In the season’s most inconsistent Saturday Night Live yet, Adam Driver and Bowen Yang “trying” brings big laughs, while a tiny-ass bag and phallic Santa left us groaning — it was a love-it-or-hate-it kind of night!
Sometimes it’s not great to be great at something because it sets up an expectation. That’s what happened with this week’s Saturday Night Live with Adam Driver returning for his fourth time. The first three were so strong and tonight was … well …
There were a few great sketches on the night, but there were no just so-so sketches. Tonight, it was either very funny or just plain bad, and there were far too many of the latter. Even a surprise appearance by Julia Stiles falls more into the random category than joyous or funny.
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Adam’s strength on SNL has always been the intensity in which he delivers everything he does. He was in fine form with his unique comedic approach, but this particular ensemble team and writing staff weren’t nearly as successful at working with what he does so well. There were no instant classics like the Star Wars/Undercover Boss mashup tonight.
That’s not to say there weren’t some great sketches, because there were. We’re going to have nightmares about Adam Driver’s airplane baby for weeks, while we found ourselves totally relating to his “Beep Beep” character, and we’re still trying to understand how he and Bowen Yang are “trying.”
Usually such a reliable host, it was disappointing to have a show that was lacking in fully half of its sketches, including its opening and closing pieces. Thankfully, it was very funny when it was funny, it just wasn’t as funny as often as it should have been with Adam Driver hosting.
As usual, we’re ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Monologue, Cold Open, “Weekend Update” and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. We’ll skip the musical guests, because they’re not usually funny — unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
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Cold Open: University Presidents
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Kind of an unexpected choice for subject to parody, the odd performances of various university presidents on the subject of antisemitism and genocide at a congressional hearing. The result was about as dry as the preceding sentence. Even Chloe Troast, who started off with some potential as New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, wound down to a very bland delivery. The whole sketch just kind of sat there until Kenan Thompson joined as the president of the University of Phoenix. His would turn out to be the only funny moments of the whole segment.
The conceit of a tiny-ass bag has potential for humor, but this wasn’t it. The best part of the sketch was probably when Olivia Rodrigo joined and proved why she’d be a fun host with an energetic delivery and charming presence. Marcello Hernandez and Ego Nwodim had a good understanding of their characters, but the one-note premise and repetitive joke structure never quite worked, nor did Adam Driver’s character, who just seemed shoehorned in. It was as if this sketch was written for a different host (or none) and they just decided to use it here with Adam.
An incredibly obvious joke we’ve seen before and saw coming a mile away this time, but it still managed to be funny thanks to Adam Driver’s joyful obliviousness and Mikey Day and Heidi Gardner’s perky horror. The only drawback was just how obvious the humor was at each moment, and how predictable the overall sketch was — for example, when he said he had a bonus item for the chocolate Santa, it was painfully obvious what those would be. Had the sketch tried in any way to subvert expectations, it would have scored higher. As it is, the performances were great, but unless this was your first foray into watching comedy, you knew exactly what to expect.
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In this era where everyone thinks they’re the star of their very own show, this PSA actually seems more sincere than funny. Why would you prank innocent seniors just trying to go about their lives for your TikTok views? Is there no shame? Is there no depths to which you will not sink? There isn’t. Oh, well then. The bits themselves were mildly humorous, with particular highlights being James Austin Johnson wetting himself when asked to name a woman for $20, and Heidi Gardner trying to figure out if her granddaughter is actually gay or not. But not all of the vignettes worked as well. This was a great concept, but the execution wasn’t all that.
Somewhat impressively, Colin Jost managed to turn Hunter Biden’s indictment on tax charges onto Donald Trump. Michael Che, then, flipped it into a Joe Biden joke so that all their bases were covered. Then Che undid all that good will later with a joke based on Japanese names. The boys also took on the University of Pennsylvania president’s resignation after her poor performance denouncing genocide, a decades-long Cuban spy and a horrifying new mascot for McDonald’s spinoff CosMc’s.
Marcello’s explanation for why more men are depressed than ever before is because women support women and men don’t. He said he knows this because he grew up in a house with four women and so … obviously … he turned into a woman. He even compared the banter at a barbershop to the sweetness experienced at a salon. Marcello’s delivery was broken by him breaking a bit at his own silliness, but nothing beat Jost’s delivery of, “Okay, the salon do be sounding kind of fire.” We’ve never heard anything sound so white in our lives!
