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Brendan Gleeson hosts an uneven SNL

The Irish actor isn't given material worthy of his acting chops

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Photo: SNL

Hosted by Irish character actor Brendan Gleeson, the second episode of SNL’s new season felt like a vast improvement from the premiere before descending into a collection of feeble and forgettable sketches. Promoting his upcoming film The Banshees of Inisherin, Gleeson, as a first-time host, combined with Miles Teller representing Top Gun: Maverick last week, may suggest that SNL is having a hard time attracting A-list talent to host. While Gleeson’s co-star Colin Farrell, who hasn’t hosted since 2004, did make a couple cameo appearances, the episode struggled to take advantage of Gleeson’s abilities. His monologue highlighted that Gleeson is one of those actors you definitely know, even though you don’t know from what. At times the sketches benefited from his ability to immerse himself in characters, like a White House reporter, but his lack of leading man ease and charisma made other sketches flounder. The dichotomy was established early in the monologue which was light on jokes but included a musical component and storytelling that was strangely compelling.

Best sketch of the night

New Cast Advice - SNL

Again, a pre-recorded piece suggests that the show should dispense with the “live.” The sketch put the new cast members front and center, especially Molly Kearny, juxtaposing their vastly different experiences joining the cast. Being the new kids is a relatable feeling, but it’s the variation between the calm, supportive environment experienced by Marcello Hernandez, Michael Longfellow, and Devon Walker, and Kearny’s absurd hazing by Lorne Michaels where the hilarity ensues. The escalation of the wild story combined with Kearny’s grounded delivery is perfectly pitched. They even managed to make a good joke about pronouns that could be enjoyed by a non-binary person and their well-meaning, if still confused, dad who doesn’t totally get “it.”

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Worst sketch of the night

Eyes - SNL

It could have easily been the Photoshoot Sketch or the Marilyn Monroe throwaway, but SNL saved the worst for last tonight. “Eyes,” set in a marketing meeting, was immediately doomed after the visual reveal of a co-worker’s googly eye transplant. A showcase for new-ish cast member Sarah Sherman, there was nowhere for the joke to go as it lacked the escalation of Kearney’s sketch. The supporting cast, especially Gleeson, were wasted as Sherman did her best to exaggerate movements, but the sketch was dead behind the eyes from the start.

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Best refresh of the game show concept

So You Think You Won’t Snap Cold Open - SNL

The game show sketch can be a crutch of contemporary SNL (see last weeks “Send Something Normal”). However, this week’s cold open managed to channel modern and instantaneous American rage into comedy referencing everything from President Biden’s age to Mario’s accent or Kanye West’s antics to the Orange M&M’s anxiety in “So You Think You Won’t Snap.” At its worst it hedged its bets by burning through so much material and at its best there was something to laugh at for everyone. In the end, it was the sense of societal collapse contained in the game show format that created comedic tension.

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Most divisive sketch of the night

Try Guys - SNL

Judging from a quick Twitter check, the “Try Guys’’ sketch will be the most debated of the week. When the Try Guys’ scandal becomes breaking news of CNN, the anchor, played by Ego Nwodim, represents those of us who had never heard of the Try Guys and see the scandal as a an overreaction, while a field reporter, played by Gleeson, represents those of us who may be invested in the scandal and see it as a serious issue of workplace malfeasance. Whatever side you take, it is the first time, in a long time, that a sketch on SNL felt provocative, even a little dangerous. It was sort of refreshing for a show that once was a conversation starter for the country.

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MVP of the week

Image for article titled Brendan Gleeson hosts an uneven SNL
Screenshot: SNL
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It feels like this category will likely bounce between Kennan Thompson and Bowen Yang for most of the season (at least until Cecily Strong returns). Yang’s role in the cold open was the perfect balance between surface friendliness and a sinister perversion lurking beneath inherent in game show hosts. As Eugene Lee Yang, a Try Guy, (Bowen) Yang channeled an intense, barely restrained fury that nearly broke Mikey Day during the sketch. Aside from “Eyes,” Yang managed to make every sketch he was in better.

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Stray observations

  • They really wasted Colin Farrell.
  • Mikey Day nearly breaking during the “Try Guys” sketch and being nearly unable to open his eyes during the fake blood moment was the best of live television.
  • “Weekend Update” really benefited by the “unique” senate candidates in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
  • Willow gave some good performances, but the guitar through the fake television set was a cringe moment.
  • It felt like a missed opportunity for an Irish host not to do something about the death of the Queen after all the material created by Irish twitter.
  • Still counting down the days until Cecily Strong is back in the cast.