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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: The Best and Worst of Zoë Kravitz’s Hosting Debut

Hot off the premiere of Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” this week’s “Saturday Night Live” saw Zoe Kravitz join this season’s impressively strong “first timers club.”

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- “Zoë Kravitz, Rosalía” Episode 1820 -- Pictured: (l-r) Chris Redd, Kate McKinnon, host Zoë Kravitz, Ego Nwodim, and Aidy Bryant during the monologue on Saturday, March 12, 2022 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

Zoë Kravitz hosts “Saturday Night Live”

Will Heath/NBC

Hot off the theatrical release of Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” this week’s “Saturday Night Live” saw Zoë Kravitz join this season’s impressively strong “first timers club.”

Host: Zoë Kravitz

Naturally, with the latest Catwoman in the building, the opening monologue devolved into an assortment of Catwomen (and ladies… and Williams) of years past. As Kravitz attempted to get through her monologue, Kate McKinnon (dressed like Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, from “Batman Returns”) interrupted her to set up the bit, introducing “the Cat Signal.” (It’s like the Bat Signal… but with a cat.) And then came Ego Nwodim (channeling Earth Kitt’s Catwoman, from the 1960s “Batman” series), explaining the subtle difference between “camp” and “super gay.”

Kravitz’s monologue suggested that she would probably lay back during the episode, playing the straight woman to the more eccentric characters throughout. However, while her effortlessly cool persona was able to shine through within the sketches — as hard as she ultimately went for it in the “Don’t Stop Believin’ (Marching Band)” sketch, she just couldn’t quite match Bowen Yang’s energy — Kravitz didn’t just stand back and play the normal one in a sea of weirdos. Not at all.

“Maid of Honor” was the best foot to start off on for that very reason. Kravitz was essentially sent into the deep end with this sketch, as even with both Cecily Strong and Kyle Mooney essentially as her safety nets as the supporting roles, she carried it. (Speaking of Mooney, his reaction work has been pretty spectacular this season, from “Parent-Teacher Conference” to “The Dream Guy” and now to this. His “I’m gonna die.” was a great closing line to this scene.) It’s hard to narrow the list of terrible things Kravitz’s character revealed about Strong’s newlywed character down to just one specific line, but it’s worth a try: “She’s been a bit of a bridezilla and not just because she’s attacked a lot of Japanese people.” Well, that and the reveal of Kravitz’s husband (Mark from Please Don’t Destroy):

“What did you say, girly?”
“You’re not a monster, you’re just his math teacher.”

Also, the sketch started off very strong, with the quick reveal that the short line of dialogue Chris Redd’s character had at the top of it wasn’t us starting the scene at the end of his Best Man speech: It was just an “incredibly short speech.”

“Porch Scene” was perhaps the one sketch of the night where Kravitz actually did lay back, as it was all about McKinnon and Aidy Bryant as nerdy teen boys. (And the absurdity of the phone call “subtly” taking place during it, with the bit requiring the host character to lay back and somehow not know what’s going on.) This was a sequel sketch to last season’s “Study Buddy,” with host Carey Mulligan in the Zoë Kravitz role as the object of McKinnon’s awkward boy’s affection. It’s a shame we never actually got his “Frasier” impressions though, as they really seemed to woo Kravitz — “the Hilary Duff of our Algebra class” — in the first place.

Post-Weekend Update, “Word Crunch” brought Kravitz back into the forefront of sketches. (It also included Aristotle Athari, who has really not been utilized and didn’t even get to be funny in this sketch, despite everyone else getting a chance.) The fact of the matter is, Zoë Kravitz saying “momhole” over and over again is funny, and this sketch very much realized it. Kravitz’s eventual rapid fire — that began with “scissoring” — also allowed for a realization that, while she almost broke at times, Kravitz’s line delivery throughout the episode was on point. It’s so easy for hosts — and cast members, as McKinnon showed during the monologue — to trip or stumble over their words during this. Even people who have hosted before. That never happened here. All that happened here was “momhole.”

Best Sketches of The Night: “Amazon Go,” “Please Don’t Destroy: We Got Her a Cat,” & “Don’t Stop Believin’ (Marching Band)”

“IT’S A TIP!”

A simple sketch with a simple premise: You’re not going to catch Black people falling for the ol’ “Amazon Go” trap. “Computer vision,” “deep learning algorithms,” and “sensor fusion?” Kravitz, Thompson, Redd, Nwodim, and Punkie Johnson? All of their characters were right to question it. And question it in different ways too, with Redd verbalizing everything he’s doing, Thompson leaving the “ALEXA! SEARCH AMAZON GO STORE BLACK MAN TRAP!” tip (for a computer, essentially), and Kravitz trying to use her white partner (Andrew “I’m Learning” Dismukes) as a shield. The sketch was all in the performances, and the bigness those three in particular went with — as Nwodim (“Some people?”) and Johnson’s (“I always pay.”) characters were more about the smaller, “you’re not gonna trick us” reactions.

“What a crazy adventure we had.”

As this sketch reminded us, this half of the season has really decided to get a lot of mileage out of the fact that Paul Rudd hosted this season under less than ideal circumstances. Hopefully enough pop ins and little bits with him now in 2022 will end up adding up to a full episode of Paul Rudd as a five-time host once you put them all together.

