“Saturday Night Live” was new this week, but it sure felt like it took the week off. Light on politics, comedy, and relevance, the episode under-delivered by miles. It seemed as if the writers just stumbled into the occasional sketch that did land completely by accident. What happened this week? When they found out Scarlett Johansson — competent, likeable, and experienced — was hosting, did they just decide to phone it in? It was like 80 percent of the show was written based on a grab bag of ideas for ten-to-ones submitted by interns.
Host: Scarlett Johansson
This week, Scarlett Johansson joined the members of “Saturday Night Live’s” most elite enterprise: The Five-Timers’ Club. As the name suggests, it’s an honor reserved for hosts such as Justin Timberlake and Drew Barrymore — aka, the celebrities that have taken on hosting duties a minimum of five times in their careers. It would be understandable, however, if Johansson’s membership was called into question at the next imaginary meeting.
As far as hosts go, she was a smart choice! She has projects to promote (including one with cast member Kate McKinnon), Johansson’s personal life has made a few headlines as of late, and she wouldn’t need training wheels during the week’s prep. Unfortunately, this episode was beneath her. Remember in 2006, when she shrieked “This party is literally worse than the Holocaust!” in a “My Super Sweet Sixteen” parody? Or her sketch with Vanessa Bayer in 2010, with their competing child star characters? You don’t accidentally make it onto “SNL” for a fifth time! Let the record show that Johansson honestly did the best she could — she’s just better than the material she had to work with this week. So, so much better.
Best Sketch of The Night: Complicit
In another episode, this ad for an Ivanka Trump perfume would have made best parody, or sketch most likely to go viral. But, given the rest of last night’s episode, “Complicit” swept the honor for best sketch of the night. That said, it’s still extremely deserving: The gilded sets, Johansson’s frozen half-smile, and the tittering cast members behind her melt into a divine commercial parody. It hurts that there weren’t more like this. Every viewing brings something new to appreciate — sneering dialogue included. “Complicit” is almost enough to bump up the episode’s overall grade point average. Almost.
Best Parody: A Sketch For The Women
Performative allyship is “Saturday Night Live’s” new sweet spot. Much like last week’s “Girl At A Bar” sketch, this bit’s mockery of self-congratulating, woke-white-male-feminist-BS is just about “SNL” at its best. It’s made better still by satirizing the male writers’ complete inability to write successfully for women, and perhaps, write a show on their own at all, while also showcasing the chemistry between longtime writing partners Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney. The sketch feels like an accurate reflection of too many desperate men in society, and particularly, men in comedy. As Johansson and Aidy Bryant chime in bored unison, it’s hard not to wonder how many women at “SNL” have had this exact experience in the last 42 years.
Best Impression: Alex Moffat
Ho-ly shit. It’s always a delight to see current cast members take on a new politician — as a result, Alex Moffat’s Senator Al Franken was brilliant. His mimicry was amazing; the deepened voice, the cadence of a man whose patience is well beyond tested. His physicality as he shied away from McKinnon’s spritely Sessions. Even Moffat’s fluffy, gray-streaked hairstyle and glasses were perfect. (Okay, so that’s thanks to the costume department.) But to watch a newer cast member take on Al Franken — a legendary writer, performer, and government official — and to do it so well? Let’s hope that this has a chance to return to Weekend Update before too long. Maybe he can replace Colin Jost! Hey, a writer can dream.
Worst Sketch of The Night: Zoo Photographer (Among Others)
In an evening replete with duds, the worst sketch of all was actually the monologue. A Kenan-centric clip show? The five dollar footlong Subway jingle? Can’t a woman host “SNL” a fifth time without a dude making it about him? Alas. But yeah, the Zoo Photographer sketch was also terrible.
An animal photographer being confused with a pornographer? Nailed it!!! Let’s build a million jokes off of that! (To Scarlett Johansson’s credit, her bright, cheery cluelessness comes close to saving the sketch.)
Sketch Most Likely to Go Viral: Translator
“Translator” has all the key components of a clip destined to go viral: There’s a pathetically cute dog! Dumb voiceovers! Soft Trump burns! An offhand reference to Scarlett Johansson masturbating! And that’s about it. This would have been funnier before he was actually elected president. Trump’s running the country now, guys. “If you could communicate with your dog in English, you’d be dismayed to find out he supports Trump” is just so LAME.
Best Female Performer: Leslie Jones
It is a long-held belief that Leslie Jones should be put in the Smithsonian for her brand of hilarious, self-confident, and unapologetic comedy. So, it’s a shame that the first “SNL” in which she’s been allowed to shine in weeks had her pretend to be a ninja, offer Baldwin’s Trump a tepid comeback, and other parts beneath her level of talent. It’s tough to complain when Jones has as much screen time as she did in last night’s episode — but she deserves stronger, better roles, and we all know it.
Best Male Performer: Kenan Thompson
We know — we were surprised too. It seems like he should be awarded the title based on screen time alone, and perhaps that’s true. After all, Thompson appeared in the cold open, the monologue, and entirely too many sketches over the course of the evening. For better or worse, however, he still made us laugh. Even when the joke was on him — like, ha, ha, he’s been here for so long — it was obvious why’s stuck around. It’s nice to know that in a 12-plus year tenure at “SNL,” he’s evolved beyond just over-the-top game show hosts and characters carried over from his days on Nickelodeon’s “All That.” Or maybe he’s just super in love with Scarlett Johansson? Whatever. When it’s 2017 and Kenan’s the top male performer of the evening, it’s best not to overthink it.
This episode doesn’t even deserve a pithy tag. It was so, so bad, you guys. “Saturday Night Live” takes a break, returning April 8th with host Louis C.K. and musical guest The Chainsmokers. Coooool.