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The audience tonight wasn’t sure what to make of the guy’s jokes, with Che getting an odd response to his joke about Derek Chauvin getting stabbed in prison, while Jost got a very pregnant pause after his child porn joke. At least the jokes themselves were pretty good, like the note about the Chipotle burrito bowl woman’s punishment being to work in fast food, meaning “your job is other people’s jail.”
This was certainly an unexpected “Update” segment, with Chloe Fineman basically recreating the final dance from Julia Stiles’ 2001 movie Save the Last Dance. We had to laugh when Che got out a bucket of popcorn when she said this would be a sexy gift for your spouse on Christmas. They then basically explained the movie’s plot, with the humor being just how ridiculous it was, before Julia herself came out and joined in. Was it funny? Not really. But was it cute? Well, would you settle for awkward and weird?
Monologue: Adam Driver
We always love Adam Driver’s intensity when he does straight-up comedy; it’s one of the reasons he’s been such a successful host on this show. His monologue being his “letter” to Santa Claus was delivered with such sincerity and oddness, we were immediately drawn in. When he wanted to kill those couples who prank each other on Tiktok, we wanted to kill those couples who make pranks on TikTok. The whole thing was so unexpected and delightful, we found ourselves a little disappointed when it ended because we were enjoying the meandering journey so much.
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If you’ve ever been to the Midwest where the “let me just squeeze right by ya here” trope began, this sketch felt like home. There are rules of engagement when it comes to this courtesy and they must be adhered to. Andrew Dismukes was the perfect counter for Adam Driver’s intensity as the two neighborhood mustachioed husbands faced off with their respective “beep beep” declarations. It was a sketch with great building escalation. We had no idea how they were going to write their way out of it, but Kenan Thompson’s timely arrival took care of that. This was a great little exaggeration (or is it?) about a peculiarity of expression that is all too real.
This slice-of-life piece is so “confusing” as Bowen Yang and Adam Driver are grilled by their friends after they break the big news that they are “trying” to have a baby. ‘Twould seem they really think it’s possible to make it happen. Both men were beautifully serious about their efforts and belief that it could work, and a little put-off by the “invasive” questions of their friends trying to understand it. Adam did a great job of not falling into gay parody with his portrayal while Bowen brought the biggest laughs with his increasing frustration and their clear cluelessness.
A great use of the final second fake ad bit as Mikey Day uses the excuse of the holidays to reach out to his childhood friend and discovers with each passing message that his old friend has turned into an absolute nightmare. Like, a conspiracy theorist, Netflix docuseries subject, can’t go within a thousand feet of a school, lives with a dude named Big Filthy kind of crazy. Adam Driver’s serious silliness works so perfectly in this context, we were actually a little disappointed the bit didn’t go so far as to actually put the two in the same room.
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Baby on Plane
This may be the single funniest performance by any host or cast member this season. Adam Driver was all in as a baby on his first flight, acting out his lack of object permanence, love of Peppa Pig and basic baby things. Add to that the eerily creepy baby costume he was wearing, with just his head for the actual performance, and this was an acting tour de force in ridiculous comedy. It could have just gone for the gross-out or creep factor laughs, but the accuracy of baby thoughts (so far as we know) and responses is what took it to next level comedy. The only thing it didn’t need was the tagline at the end.
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This was a tough one for us because this was not a strong episode by any means. So even when a cast member has a breakout night, like Marcello Hernandez did with his two lead roles, it doesn’t really help that neither was particularly funny.
It’s also notable that when a sketch did work — and it was about 50/50 tonight — the strength of it was largely due to Adam Driver himself. He was a dominant force on the night with his unique style of comedy. Andrew Dismukes went toe to toe with him one time, while Bowen Yang was great “trying” alongside him.
Mikey Day had two solid performances opposite Adam as one of his “Old Friends” and as one of the ShopTV hosts, alongside Heidi Gardner, for his phallic chocolate Santa. Ultimately, for us, it came down to Mikey and Heidi for the overall strongest performance on the night.
Ultimately, Heidi showed us a lot more sides to herself, and not just because she had the most appearances on the night. She immerses herself in the roles she plays, from an old woman tired of being pranked, to a friend trying to get pregnant, a waffling university president, a horrified plane passenger, and the aforementioned ShopTV.
Heidi has quickly become one of the show’s anchors, able to slip into any sketch and elevate it with her professionalism and commitment to every character she portrays.
“Saturday Night Live” returns next week with host Kate McKinnon and musical guest Billie Eilish.