Harry Styles is famous around the world thanks to both One Direction and his new solo career in music. But is he funny? That was the big question going into his hosting debut on Saturday Night Live, and while his monologue was a little worrisome at first, I’m happy to say that Harry Styles turned out to be one of the best stars to pull double duty as host and musical guest. The singer had no problem putting on a funny voice and showed why he’s been becoming a hot commodity in Hollywood. He impressively played a variety of characters and was clearly having a blast.
That’s the Game – Chris Redd doesn’t get a chance to shine on SNL too often, but when he does, it’s outstanding. This sketch is no exception as Redd plays a drug dealer looking to take over the whole operation, but he has absolutely not clue what he’s doing. The confidence combined with his clumsiness and lack of knowledge about the drug trafficking business makes for some big laughs throughout, but I think the bit with the gun might be the funniest part.
Joan Song – It’s not often you get a sketch that is hilarious and oddly charming, but here we are. Aidy Bryant puts on her adorably quirky persona for this wonderful song about her dog Doug. It’s all pretty cute at first, but then the sketch becomes downright hilarious when Doug is personified by Harry Styles. Watching him get into the trash and scared of the vaccuum makes for some great sight gags, and it really showed his dedication to physical comedy in addition to playing characters.
Childbirth Class – I feel like these characters would fit in perfectly with The Art Dealers that Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph played during their time on SNL. This Icelandic couple is totally clueless as to how out of the ordinary their easy pregnancy experience has been, and the accents are what really make it soar. If this were any other “hot” couple in a sketch like this, it just wouldn’t be as funny. Heidi Gardner and Harry Styles put forth some great physicality with this sketch too.
Funeral DJs – The gradual escalation of this sketch is what makes it land so firmly for me. The initial arrival of the Funeral DJs is funny immediately, but it’s how their approach to hyping a funeral that continues to bring the laughs. From that deep techno voice saying the weirdest things to the reaction of the family members evolving throughout the sketch, this one just cracked me up. And again, Styles surprises me with his comedic energy, which never seems to come through in any other part of his career.
This week's “Saturday Night Live” saw musician and noted comedy nerd Harry Styles return to Studio 8H in the coveted dual host-musical guest role. Naturally, comparisons can be made to Justin Timberlake and the recent host/musical guest Chance the Rapper, but much like in his career post-One Direction, Styles had to make his own way here.
Host: Harry Styles
The go-to “SNL” monologue for a musical artist is, of course, a musical monologue. Yet despite the eventual piano, that’s thankfully not what the episode provided. Instead, “SNL” showed off Styles' dry yet somewhat absurd sense of humor early with the opening monologue. Taking a page out of Zach Galifianakis' playbook* with the piano and teasing a reunion with his One Direction brethren minus Zayn Malik but plus Ringo Starr, the typical first-time hosting jitters were nowhere to be found. Not even during the close-up shot of “his” hands.
* Perhaps that is why Jon Hamm showed up as the celebrity cameo-of-the-week in the cold open: Maybe he was told Galifianakis was hosting again.
Of course, Styles also had the benefit of having appeared in sketches before, but those moments didn't come with the chores of being the actual host and having an episode of “SNL” crafted around him. Styles joked in his monologue that the most important part of all of this was being the musical guest rather than the host. Come on. That aloof attitude defined this monologue and, really, this episode.
This season of “SNL” has been consistent in showing that it can still make jokes that revolve around race without punching down, and remaining genuinely funny. Which is where the first sketch of the night, the Popeye's “Lunch Run” sketch, comes in. It's no surprise that Ego Nwodim, Kenan Thompson, and Chris Redd are the stars of this particular sketch too, as that's been the case much of this whole season. See: “Mid-Day News.” Styles' new intern character “Rob from the UK” also serves as a great straight-man for Nwodim, Thompson, and then eventually Redd's characters, in a part where the low-key and quite oblivious nature of the role only makes it funnier. However, this is also arguably a sketch where anyone else — be it a different host or a cast member or Jon Hamm — could've played the Rob role.
The funniest part of the stinger revealing that the sketch is really “Jordan Peele Presents 'White Get Out' ... Now Available on Disney+” actually gets glossed over because of the laughs over the fact that Harry Styles stars as “'Intern Robert E Lee'.” The “Robert E. Lee” part isn't even technically necessary for the sketch to work, but it's a little bit that simply adds to it all.
When it comes to “SNL” and product integration, this was definitely the strangest episode so far. While the “Lunch Run” sketch hopped on the craze of Popeye's chicken sandwich, the “Sara Lee” sketch even noted that it made Sara Lee look thirsty — even though it proved that Sara Lee is really concerned with getting “rid of toxic in community.”
