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“Saturday Night Live” makes its return tonight after a three-week break due to the Beijing Winter Olympics. Comedian and former SNL cast member John Mulaney will make his fifth appearance as host.
Thanks to the break, SNL fans have had the entire month of February to reflect on what we’ve seen so far of season 47. Since the season began in October, we’ve seen a wide range of celebrities take their shot at host — from SNL veterans like Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte, to pop culture figures like Kim Kardashians with little acting experience.
While some skits landed with ease and received high praise from critics, other critics think this season has fallen flat. Let’s look back at the first 12 episodes of this season and see which skits were the best of season 47.
The entire season started off with an unveiling of a new character — James Austin Johnson’s performance of Joe Biden. The first episode, which featured Owen Wilson as host, launched with a cold open emphasizing how little Biden accomplished in the first several months of his presidency.
Johnson’s impression of Biden was spot on, even down to the pauses and slurs in the president’s speaking.
The writing of this skit was clever and witty, featuring characters such as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Cecily Strong), Sen. Joe Manchin (Aidy Bryant), Rep. Ilhan Omar (Ego Nwodim), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Melissa Villaseñor). All four women had perfect timing with their punch lines. Plus, the jokes were timely, poking fun at Biden’s arduous attempt at uniting the progressive and moderate Democrats.
Even with 12 episodes worth of skits following it, the season’s initial cold open was a definite highlight.
Not all SNL skits age well, but looking back at this skit now makes it significantly funnier.
At the time, host Kim Kardashian was going through her messy, public divorce with Kanye West. Now, almost four months later, Kardashian and SNL cast member Pete Davidson’s budding relationship caught the public off-guard and has been the subject of countless internet memes.
In this skit, Kardashian and Davidson play Jasmine and Aladdin as they sail through the sky on a magic carpet.
“Jasmine, as we start getting more intimate,” Davidson tells her, “I’m just a little concerned that physically I can’t handle you.”
That line could not be more applicable to today’s reality. You could almost see this exact skit being the catalyst for the pair’s new relationship, the kiss they shared being too irresistible for them to handle. It’s almost as if the writers knew something the viewers didn’t know at the time.
The next highlight from this season comes from the third episode when Rami Malek tried his hand as host. It’s unusual to see Malek in comedic roles, but he shined throughout the entire episode.
He was most impressive in the “Angelo” skit, in which he portrayed Todd — “the next big thing in dance.” His character was contagiously awkward — a type of humor that is incredibly difficult to master. But Malek was the perfect host to tackle the challenge. With every indiscernible mumble and uncomfortably forced sway, Malek committed wholeheartedly to the character.
As he spontaneously pulled out a pair of ribbons which he shook back and forth, you could tell he enjoyed every moment of this skit.
Nothing puts a hilarious skit over the edge quite like an actor breaking character. That’s when you can really tell they’re having fun on stage. Billie Eilish giggled her way through her time as host, but no skit had her breaking character quite like this spoof of a hotel ad.
Kate McKinnon’s first episode back on the SNL stage was a definite highlight of the season. McKinnon received massive amounts of applause from the crowd several times during the episode, but she particularly shined in this skit.
This hotel has everything: “phone that blinks, band-aid-colored blanket, chair for suitcase … short glass wearing a little hat and small stain in place you have to touch.” Not to mention continental breakfast favorites such as “wet eggs” and “yogurt in a fridge that gets padlocked at 8:59 a.m.”
The most entertaining opening monologue of the season came from Broadway star Ariana DeBose, who recently starred as Anita in the 2021 “West Side Story” movie.
Her chemistry with McKinnon seemed natural and authentic. The two women broke out in song, performing the biggest hits from “West Side Story.” Comparing the two side-by-side — DeBose’s genuine, Broadway-ready performance and McKinnon’s satire version — provided a feel-good start to the episode.
The pair put on nearly a full-on play for the crowd. While most monologues seem forced and over-scripted, you could hardly tell that either woman was reading off a cue card. While most monologues of the season are dull, DeBose’s stood out.
While some skits become funnier over time, others become more despairing. This is the case with the most recent cold open from Willem Dafoe’s episode.
James Austin Johnson is back as Joe Biden, but this time for a briefing on Russian propaganda in Ukraine. With the recent news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the skit’s humor got significantly more cynical.
Kenan Thompson, Alex Moffat, and Ego Nwodim’s characters inform Biden on the news headlines such as, “Russian forces surrounding Ukraine just to give it a big hug” and “American CDC strongly recommends Russia invades Ukraine.”
We will see tonight how the SNL writers move forward with jokes surrounding the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and whether or not they will lean into the satire or shy away from it.
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