From 1977 with football player Fran Tarkenton to tonight with two-time Super Bowl champ Travis Kelce, there is a substantial, if uneven, history of professional athletes hosting Saturday Night Live. It feels like an odd combination considering that athletic completion and sketch comedy hardly utilize the same muscles. While Kelce may have entered Studio 8H as an underdog, he proved himself as one of the season’s most agile hosts. With a game plan to lean into more provocative humor, from cuckholding to a game of Russian roulette, and giving the ball to a deep bench of performers with peculiar character-driven sketches, SNL scored one of its best episodes of the season.
Best sketch of the night
In American culture, the football player remains a prototype of masculinity. As a result, many of the nights best sketches dealt with assumptions and subversions of this trope from “Straight Male Friend” to “American Girl Café.” By connecting masculinity and insecurity, “Please Destroy Me: Self-Defense” proved to be one of the best. After weeks of bullying from SNL interns, the writing trio seeks help in the form of a self-defense class. The sketches conflation of self-worth and self-defense is a perfect premise, but lifts off with slapstick violence and escalating absurdity. The way that brute force destroys all hope each writer to stand up for themselves is hilarious. The addition of a fighting grandma and a game of Russian roulette made for frenetic and memorable laughs.
Worst sketch of the night
A lot of the night’s sketches dealt with dating – perhaps a node to Kelce’s time on an unsuccessful reality dating program – in fact, the word throuple appeared in two separate sketches, but “Abby the Ex-Girlfriend” had the least to offer. The sketch established that Abby suffers from misunderstandings and delusions early on, but gives Heidi Gardner little room to develop Abby’s idiosyncrasies. Instead, the sketch relies on an exaggerated water gag to show Abby crying. The practical effect has some humor, but without it or the cameo from Kelce’s brother, the sketch has little going on.
Biggest waste of time
It was exciting to see Punkie Johnson show up on “Weekend Update.” She remains one of the most consistently underused members of the cast. Unfortunately, in what felt like a somewhat bloated “Update” with an op-ed from Dilbert and a birthday edition of “Sarah’s News,” Johnson’s appearance with Mikey Day felt like a low point of an otherwise better-than-average SNL. Under the guise of discussing Oscar predictions, Day revealed that Johnson has the inability to recognize or correctly name numerous celebrities. There is little doubt that Day finds this amusing, the duo utterly fails to translate that for a wider audience. It all feels like when something funny happens at work and when you tell the story outside of work, no one laughs. The bit has no payoff. Formatting it in an overly complicated and unenthusiastic guessing game with Coin Jost and explanations like “I’m sorry but does this bitch not look like a Claire?” do little to make any of it funnier. The entire segment was undeserving of airtime on national television.
Needs more time
Bowen Yang was excellent in “Straight Male Friend,” which perfectly paired him with Kelce. However, it was his portrayal of Garrett, the unhinged Hinge date that demanded more screen time. It is such an unsettling character study of a lonely, socially awkward man looking for love in all the wrong places. If it weren’t for his barely repressed homicidal urges, you’d almost feel sorry for Garrett. He’s such a fascinating mix of rational thought and irrational expectations. He’s the kind of character that will haunt you after the sketch has ended. Even now, I’m wondering what is Garrett he’s doing and what he’ll do next. Hopefully, he’ll appear in another SNL.
MVP of the night: Travis Kelce
It was probably unfair to have low expectations of Kelce as a host, and he quickly dispelled them during his excellent monologue. Wonderfully written and well delivered, the opening managed to celebrate his recent triumph while also checking all ego at the door. From relatable family content to a series of self-deprecating jokes involving his “eloquent pump up speeches” on the field, failing French, English, and a drug test in high school before becoming a Super bowl champion. The joke about riding to and from the super bowl in his mom’s minivan was a perfect summation of his personal journey and a warming introduction to a new wider audience. It felt genuine when he said it was an honor to be hosting SNL and felt even more genuine when he said he would “give it everything,” which he proved by the end of the night.
- From Bowen Yang’s Glen, to the singing parents, and Chloe Fineman’s dating show creation, SNL needs to make some of these recurring characters.
- It felt like “American Girl Café” was missing a little political commentary around the children culture wars going on right now and the hysteria concerning child safety.
- The waterworks of “Abby the Ex- Girlfriend” was reminiscent of “Blood Oath” from earlier in the season.
- I wonder if there was a version of “Straight Male Friend” that involved Bowen Yang developing a sexual attraction to an unavailable straight man.
- I hope they keep up the provocative content for the next episode.