topical segments on SNL and this week’s So You Think You Won’t Snap featured contestants trying to keep their cool as an impish Bowen Yang reads increasingly frustrating headlines ripped right from the week’s news. This was one of the best Cold Opens in recent memory, if only for giving us a break from over saturated political impressions. If the best comedy is true, then trot out the Mark Twain award for this sketch, because I feel like I’m playing this game every time I doom scroll on the toilet. It’s a hellscape out there. Grade: A
And Your Host…Brendan Gleeson
It was delightful to see Brendan Gleeson, a beloved character actor and brilliant “that guy!” get to take center stage as the host this week. His monologue got off to a shaky start, before finding its footing with some help from a cameo by fellow Irishmen and Banshees of Inisherin co-star Colin Farrell. Overall Gleeson was game, though I was a bit surprised by his narrow comedic range and occasional struggles with cue cards. Grade: Still a solid “B” outing from our host.
Willow, or Willow Smith, famously the daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, faces an unlikely uphill battle in her attempts to seek public acceptance as an adult music artist. The same name that rocketed her into public consciousness with her 2010 hit, Whip my Hair, now carries less cultural cachet as she attempts to move beyond her child star roots and above the fray of her family’s sudden infamy to establish herself as an artist in her own right. Her performance here, complete with shaved head, sick guitar solos, impeccable vocals, and even some screaming, will certainly help her take that next step. Grade: B+
It’s Weekend Update with Colin Jost & Micheal Che
Che and Jost are in a groove. Jost has been in the chair longer than anyone in the history of SNL (if you’ll recall he predated Che by about six months), and their tenure shows. These guys can do the job in their sleep at this point. Smartly, SNL continues to use Update as a breakout platform for the show’s featured players which helps keep the segment fresh. Speaking of new talent, Featured Player Marcello Hernandez did the most with his time tonight, delivering a blistering bit about Latinx baseball players that won him big laughs from the studio audience.
Best update joke of the night: The Dr. Oz dog jokes were relentless and reminded me a of the way Norm McDonald could be like a dog with a bone when he got his jaws around a topic. Staying on dog theme, bonus points for lesbian Velma and her rescue pit-bull Scooby. Weekend Update Grade: B+
I like that SNL is making an effort to highlight their featured players, especially following the most dramatic cast shake-up since the 90s. New Cast Members Answer Questions was a great showcase for the new faces, and especially Molly Kearney who hasn’t seen much screentime otherwise.
Sarah “Squirm” Sherman continues to bring her fringe brand of body-horror-comedy to SNL and damn is it refreshing. Her comedy won’t be for everyone, but I love to see SNL trying new things and giving Squirm regular opportunities to bring her unique voice to the show with sketches like Denver Slogan Meeting.
This episode also featured another worthy entry from the Please Don’t Destroy crew, with the pre-recorded Senior Year sketch. This trio brings a level of absurdism to SNL that makes the show more dynamic. I hope we see them with the same regularity as last year.
Overall, it feels like the show is more for everyone than ever before as it deftly moves between familiar sketch formats, newer more bizarre concepts, and hallmark topical humor. While there were a few stinkers (Blonde Sneak Peak, CNN Try Guys News Report), this episode delivered solid laughs at a regular clip and had enough variety to earn solid marks.
Overall Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Got to give it to the new kid, Marcello Hernandez, for his standout Weekend Update appearance and his sneakily funny bit during the New Cast Members Answer Questions pre-recorded sketch.