The “Sara Lee” sketch also spoke to the strength of the voices that certain cast members and writers have on “SNL”: Even before knowing this sketch was written by writer-turned-cast member Bowen Yang and writer Julio Torres, comedy nerds can sense their presence here. Not even just because Torres also played the Instagram “random fashion twink.” This sketch captured the very specific “brand identity” stuff that social media accounts are never not doing these days even though that wasn’t the focus, while flipping the premise on its head. Styles' character is a sad-sack gay man — and the joke is never that he's gay — running the Sara Lee social media account, who can't seem to be deliver the queer brand account you’d expect. Again, because of all the “toxic in community.” Another low energy sketch, but in this case, that's where the joke comes from.
Yang's sketches also have these little moments that aren't necessary to the actual premise of the sketch but start them off on a high note. Like at the beginning of this sketch, when Cecily Strong's character calls his character “Santino,” only for him to correct her and say that it's “Jake.” There is no reason for this contentious moment at the top of the sketch, other than the fact that it sticks out and adds character.
As funny as “Airline Pilots” is and despite the “Scooby-Doo” voices, Styles is honestly overshadowed by Mikey Day the sketch-ending “sit black” tangent alone is worth the price of admission as the pilot to his co-pilot and very concerned passengers Kate McKinnon “Why do they keep saying JetBlue? it's not a JetBlue flight.” and Ego Nwodim.
Best Sketch of the Night: “That's The Game”
Perhaps the most “Key & Peele”-esque sketch in “SNL” history, “That's The Game” features Chris Redd as a gangsta who decides to take over the drug operation he ran with his partner Kenan Thompson. Styles and Day play the henchmen who bought into Redd's vision. But this sketch brings up the very important point most movies ignore on a larger scale in these types of scenarios: The criminal who stages the coup is usually the one who has no idea what it takes to actually be in charge. That's why they weren't in charge in the first place. And that's why Redd ends up not in charge — again — in the end.
Styles and Day are good as the henchmen — who are the real idiots, based on who they hitch their wagon to — but this sketch belongs to the increasingly incompetent thinking $30,000 worth of cocaine is only worth $100, not knowing how to use his gun character Redd plays and Thompson's subtle supporting role as the real boss with actual knowledge. It's rare to really see Thompson play subtle — which has always been both his greatest criticism and biggest strength on “SNL” — which is a large part of why it really works. In an episode heavily-dedicated to Harry Styles' acting, Kenan Thompson is able to show off his chops just as well.
Best Follow-Up to “Henrietta & the Fugitive”: “Joan Song”
This is a category that really hasn't been applicable since Season 43 — after the Ryan Gosling episode where Aidy Bryant dressed up like a chicken, then multiple episodes had Aidy Bryant either dress up like an animal or work in sketches with animals or people dressed like animals — but for this particular sketch, it deserves to make a comeback. It's an unassuming sketch at first, only to get weird but avoid creepy, and then to get even weirder and still avoid creepy. “My dog is my boyfriend / We are in love / He's a 12-pound chihuahua / I found him on the street and named him Doug” is a line that suggests some seriously weird things are going down in this sketch.
And then the dog transforms into Harry Styles, thanks to “God... and his friends.”
Also a positive? Yes, it's another dog sketch in this season strangely filled with dog sketches — like in this episode's “Airline Pilots” — but it's also a pre-taped dog sketch where the joke is more than the dog itself being cute, and poor Cecily Strong doesn't have to attempt to do any live, on-air wrangling while working.
Worst Sketch of The Night: “Childbirth Class”
Not a bad sketch, merely a one-dimensional one, “my dudes.” Heidi Gardner could probably fill a whole episode of “SNL” with influencer characters and it would be extremely entertaining. But this particular influencer couple — from Iceland, on “lip-syncing visas” — wasn't her best, even though it allowed Styles to do some mandatory “SNL” accent work. There's really nothing surprising about the sketch and the characters outside of “lip-syncing visas,” to the point where the sketch essentially is a countdown to Gardner saying the obligatory “I have never exercised” line. But the live crowd really enjoyed it, as it was the earliest live sketch to get Styles to play a “wacky” character.
Best Female Performers: Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong
In case you were wondering what ever happened to Baby Faye, both women get a chance to shine individually in this episode, but the sketch that allows them both to shine together is what solidified their spots and top female performers this episode: “Baby Faye and Her Newsboys.” The sadness of Strong's Baby Faye was only amplified by Bryant's coldness as her abusive stage mother in a wheelchair. And whil that sentence doesn't actually sound funny, as it turns out, it made for comedic gold in this bizarre sketch.
