This week’s “Saturday Night Live” saw comedian Jerrod Carmichael step into the hosting hot seat, promoting his recent HBO standup special, “Rothaniel.” Naturally, this continued this season of “SNL’s” impressive streak of first-time hosts, this time with someone with — admittedly — less star power than the others.
Host: Jerrod Carmichael
“I have to be the least famous host in ‘SNL’ history.”
Carmichael spent his monologue talking around “it” (the Will Smith/Chris Rock Oscars controversy, of course), while also acknowledging that in terms of star power and “SNL” hosts, he’s definitely on the lower side. After all, even when Carmichael had his own sitcom on NBC — “The Carmichael Show,” which he co-created and starred in for three seasons — he never got the chance to promote it on “SNL.” But things are different now, both with the aforementioned HBO standup special and the fact that Carmichael officially came out as gay on the special. It’s an openness and honesty that one could imagine would inform Carmichael’s role as the latest first-time celebrity host in “SNL” Season 47.
In terms of “SNL’s” handling of the Smith/Rock situation, Carmichael’s monologue went the route of not even saying any names at all. Perhaps, for that reason, the monologue won’t age well out of context, but there’s something to be said for subtlety. Only referring to the situation as “it,” Carmichael riffed on how something that had happened only six days ago felt more like it happened “somewhere between Jamiroquai and 9/11,” the way the news cycle and discussion of it all had gone down over the course of the week. Despite Lorne Michaels’ request, Carmichael wasn’t quite able to heal the nation with this monologue (as “the nation don’t even know [Carmichael]”), but he did establish himself as a host with something to prove to an audience that may not have been familiar with him.
After “Word Crunch” from Zoe Kravitz’s episode, the next game show sketch was always going to be fighting an uphill battle. “Post-COVID Game Show” (with the game show being “Is My Brain Okay”) ended up being the next game show sketch. In general, it’s hard for “SNL” to do a game show sketch without it feeling like it’s been done before, and even though “Post-COVID Game Show’s” premise hadn’t been done before on “SNL,” it really felt like it had. The “SNL” game show sketch formula is all about having a put-upon host and pretty airheaded contestants, but despite the specific angle, “Post-COVID Game Show” didn’t come across as anything more special than a “What’s Wrong with This Picture?” sketch. Plus, the joke of losing track of dates and months during a pandemic is already something “SNL” has done outside of this sketch.
“Farm Bicycle” is a good name for a wheelbarrow though.
As one of the two sketches of the night that really gave Carmichael something to do as host — the other being “Scattering Remains” — the only real knock on “Shop TV” is that it was slightly longer than it needed to be. The brief bit of Alex Moffat’s character’s line of Christian lunchboxes ultimately didn’t need to be part of the sketch, and the final bit (of Carmichael’s character essentially fisting the Rhylee Rainbowlocks doll) kind of dragged. But the “rainbow bush” really got the live audience going, and the visual comedy that came from it worked, as juvenile as it was. Cecily Strong and Mikey Day’s home shopping network hosts, however, were the true MVPs of the sketch, even though the focus managed to stay off them.
“Short-Ass Movies” is another Pete Davidson rap. Meaning: a great beat and a less than great flow from Davidson… but making up for it in both content and execution and the rapping from both Chris Redd and other more established rappers. This sketch saw this week’s musical guest Gunna — with the line of the sketch, asking, “Why this movie look like a book?” re: the double VHS of “Amadeus” — and Dirt Nasty (Simon Rex, revealing that he looks a lot more like Ernest P. Worrell than anyone ever considered) as those aforementioned established rappers. While there can be an exhaustion to come from Davidson just relying on comedy raps, you can’t deny the production value that goes into making these music videos, especially as this one often looked like a Puff Daddy and Mase music video.
Also, did you know that “The King of Staten Island” was 2 hours and 17 minutes long?
Kyle Mooney’s bizarre reactions have been a highlight of this season, so it’s understandable why a sketch like this would exist. But it really is five minutes of uncomfortable awkwardness, which is great, if that’s your thing. “Story” and “Scattering Remains” both felt like “I Think You Should Leave” sketches that made it to air on this week’s “SNL,” and it’s hard to tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing in the case of “Story.”
Best Sketches of The Night: “Scattering Remains” & “Please Don’t Destroy – Three Normal Goths”
“Scattering Remains” also perhaps wins for being the most “I Think You Should Leave”-esque sketch of the night, in a way that actually worked best for Carmichael as the host. His aloofness in this sketch really worked to sell the chaos and absurdity.
But a cut for time Please Don’t Destroy sketch, “Three Normal Goths,” was easily the highlight of this week’s sketches. There’s just something about a catchy ‘90s style theme song and the Please Don’t Destroy boys not just being normal but being basic bitches that really made the sketch work. It’s the type of sketch Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett would have done together in previous seasons; yet unlike that duo, Please Don’t Destroy’s version of this type of comedy has been quite well-received.
Worst Sketch of The Night: “Seat Fillers”
No offense to Chris Redd, but a sketch like “Seat Fillers” really served as a reminder of how, once upon a time, “SNL” just kind of dropped a cast member who was actually quite an impressionist in Jay Pharoah. Because as funny as Redd is — and even is in this sketch — it’s hard to ignore that a lot of his Smith is more yelling and vague Smith tics than it is an actually good impression.
The sketch itself wasn’t even necessarily bad, given the angle it came from: the perspective of the seat filler (played by Carmichael and Kyle Mooney, who were funny in their uncomfortableness).
Best Male Performer: Kyle Mooney
As mentioned, Mooney was quite funny in his uncomfortableness in “Seat Fillers.” And it was different from his (and the audience’s) uncomfortableness in “Story.” Honestly, this episode was not the best for getting strong performances out of any of its regular cast members on a consistent basis, due to both the allocation of screentime and the material. But Mooney did have strong showings in sketches that weren’t necessarily that strong.
Best Female Performer: Cecily Strong
It was in the cold open, but when you have Cecily Strong as Jeanine Pirro, that means that Cecily Strong instantly gave the best performance of the episode. Her Senator Marsha Blackburn (much like Kenan Thompson’s O.J. Simpson) on Weekend Update kind of fell into the same holding pattern the rest of Weekend Update features have been in lately, but at the same time, “SNL” clearly put her in that position because it knows for a fact she can deliver — and she did.
The thing about Carmichael as a host ended up actually being the thing with Carmichael as the lead on “The Carmichael Show”: While he has stage presence and can perform live in front of an audience effortlessly as a stand-up comedian, when it comes to acting in that same live setting, he is no longer the most dynamic person in the room. The only sketches where Carmichael really got to play up a character were in “Shop TV” and “Scattering Remains,” and even then, both were low-key and low-energy — in a way that was necessary to the comedy of the sketch.
But in general, Carmichael could’ve been replaced with anyone else in any of the sketches he was in and they would have been exactly the same. Actually, there possibly would’ve been more energy. The pre-tape sketch “Baby Clothes” (which did have some really good bits in it) really highlighted this, as Carmichael and Bowen Yang played a couple in the sketch and seemed like they would be working as a duo… but really, the sketch relied on Yang’s reactions, not so much Carmichael’s.
Overall, this was an unmemorable episode, and that’s even despite having three separate comedic takes (the monologue, “Seat Fillers,” and Weekend Update) on a very memorable current event. The best sketch of the episode, by a wide margin, was cut for time and only briefly had the host in it (for a bit that ultimately wasn’t even about his character).