Well… maybe Saturday Night Live is saving all its best material for the season finale?
Yes, sadly even with Drake, who made a great first impression as host in 2014, returning to Studio 8H, the show was a rather lackluster outing — despite Drake’s best efforts.
But even with average material, Drake still proved to be a dedicated guest host and completely worthy of another chance to return again. He played on his rise as one of the internet’s top meme generators, gave plenty of shoutouts to Canada, and wasn’t afraid to let the show poke fun at him. The material just didn’t always quite rise to meet him, aside from a few pleasant blips throughout the season’s penultimate episode.
Take the American Ninja Warrior parody, for example. The sketch focuses on style over substance (a good throwaway joke about Drake’s character being depressed belies what the sketch could have been) and relies mostly on a repeated punchline. But, Bobby Moynihan attempting to run across water while wearing a cape is simply beautiful.
The show did find more hilarious moments, but they came in fits and starts rather than permeating the entirety of the night, or even through a full segment.
Still, Drake, the writers, and the cast offered up some memorable sketches, like…
Let’s start off on a different note this week by focusing on Weekend Update. The Colin Jost/Michael Che era has not yet quite lived up to its predecessors (though admittedly, Seth Meyers left some big shoes to fill after already stepping into some major ones himself). But for the last few weeks, the two hosts have looked truly comfortable, the jokes have improved, and the overall pace of the segment has brought it back to being a mid-night highlight rather than a questionable break. Jost and Che have found great rhythms in bouncing a topic back and forth — this week that topic being Donald Trump’s alleged posing as his own publicist, John Miller — while their chemistry with each guest is more playful than it’s ever been. It’s personally a joy to look forward to Update again.
Update also included a few of the night’s attempts to revive old material (beck Bennett’s Baby Boss returned after over a year), including Olya Povlatsky, a Leslie Jones routine, and a Jay Pharoah impression lightning round. Pharoah did a similar bit with comedians only a few months ago, and he returns to recap the supposed meeting of rappers that took place after the release of Beyonce’s Lemonade. That is, until Drake comes out to contest Pharoah’s impression of him.
Drake just wants to be friends with the SNL cast, but they keep betraying his trust by mocking him about not knowing how a TV works, moving his hat, and… telling him he’s doing a good job? Yes, Drake is quick to anger each time someone at the show, including Lorne Michaels, doesn’t treat him the way he expects to be treated, with a new take on a diss track following each bruising of his spirit. With a decent escalation, solid production, and Drake’s devotion to the sketch’s fury, “Drake’s Beef” proves there’s still consistent humor left in the season.
One of the SNL recurring Jeopardy parodies returns with Drake as Jared, a Canadian contestant who tries to stay positive but is ultimately upset by Kenan Thompson’s host and his inability to accept his tastes and pronunciations. Thompson and Drake offer up a few funny mispronunciations, an actual biting line of commentary or two, and plenty of references to Drake’s Canadian roots all come together for perhaps not the strongest iteration of the sketch but certainly an enjoyable one.
For Moynihan’s best moment, look no further than his water run. But he also appeared in the episode’s cold open, returning as Chris Christie, perhaps one of the current show’s best impersonations of the Republican party players. As Christie poorly masks his desire to be Donald Trump’s vice president, he offers up a few alternatives, including his home state’s patron saint of rock. The sketch is a sad reminder of the few good impersonations that have had to take a backseat to the Trump and Ted Cruz parodies (including Pharoah’s Ben Carson, who also appears), though ones that will hopefully find ways to remain relevant come the show’s return this fall.
Both Drake’s “One Dance” and “Hype” performances delivered solid light shows mixed with strong vocals from the host and musical guest, but “One Dance” sticks out for one unexpected reason — Chris Rock. Yes, without warning (or an appearance in any other part of the show), Rock introduced Drake’s first performance of the night. Perhaps it’s as a sign of the cameos to come in the season finale, or simply a fun, unexpected moment in a night that definitely needed more of those.