In a promo for this week’s Saturday Night Live, host Natasha Lyonne is a good sport as cast members Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon roast her “iconic voice,” comparing it to Marge Simpson, “every secretary in a Monsters Inc. movie,” and a corroded kazoo.
Of course, Lyonne’s acid-washed tones aren’t the only distinctive thing about her. She’s a serious comic talent who’s demonstrated impressively off-center taste in projects from the beginning, such as 2000's spiky gay-conversion-therapy sendup But I’m A Cheerleader. After some time in the cinematic wilderness, she’s found success on TV in recent years, from the Netflix smash Orange Is The New Black to Russian Doll, the time-travel dramedy that gives Lyonne a wide-open stage to do some truly exciting things with character. (She also did the American Pie movies, but hey, can’t blame a gal for cashing in to finance the other stuff.) Lyonne’s best parts show that she can do just about anything; her astringent timing rarely fails to land. Russian Doll producer Amy Poehler isn’t Lyonne’s only SNL connection: She and Maya Rudolph have a production company, and she appeared on John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch.
(Irrelevant but true, and not to harp on the voice thing, but: We kind of love that, despite growing up in an era in which the traditional New York accent is in decline, even among natives, Lyonne somehow managed to acquire an outer-borough honk that makes her sound like a ’30s gun moll, or perhaps an unseen wacky sister to Cathy Moriarty in Raging Bull.)
So Lyonne gives SNL more than enough to work with and should be comfortable in 8H. She’s the kind of host who makes you psyched for the show from the first announcement. The musical guest, Japanese Breakfast, is a multi-course meal of indie-pop fun. (Lead singer Michelle Zauner is also an author, having written the best-selling memoir Crying In H Mart.) Their latest album, Jubilee, scored the group two big Grammy nominations (Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album) and AV Club’s Album of the Year designation. It spawned the infectious singles “Be Sweet” and “Savage Good Boy,” the video for which features Sopranos star Michael Imperioli. Both songs are worth a spin before the show if you haven’t heard them.
This week is the 47th-season finale, and the guest talent provides a strong setup for the evening.