It being Easter weekend, Saturday Night Live opens with a message from the Easter Bunny (Bowen Yang). Almost immediately, the “freakiest” holiday character turns things over to a random assortment of public figures.
Dr Anthony Fauci (Kate McKinnon) compares Covid cases to Jesus (“They’ve risen again!”), while Marjorie Taylor Greene (Cecily Strong) worries that “between the pastels and the jellybeans, this holiday has gotten a little too LGBQRST for me”. New York City mayor Eric Adams (Chris Redd), boasts about catching the Brooklyn subway shooter, even though “it took 30 hours and the suspect turned himself in”, while Elon Musk (Mikey Day), attempts to buy the holiday. Britney Spears (Chloe Fineman) does a lot of twirling and Jared Leto (Kyle Mooney), begs people not to review his terrible new movie Morbius.
Finally, former president Donald Trump (James Austin Johnson) interrupts the proceedings to ramble about Reese’s Eggs (“I like Reese, I’m very good friends with Reese…”), Cap’n Crunch (“He was very rude to me at Count Chocula’s 500th birthday”) and Little Caesar’s (“I told him to say, ‘Pizza! Pizza!’ He used to say it once and I said we should be saying it twice!”)
Austin’s Trump and Redd’s Adams aside, these are among the worst, most obnoxious, and straight up laziest impressions in the cast’s repertory. The writing sinks to match them on several fronts, from the hypocrisy of lampooning (however lightly) Musk less than a year after the show gave its entire platform over to him, to the softening of Taylor Greene by portraying her as a harmless kook, to the attempt to have it both ways by pointing out how useless New York’s law enforcement while simultaneously parroting their “rising crime” talking point.
Tonight’s episode sees Lizzo pulling double duty as host and music guest. The singer-songwriter promises to “break the record for the amount of times bitch is said on live TV”, before discussing her recent Ted talk on the history of twerking (“I’m like if Einstein could make that ass clap”), batting down rumors about her love life (“They think I’m collecting members of One Direction like Infinity Stones”) and encouraging the audience to love themselves in order to manifest their dreams. That last bit is truly groan inducing – this is supposed to be a comedy show, not an Affirmational Instagram post – but Lizzo shows a good flair for comic delivery. She also seems serious about her earlier promise, with the Bitch Count numbering eight by monologue’s end.
Guess That is a game show where contestants have to answer rapid fire trivia questions. Things start off normal enough, until Lizzo’s contestant botches a question and hijacks the show, refusing to admit she was wrong, accusing the host of gaslighting her and attempting to overthrow him as “Mayor of Game Town”. This last gambit wins the support of her fellow contestant.
It’s a welcome spin on the usual game show narrative and promising start to the episode proper, but things take an immediate nosedive for the next sketch, the latest in the irredeemably awful Tik Tok scrolls. Rather than come up with anything original, the show simply recreates – read: steals—the latest viral videos from the social media platform. Everyone involved in this should be ashamed to call themselves comedians.
Somehow, this is followed by an even worse sketch. We flashback to Interscope Records Studios in the spring of 2008, where the Black Eyed Peas are recording songs for their latest album. Their producers help them brainstorm lyrics for several singles, including the ridiculously simplistic Boom Boom Pow, the extremely random party anthem Tonight, and the highly problematic Let’s Get Retarded, which would later be changed to Let’s Get It Started.
The problems with this sketch are numerous: from the lack of narrative cohesion (the producers are worried about the song’s baffling lyrics one second, then ecstatic about them the next), to Lizzo’s constant breaking, to the cowardly attempt to have it both ways by centering jokes around Let’s Get Retarded offensiveness without actually saying the offending lyrics (thereby putting the onus fully on the audience). Beyond any of this, this sketch speaks to how utterly stuck in the past the show is. It’s not that SNL should refrain from joking about older pop culture – one of its greatest sketches was centered around a 24-year-old Blue Oyster Cult track after all – but this brings nothing original or fresh to the table. It merely falls back on obvious observations and tired impressions 14 years past their sell-by date.
It appears the writer’s minds were stuck in the mid aughts, because the next sketch finds a couple’s (Lizzo, Day) first date interrupted by a community of the dancing old geezers “from the Six Flags commercials”, a piece of pop cultural ephemera that first appeared in 2004.
This is followed by a new Please Don’t Destroy segment. Ben, Martin and John attempt to help Lizzo break through a case of writer’s block by coming up with a “black woman anthem” for her to sing on the show. All they can come up with are sad “white guy anthems”, The Sopranos theme, one of Lizzo’s old tracks and a song about Martin’s girlfriend looking like Spongebob. They’re just about to give up when Lizzo realizes that the sketch they initially planned to pitch her – about a horny zookeeper – actually makes for a great song. As is becoming increasingly clear, the more the PDD segments rely on guest stars, the less they work, with this one being the most forgettable yet.
On Weekend Update, the show continues to have its cake and eat it too by simultaneously poking fun at/kissing the ass of Elon Musk, with Michael Che saying of his failed attempt to buy Twitter in order to lessen its free speech rules, “that’s how badly white guys want to use the N-word”, Colin Jost questions why someone who’s “building electric cars [and] going to Mars” would even waste his time on so paltry an app. (A side dig at Meghan Markle is sure to earn Jost plenty of angry comments on said platform come tomorrow). In case it wasn’t already very clear, whatever anti-establishment bonafides the show ever had are long gone.
Jost eventually welcomes this edition of Update’s sole guest, his personal driver, Cesar Perez (Melissa Villaseñor), who wants to try out some of his stand-up material. Perez fires off a series of zingers all about his nerdy, lizard and masturbation-obsessed nephew Carlito, only to immediately succumb to remorse. His tearful apologies make for a gently funny send up of Latinos specific brand of Catholic guilt. That said, this character segment is dragged down by several extremely dated jokes – this time via continual references to The Mind of Mencia.
Update signs off with a tribute to late, great alum Gilbert Gottfried, who passed away earlier this week.
Next, two party planners in ancient Egypt do a dress rehearsal for an orgy they’re throwing for their mad God-King (eventually revealed to be a young child). The hedonistic hired acts include “sensuous woman and her tender boy,” a twinkish fire eater, “old woman caked in make up with rotten teeth who laughs”, a trio of good-looking swingers, a well-endowed fan waver, a goat wrangler (with real goat), and a “puckish imp” who’s older than he advertised. This feels like a half-formed to begin with, and the cast’s constant breaking doesn’t help things. The live goat is pretty neat though.
Then, Lizzo plays a flautist auditioning for first chair in the DeVry University symphony orchestra. Her musical skills are second to none, but she can only perform while twerking. That’s all there is to it. Given Lizzo’s association with the dance move, it makes sense the show would build a sketch around it, but surely they could have come up with something better than this.
The final sketch of the night sees a group of friends celebrating one of their own (Andrew Dismukes) for quitting his job to cash in on his investments. Their moral support quickly erodes once said investments are revealed to be his collection of Beanie Babies. It makes sense the episode would wrap up with yet another tired premise centered around a cultural phenomenon several years – decades, in this case – behind us.
Her constant breaking aside, Lizzo made an adequate host, but everything surrounding her – from the terrible cold open, to the truly dire middle section, to the nonstop stream of extremely dated pop culture references – was unbearable. This was by far the worst episode of the season and possibly the worst since Musk hosted almost a year ago. (Fitting that he should feature so heavily throughout tonight’s show).
It’s a good thing the show is off for the reminder of the month, although it’s doubtful the break will do much good. At this point, Saturday Night Live isn’t merely in need of some course correction, but some real heavy-duty soul searching.