As a first time host — especially of the double duty host-musical guest variety — Harry Styles proved himself just as adept as one would expect. But the biggest strike against the issue itself is how low-energy it was from the very beginning. Not necessarily in the sense of being too subtle — because it's definitely not an issue for “SNL” to be less loud — but in it not quite finding the next gear for its bits and jokes.
The cold open is a really good example and timely, considering the fact that “Days of Our Lives” had just been effectively canceled this week. But while there are great bits Heidi Gardner's repetition and fainting gag, Pete Davidson's Michael Avenatti only having news from “last season,” and Melissa Villaseñor making out with Jon Hamm and a genuine premise, which has been lacking in most cold opens, the sketch was just basically the cast and Jon Hamm telling people the news. There's a stilted delivery that even soap opera actors would scoff at — or anyone who has ever done a “Californians” sketch — and it didn't help that Pete Davidson's bit was just reminding everyone that he's too cool to know about what's going on in the world. A bit that Michael Che doubled down on in Weekend Update.
Speaking of Weekend Update, Kyle Mooney's Scooter Rineholdt was extremely dark — and on-brand with this episode, in a sense. This probably isn't a character that should be used a lot — he’s suicidal — but it was great while it lasted.
The odd pacing of “Days of Our Impeachment” filled the air of the live sketches in this episode, even though there was nothing technically wrong with the delivery on Styles' end, and no one was exactly botching anything either. Styles mildly broke in “Childbirth Class,” but that was it. While Styles got to show off his acting chops in this episode and play a large range of characters, he seemed to also bring the aloofness he had in the opening monologue to every live sketch except for “Baby Faye and Her Newsboys” and “Funeral DJs.” which had a music bit that hopefully doesn’t get it removed from future reruns for music rights reasons. To compare him to about double duty host-musical guest, he didn't have the theatre kid energy of someone like Drake... and it kind of would have been better if he did.
The sketches themselves were interesting and weird enough to work and they did, but to also borrow from the cold open and the impeachment hearings criticism: The episode was still lacking in pizzazz.
Saturday Night Live tonight remembered Rick Ludwin, the longtime NBC head of late-night who oversaw the sketch comedy program for more than two decades. Ludwin, who spent 30+ years at NBC and headed the network's specials and late-night programming from 1989- 2011, died last Sunday at age 71. SNL's In Memoriam card for him ran immediately after Weekend Update.
Known as early champion of Seinfeld who is credited with getting the comedy series on the air, Ludiwn was a towering figure in NBC's late-night. Following his death, three current/former NBC late-night hosts — all former SNL-ers — paid tribute to the late executive. Here is what Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and Conan O'Brien said on their shows Monday:
Styles pulled double-duty as host and musical guest on the Nov. 16 episode.
Harry Styles served as host and musical guest in the Nov. 16 episode of Saturday Night Live. "I'm not in a boy band anymore; I'm in a man band now," the former One Direction member said in his monologue while seated at a piano.
He joked that his former bandmates might or might not appear with him, before giving them a shoutout. "I love those guys. They're my brothers. Niall, Louis, Liam and... Ringo!" Styles joked, replacing a Beatle forZayn Malik.
Styles played an intern named Rob in his first sketch of the night, which featured coworkers trying to decide where to eat. He kept suggesting the Popeyes spicy chicken sandwich. "There's not that many things in this country where our people get first dibs, but this is one of them," Kenan Thompson's character explained to him. The sketch turned out to be a trailer parody for White Get Out from Jordan Peele.
In a music video sketch, Styles played an anthropomorphized version of Aidy Bryant's dog Doug. He also played one half of an Icelandic couple alongside Heidi Gardner in a sketch of a Lamaze class led by Bryant.
Mikey Day and Styles later played co-pilots on a plane who kept talking about how horny they were without realizing that they left the intercom on. Season newcomer Bowen Yang played a flight attendant in the sketch, but noted "I am not a flight attendant; I'm a sky liaison."
A digital short featured Styles as a sidekick to a drug kingpin played by Chris Redd where the bit was that Redd's character didn't know what he was doing at all.
The episode also addressed Trump's impeachment hearings in the cold open and during Weekend Update. "I don't think I care if Donald Trump is actually guilty; I just want something to happen to him," co-host Michael Che said. Kate McKinnon showed up to reprise her Jeff Sessions impression.
