The most important thing to know about last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live is that host Jason Sudeikis went full Ted Lasso in his monologue. (The second most important thing is that later in the show, he busted out his old red Adidas tracksuit—but more on that in a bit.) His face naked of Ted’s mustache, his hot Dad bod swathed in a brown velvet suit, Sudeikis talked about how “neat” it was to be a small part of the show’s history. He urged everyone in Studio 8H, from the crowd to the crew, to pause and soak in the power that’s passed through these walls. It was a full-on locker room speech, delivered by an Emmy-winning everyman to a kid out there in Virginia who might be watching SNL uploads on YouTube and fantasizing about his own future in comedy. Do you believe in miracles, little guy? Because this episode was great from start to finish.
In a fine bit of layered trolling, the cold open poked fun at both President Biden’s slumping approval rating and the show’s inability to nail down his impersonation. Newbie James Austin Johnson, looser than he was in the season premiere, bemoaned his bad run. “People used to like me. The press would call me Uncle Joe. I miss the old me. Where the hell did that guy go?” Enter Sudeikis, Best Party Attitude in a ball cap and a bomber jacket, shooting finger guns from around his back, ready to crack wise and rub shoulders. Biden from eight years ago wants the President to lighten up. “I hope this doesn’t sound sexist, but you got to smile more, sweetie.” Yeah, I’d like to see Biden 2013 try that line on Jen Psaki. She’d make him choke those words back with her patented cock of her head.
What made Sudeikis’s sentimental reverence at the top of the show so endearing was that after that speech, he threw it out the window. Ted Lasso is one my top 5 favorites, but I didn’t want a Saturday night filled with Believe bits. Instead, Sudeikis leaned, literally, into his devilish side. Hotsy totsy, the Parent Teacher Conference sketch was somehow more erotic than the Fifty Shades of Grey movies. “Should I use the big chalk or the little chalk?” Ego Nwodim purred to Sudeikis, who should wear glasses and sit in miniature chairs more often. As Twitter throbbed, Sudeikis mounted Nwodim atop his desk and the two proceeded to have a most enviable make-out session. Give these two an apple. A girl can dream that perhaps they found themselves back in each other’s embrace at the afterparty.
Sudeikis played a more frustrated teacher in the PBS Science Morning sketch, in which his permed periodic table expert tried to educate young minds about the solar system. Cecily Strong and Mikey Day were fantastically out-to-lunch as awkward student volunteers. Strong sucked on her retainer like it was a mouse in her mouth, and Day’s vacancy almost made Sudeikis break after he leaned into the boy’s ear and whispered, “Go to hell.” Our desperate host asked at one point, “What is matter?” Day replied, “Nothing, I’m good.”
Weekend Update had a handful of truly great jokes as well. “Johnson & Johnson reported that their Covid vaccine for children is just Capri Sun,” said Colin Jost. Discussing Walmart’s plans for this year’s Black Friday sale, Michael Che noted “experts believe it could be the most violent gathering of Walmart shoppers since January 6.” But, again, it was all eyes on Sudeikis, who returned as the Devil, there to comment on the last few years of rotten news. The Devil was loose, chatty, feeling like the cock of the walk after working on some of his recent projects like climate change and Instagram for Kids. “You saw that the Astros won? They shouldn’t have.” About Jost’s new wife Scarlett Johansson, the Devil was decidedly direct. “You baby trapped her!” Sudeikis accused. “I don’t know who screwed her more, you or Disney. You baby trapped her!”
But really, this was all a wonderful foreplay to the main event: Get Sudeikis dancing! He warmed up in the Mellen sketch, in which ABC threw Ellen’s wardrobe on a dude and got him to host a talk show that included both high fiving and nut tapping the audience. Like his inspiration, Mellen is a sweater vest-wearer, a blazer lover, and a wind-up dancer.
And you better believe Mellen is a prankster! Hell yes to Chris Redd’s Kyrie Irving getting a surprise Covid vaccination in his neck during his guest appearance.
Now that our host’s hips were loose, it was time for the return of “What’s Up with That?” Kenan Thompson was back in full Deondre Cole glory, introducing his delightfully odd trio of celebrity guests—Oscar Isaac, Emily Ratajkowski, and Succession’s Nicholas Braun—and then not giving a damn what they had to say. Any time a beat got going, and Fred Armisen on the saxophone got groovy, Sudeikis would drop as if from the sky onto the dance floor, cutting a rug in his red track suit. That man had all the moves, and he did them while grinning like an idiot and chomping on his lip. He is everything joyful in this world.
And how lucky are we that that world includes Brandi Carlile, she of the fabulous suits and sequined bows and knowing eyes and voice of a choir? Her performance of “Right on Time” would bring a tiger like Roy Kent to his knees. Meanwhile, a lifetime supply of Jake’s Non-Stick underwear for our silver-haired lost soul, Nate the Great. He’s going to need them all of Season 3.
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