Again, a sketch that showed how game Kravitz was — one can only assume that she carries that cat-catching net with her everywhere she goes, not just in this sketch — the manic energy of Please Don’t Destroy continues to be a bright spot in a season already pretty full of bright spots. Paul Dano showing up to spend more screen time with Kravitz than he actually does in “The Batman” and fitting in among the chaos and weirdness of Please Don’t Destroy (aka “three guys who suck”) just added to the charm of the sketch. In fact, it might seem strange to say, but “charm” really is a strong component of these Please Don’t Destroy pre-tapes.

“Steven Tyler wasn’t in Journey.”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER!”

The 10-to-1 sketch, “Don’t Stop Believin’ (Marching Band)” lived up to the weirdness that that spot naturally creates. As previously noted, Kravitz couldn’t exactly match Yang’s energy in the sketch as it continued to ramp up… but she definitely played an energy that lined up with it. And that is the energy of “Don’t Stop Belevin’” from the Ohio State marching band — which is 100% real, including the typo:

Worst Sketches of The Night: “Princess & The Frog” & “Old Home Movies”

To be fair, this sketch is enjoyable because of how it dunks on “The Princess and the Frog” in the first place, from the Disney- (“The movies Disney doesn’t really promote as much.”) to Kenan Thompson and Andrew Dismukes playing the characters from the actual movie and letting the audience know, “Yep. This really happened in this movie.” Strong’s “Beauty and the Beast” song riff at the top wasn’t exactly necessary, but then again, “The Princess and the Frog” is a movie in which it’s possible that actually happened in it too, and no one would ever know. This whole sketch could be word for word from the movie — even Dismukes explaining the Ray character’s whole deal, channeling “lurr” once again — and, again, no one would know.

But returning to the sketch itself, it was ultimately fine. Redd, Kravitz, Thompson, and Dismukes all committed to the ridiculous bit — frogs not having penises — and it was a change from the typical (and more familiar) Disney classics the show tends to play with (to more mixed results than this sketch, honestly).

Also, upon looking into the movie after this sketch, it appears Bruno Campos played the voice of Prince Naveen (the frog) in “The Princess and the Frog.” Campos very memorably played a character on “Nip/Tuck” who — much like a frog — did not have a penis. This sketch now essentially brands that as a very specific sort of typecasting.

If the only reason “Old Home Movies” exists is because one of the writers wanted to see Thompson do live fastforwarding, that would still be a very good reason for it to exist. If anything, this sketch didn’t have enough of it. It also didn’t really have an ending, as it simply went back to the “dad can’t remember a celebrity name” well.

Best Male Performer: Chris Redd

If the choice was between “Princess & The Frog” and the cut for time “Can I Talk to You” making it onto the broadcast, the latter would’ve been the better choice. But both sketches had Redd in common, committing to a ridiculous bit and finding new ways to make playing such a dang freak funny. Again, the “Maid of Honor” sketch started off so strong because the quick reveal that Redd’s few sentences were literally his entire Best Man speech. (With the company they kept, neither Mooney’s nor Strong’s character was exactly a catch.)

And to quote him from the “Amazon Go” sketch: “ALEXA! SEARCH AMAZON GO STORE BLACK MAN TRAP!”

Honorable Mention: Andrew Dismukes

Andrew Dismukes has truly been the stealth sniper of this season, getting more screen time and just absolutely nailing every little bit he gets. While the “White House TikTok Meeting Cold Open” did actually have some decent bits — even you could see that the sketch would clearly age like milk from the moment the word “TikTok” was uttered — it was clear from the moment Dismukes started his bit that this really has subtly been his season.

Best Female Performer: Ego Nwodim

This could’ve been a case of the host taking the crown again or even a joint McKinnon and Bryant choice this week. But Nwodim’s versatility is something to be praised this week, even if she wasn’t the focal point. Nwodim’s Catwoman bit from the monologue was a good start for her, and as mentioned, her part in the “Amazon Go” sketch worked because it was different from the bigger focus of the sketch. (Plus, she was the first to let us all know it was a trap.) Then you have her as the mother in “Old Home Movies” — and the way “SNL” doesn’t even try to pretend to age her up in sketches like this is always pretty funny — where she, Kravitz, and Redd are more the straight men to Thompson’s weirdness, but she still stands out. But her exasperated straight man characters are always highlights, as last week’s “Workplace Harassment Seminar” and this week’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ (Marching Band)” showed.

Final Thoughts

With Kravitz’s hosting and the strength of the sketches, this could easily be considered one of the best sketches of the season. Even the weaker sketches — with “Princess & The Frog” as the stronger of the two — had a distinctly weird approach that made the complete episode work. Despite the fact that the cold open probably won’t make sense out of context in probably five years — especially the “an actress from The CW” bit — and the TikTok focus, it was also arguably the best cold open of the past few episodes — also because of the “an actress from The CW” bit. (The bit, of course, was Chloe Fineman as AnnaLynne McCord, addressing Vladimir Putin.)

It was actually the features on Weekend Update that “dragged” the episode down a peg. After the “Oops, All Jokes” Update, the features post-Winter Olympics haven’t quite hit like they had been in this season. There’s either not enough edge or the bits are just kind of played out. Alex Moffat is a solid talent, and he was pretty much MIA for all of this week’s episode — except for during Update. And he brought back his film critic character, Terry Fink — a character that, like “Guy Who Just Bought a Boat” is simply running on autopilot at this point. And not in an impressive way.

Kyle Mooney’s Dan Bulldozer was at least something different, but as funny as it was at first to see him in the muscle suit and hear him with the voice modulator, the novelty wore off pretty quickly.

Grade: B+

“Saturday Night Live” Season 47 is available to stream via Hulu. The next host has yet to be announced.

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