Styles also played a social media manager for the bread company Sara Lee. He got in trouble for accidentally using the Sara Lee Instagram account when he meant to use his personal account and vice versa. He captioned a photo of cheesecake with: "Why do guys always freak out when I ask them to spit in my mouth?"
The signer offered up his talents in a sketch that starred Cecily Strong as a washed-up variety performer named Baby Faye, and he also played a DJ in a sketch set at a funeral.
After delivering a solid Halloween episode last weekend, the cast and writers of Saturday Night Live must have decided to phone it in this week, perhaps due to too many Halloween parties. Kristen Stewart returned as host, and not only was she barely anything other than herself in different wigs and wardrobe, but the sketches surrounding her left a lot to be desired. There were still some good laughs to be had, even in the
New Paint – When this started out as a live commercial parody, I was wondering exactly where this was going. But thankfully, I was rewarded with what Aidy Bryant does best. If there’s one thing Bryant can do magnificently, it’s play these overdramatic, breathy type of characters, and this sketch is the perfect portrait and that comedic magic. That along with the new developments about how unnecessarily expensive and terrible this new paint is made this one of my favorites of the night.
Elizabeth Warren Town Hall – While SNL has been bombing with a lot of their satire during the presidency of Donald Trump, whenever they use Kate McKinnon as Elizabeth Warren, it usually works out. That’s why the cold open was refreshingly great, as McKinnon portrays Warren as this feisty, stand-up comedian sort of politician. She’s always got a little twinkle in her eye, and the way she breaks things her health care plan down in this exaggerated manner is hilarious.
Last time Kristen Stewart hosted “Saturday Night Live” — which was also her first time hosting — she dropped an F-bomb and provided the world with the greatest Totino's Pizza Rolls commercial ever. Neither of those things happens this time, which ultimately says a lot about how the episode ends up. Not specifically the fact that Stewart and “SNL” don't just repeat what made her hosting debut work but the fact that “SNL” doesn't give Stewart anything all that memorable to work with. And the fact that she doesn't even say “fuck” to save any of it. Because that really could have saved that “Hungry Jury” sketch.
Host: Kristen Stewart
First of all, the most disappointing thing about this episode, heading into it, is that it didn't make Kristen Stewart pull hosting-musical guest double duty. This is absolutely no offense whatsoever to musical guest Coldplay; it's just that, for many, many weeks heading into both this season and this episode, “SNL” had yet to announce a musical guest to go along with Kristen Stewarts's already-announced hosting gig. If “SNL” ever made its host have to sink or swim like that, it would automatically be the most memorable “SNL” episode ever. Alas.
This is one of those episodes where it’s evident what the celebrity host is here to promote, but the “Charlie's Angels” trailer that plays as the first commercial after this monologue is also there to remind you in case you missed it. But as Stewart even makes clear in her opening monologue, she's kind of uncomfortable doing this and so brazenly promoting herself and the movie like this.
With one major exception, the subversion of the audience Q&A bit is the best moment of this entire episode. But the biggest problem is that it's cut short to transition into Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney dressing and acting like Stewart to get her to say that they look cool a plan which works!, especially since that conclusion essentially makes this two monologues in one. And the latter part of the monologue is one that gets a lot more play lately, where the audience Q&A bit is rarely dusted off these days. For as much flack as the musical monologues got in the Wiig/Hader era, it was still never as much as when the Fey/Fallon era did audience Q&As.
The only reason “Corporate Nightmare Song” isn't one of the best sketches of the night is because it takes place in a music world that only existed from 2001 to 2008. That's not new for a pre-taped sketch with Kyle Mooney, but this is also not as detail-oriented as a typical Kyle Mooney nostalgia-based sketch. Even though it gets points for Kristen Stewart at least channeling Paramore's Hayley Williams on a physical level.
Best Sketches of The Night: “Duolingo for Talking to Children” & “New Paint”
“Duolingo for Talking to Children” is perhaps the most honest sketch of the entire episode, especially when it notes people having to finally learn how to talk to kids, “because their friends are starting to have them.” This is also the first sketch that shows just how much more pre-tapes are in Stewart’s true comfort zone as an actress — or at least allow her to get more into that comfort zone — than live performance, with nerves and an audience you actually have to work with and around. The awkwardness that the episode plays with on Stewart’s part is thoroughly channeled here, in the most relatable sketch of the night. Let's face it: kids are bad conversationalists. But you don't have to be. Truer words have never been spoken on “SNL.”
