Saturday Night Live: the 10 best sketches from the 46th season – The Guardian

Saturday Night Live

Another unusual and underwhelming season, affected by Covid restrictions, saw brief moments of genius among the filler

Season 46 of Saturday Night Live came to a close this weekend, bringing an end to what was an undeniably weak season. The show should definitely be cut some slack – the cast and crew were working under the myriad restrictions and pressures of Covid, after all – but still, you’d think a year this historic and insane would inspire them to produce at least a couple of classic moments.

Alas, that wasn’t the case. That’s not to say there weren’t any solid sketches throughout the season. The following 10 might not be classics, but they provided a good number of laughs during a very weary year.

Take me back

As will become obvious over the course of this list, the most reliable performers throughout the season were undoubtedly Beck Bennett and Ego Nwodim. This sketch, from November’s post-election episode, is a pre-filmed two-hander which sees a desperate guy begging his ex to take him back. He tries to woo her by showing her how much he’s changed, which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that all of the demons he claims to have put behind him – an addiction to pills and cocaine, a herpes infection, an arrest for flashing his penis at a playground – were ones she was previously aware of.

This sketch does get docked a few points for making a gay porn joke that’s suspiciously similar to one from a Mr Show sketch back in the 1990s, but we’ll give SNL the benefit of the doubt here and say it’s just a coincidence.

December to remember car commercial

Another pre-filmed sketch in which Bennett plays a seemingly regular guy, before he pulls back the layers to reveal how deeply, deeply messed up he is, this parody of season car commercials sees him surprise his family with a new Lexus for Christmas, only for them to react with fury at how irresponsible he is. “Are you fucking kidding, Nathan?” his horrified wife (Heidi Gardner) exclaims. “Did you seriously buy a car without asking me? This is a major purchase!” Things get funnier – and darker – when it’s revealed that Bennett’s character has been out of work for over a year, is being cuckolded by his wife and is creepily lusting after his son’s girlfriend.

Dionne Warwick talkshow

Nwodim hit upon a great celebrity characterization with her impression of Dionne Warwick, who viewers will either know from her music or from her unguarded and often tech-challenged Twitter. The singer brings the same aloofness to her job as daytime talkshow host, mixing it with her brassy diva energy. This makes her a solid foil for her young celebrity guests (Harry Styles, Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Machine Gun Kelly), none of whom she knows or has any time for (unless, that is, they’re willing to help her stick it to her nemesis, Wendy Williams).

The loser

John Krasinski hosted one of the stronger episodes of the season. This shouldn’t have necessarily come as a surprise, given that the actor spent the better part of a decade starring in the most popular American sitcom of his generation. Still, SNL made good use of his clean-cut, all-American persona by tapping into the cruel streak just under the surface. Particularly good was this blackly funny sketch in which Krasinski, playing a high-school jock, attempts to stand up for his bullied little brother, only to expose how deeply, deeply messed up the kid actually is.

Twins

The other standout sketch from Krasinski’s episode saw him play an easygoing economist who Zooms in to a CNBC financial talkshow. Before the discussion can get under way, the hosts are distracted by the freaky art pieces adorning his home office, which he explains were made by his children. We eventually meet said children, a cross between the demonic spawn from The Children of the Damned, The Omen, The Shining and The Twilight Zone. This is the rare sketch where the premise is so intriguing you wish they’d have stretched it out longer.

The job interview

This sketch finds host Regé-Jean Page applying for the job of art director at Mixed Martial Media, “an ad agency that works on spec”. Beck Bennett plays the company’s CEO, who proudly boasts of their pitches – all of them rejected – which include ads for Charmin (“Use after you poop”), Lego (“Bet you can’t eat just one”), and Maxwell House (which proposed using Ghislaine Maxwell as the new spokesperson). The central idea is funny on its own, but even better are the side gags and absurd non-sequiturs that pop up throughout, especially the ones featuring Bowen Yang’s harried assistant, who keeps delivering bizarre notes (examples include: “They have your daughter” and “Hi”) and softly weeps over a stolen hat.

The Maya-ing

The most cinematic offering of the season, this parody of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining saw host and frequent guest star Maya Rudolph wandering out her old haunts after a late rehearsal. She reminisces about some of the more memorable hosts and musical guests during her time on the show (“Sum 41 – that’s when music was music”) and hangs out with coke-addled ghosts, clairvoyant cooks and squatting former cast members. Cameos from Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch and Kristen Wiig make the viewer as nostalgic as Rudolph for that bygone era of the show.

The war in words: Bertie and Mary

Of the various recurring TV show sketches, there’s an argument to be made that this one is the most consistently solid. As with previous installments, Mikey Day – the show’s resident harried straight man – plays a soldier on the frontlines of war, writing to his beloved back home who, through their correspondence, gradually reveal themselves to be utterly insane. This entry saw Carey Mulligan playing the deranged paramour, who frustrates and scandalizes her husband by sending him vials of cocaine, admitting to murder and socializing with Nazis.

Weekend update: a weary mother in her darkest hour on Disney’s reopening

The sole redeeming segment from the disastrous Elon Musk episode was a Weekend Update bit in which Nwodim played Pauline, a physically and emotionally defeated mother just returned from a hellish family vacation to the newly reopened Disneyland. Nwodim really sells her character’s exhaustion, as well as her struggle to maintain her dignity, even as she laments all that her kids have taken from her: “I have given you kids every part of me. I have given you my sweat, my blood, my tears. I have given you my neck, my back, and as for my pushy and my crack – you ripped those away from me a long time ago!”

Picture with Dad

The last episode of the season featured yet another great pre-filmed sketch centering around Beck Bennett. Here, he plays a suburban husband and father who attempts to partake in the idiotic American tradition of posing next to his daughter’s prom date while brandishing a gun. Of course, he ends up accidentally discharging his weapon and blows his dick off. The frenzied aftermath inside a hospital operating room, which sees him freak out less over his ghastly wound than the revelation that his daughter and her boyfriend have been sexually active for years, is the perfect showcase of Bennett’s innate skill for playing hilariously pitiable losers.

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