And now for something completely different. There is nothing normal or honest or relatable about the “New Paint” sketch, which is a large part of its charm. This is 100% the best sketch of the night. While Aidy Bryant's pronunciation of “colour” making sure to pronounce the “u” is a funny premise for the sketch on its own, what makes this skit so great is its progressive descent into chaos. Kyle Mooney as Bryant’s Facebook Marketplace “friend,” the realization that she blew all of her inheritance on this paint and paint accessories, Bryant blowing up Stewart’s spot about her affair — it's all so good.
Worst Sketches of the Night: “Rosie the Riveter,” “Hero Dog Press Conference,” and “Hungry Jury”
It's funny this sketch is actually called “Rosie the Riveter,” as you have to actually remember that she's as played by Chloe Fineman, in the rare minuscule role for her at this point in her short “SNL” career even part of the sketch at all. Or that the “point” of this sketch is the casting for the “We Can Do It!” WWII poster. Yeah, that gets lost in all the... Andrew Dice Clay maybe? impressions Aidy Bryant, Kristen Stewart, and Kate McKinnon are doing in this sketch.
While this sketch ends up ramping up, the biggest indication that it doesn't work — and doesn't actually have jokes — is the live audience. Of course, the “SNL” live audience loves to “woo!” just about anything, but their reaction to this isn't the silence of a confused audience who doesn't get a very specifically weird sketch. It's the silence of a confused audience who's waiting for a joke — literally any joke. Well, not necessarily “silence,” because there are laughs... but they're the laughs of an audience that is only laughing because they know they're supposed to be.
Dogs are great. Cecily Strong is great.
So it's insane that this needs to be said, but “SNL” needs to stop having sketches where Cecily Strong has to be responsible for dogs. “SNL” honestly needs to stop having sketches with dogs. There have already been too many instances on this season of “SNL.” Let the dogs be happy, away from the hot lights and scary audience.
This sketch has two great moments: 1. Bowen Yang's bailiff character calling himself a “bailifft” and Stewart's juror reacting accordingly and 2. “You know this song?” “Of course I do. It's by Magic Mike!” Otherwise, this is your standard “SNL” sketch that has no relevant hook and no good conclusion, but someone had an idea for a growling stomach song, so here we are.
Best Female Performers: Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon
This is a Bryant and McKinnon-heavy episode, though if you need to choose one over the other, Bryant is the one who absolutely steals the show. As honest as “Duolingo for Talking to Children” is, the stealth best part of it is at the end, when she wordlessly reacts to Kristen Stewart and Kyle Mooney showing off their Duolingo apps to each other.
Best Male Performer: Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney
The Good Neighbor boys have somewhat fallen to the wayside over the years with Mikey Day and a conspicuously absent Alex Moffat, but Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney get their chance to shine in this episode.
In fact, in terms of Kristen Stewart's actual sense of humor, this episode of “SNL” says a lot about who she feels most comfortable with to channel it: Bryant, Stewart, Bennett, and Mooney. All four of these cast members are extremely talented in their own ways, but while they all get their chance to shine this week, so much of this is far from their A-game. Kate McKinnon, especially, remains on autopilot, both on the Elizabeth Warren and Kellyanne Conway front and recurring characters like the Smokery Farms sisters with Aidy Bryant.
After a string of rather strong episodes — from good to great, even — this week's “Saturday Night Live” returns the show back to its typical rut. The sketches truly seem to lack a strong perspective or purpose, only to fall into the dreaded half-baked “SNL” finish.
The episode was definitely written around Stewart as its host — which, as always, is the optimal writing choice — but it leaned too heavily into her shy, quiet, reserved vibe, when she clearly excelled at being given anything that either stretched it “Corporate Nightmare Song,” “New Paint” or at least leaned into it in an interesting way “Duolingo,” “Stargazing”, even when the writing itself wasn't strong or memorable enough. “A Proposition,” unfortunately, leaned into it on her end too much, with her being too aloof for the audience to really react to her part of it. Especially with both Ego Nwodim and Kenan Thompson really going for it with their oblivious or at least intentionally obtuse reactions and the Bowen Yang conclusion which is actually set up early on. And “Stargazing” is, unfortunately, a somehow less sophisticated “The Lovers” sketch.
The biggest issue is that this episode just isn’t memorable enough, except for “New Paint,” which will surely have an oral history written about it soon enough.
There was no hate speech on Michael Che's part this week on Weekend Update, but as mentioned last week, he once again immediately defends himself after another joke bombs with the live audience. It’s NBC’s Standards and Practices fault, you see. It's literally become a bit that Che will have a joke fail and subsequently have to defend it. It's expected, from one of the head writers of this show. Which ultimately speaks to the entire show as a whole.