Saturday Night Live recap: Regina King flexes comedic chops in hosting debut
The Oscar winner is joined by musical guest Nathaniel Rateliff.
Welcome, dearest Coneheads, to what is hopefully one of the internet's brightest corners: your weekly SNL in Review episode recap.
Tonight's host is the legendary Regina King, a superb character actress who has hopscotched genres and different roles for decades, starting out on the NBC sitcom 227 in the '80s before graduating to being a member of John Singleton's company. Since then, she has steadily appeared in many classic studio films (there are too many to list here — just peep her IMDB page), and finally reached a new level of acclaim when she won an Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk.
Hollywood has done so much disservice to journeymen Black actresses over the years, it's a genuine joy seeing someone of her caliber and class achieve the recognition she deserves, no less than 35 years following 227's debut. It's unheard of. And what's more? She's capitalized on her Oscar win with a brilliant, aching, furious turn in HBO's limited series Watchmen, followed by her directorial debut, One Night in Miami. It's a deeply powerful and thoughtful film, truly meeting a moment given the current conversations around Black leadership and social justice.
I am joined tonight by the lovely Dr. Ellen Cleghorne. Especially given her own experience as a cast member on a show like SNL in the early '90s, she's uniquely qualified to comment on King's remarkable career. "I am in awe of the lovely Regina King," she says. "She does so much on screen effortlessly. But we know it takes a lot of effort to look effortless. If I was going to create the Regina King Theory it would be called 'Effortless.' She's the only actress who has been married to all the men I want to marry; Eddie Murphy (Daddy Dare Care), Will Smith (Enemy of the State), Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire), and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen). I also loved her next to Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde." She adds, "I stan RK. Good luck, Queen Regina."
Well said — let's dive in, friends.
Man, it is hard to reason what is happening in D.C. right now. Making sense of the recent actions — the surreality, the chaos — taken at the Capitol are difficult to square, let alone mine for comedy. But SNL does try. The question is: Is it mostly out of obligation? Or do they have a firm — and (gasp!) funny — perspective?
So here we are at Tucker Carlson Tonight — Alex Moffat is delivering scary non-sequiturs. He welcomes Kate McKinnon's muggy, grotesque, dancing Lindsay Graham. She compares the Trump trial to a Rick & Morty episode, to little laughs. However, his call to liberate Britney Spears is met with huge applause. Moffat's Carlson wants to contort his face like he's thinking.
Aidy Bryant plays Senator Ted Cruz. "The beard is working!" compliments Carlson. His face is like a baby seeing his first balloon. Cruz agrees his wife is ugly, because Trump said so. Taran Killam previously portrayed Cruz in 2016. This is a better take on most SNL political material. (And maybe a decent McKinnon-Bryant pairing?)
We cut to: Pete Davidson and Mikey Day as Trump's attorneys. They show a pop culture montage that includes Minions and Jar Jar Binks.
And finally, Beck Bennett returns as Mitch McConnell. "That logic pretzels out." He lets out a major diatribe against Trump, deeply cathartic. Okay, maybe it's the sly Moffat anchor, but I thought this… mostly worked? For this era of SNL, for this climate.
Regina King takes the stages, mentioning Eddie Murphy's tenure on the show and noting she's "had a pretty wild career." She talks about Black fame — Lorne Michaels told her to play the race card. She is nervous.
Then Kenan Thompson comes out looking like a member of Run DMC. He reassures her; with a mic in his hand, he is her hype man: "Make some noise!" She references the movie she just directed as Kenan fires an air horn. And then, it ends. Alrighty.
Cleghorne shares she's especially excited to watch King host SNL after watching One Night in Miami. "Considering the success she's had with handsome Black men, she was a perfect fit," says Cleghorne. "I know it was about a serious subject and I watched it twice. Once for the political message and once for the drooling over four handsome young bucks. I want to thank her for bringing all of us randy grannies plenty of scenes of poetic shirtless men."
MTV's What's Your Type?
Tampa Bay Janae hosts this Dating Game parody. She got famous spreading her butt cheeks and is on OnlyFans. This is a great, proudly dirtbag part for Cecily Strong to take a bite out of.
Her sidekick DJ Sniz is played by Ego Nwodim. It's fun to see her match Strong's energy. I am excited for when Ego will become the center of the show in the near future.
Regina King's sexy single character Kendra Sutter wants a corny, douchey white boy in their early 40s. Kyle Mooney plays one of her suitors, who wonders if she supports Kamala Harris. "Top shelf cringe, mama likey," says King. "I'm liking that dumbass."
Alex Moffat's bachelor no. 2 sings '90s anthems, while Mikey Day goofily congratulates her on Black History Month, then stutters about flopping. "I'm a puddle right now," purrs King. Janae is not feeling it. Sketches like this always strike me that they're driven by two competing idiosyncratic characters, here played by King and Strong. There's tension between them, but it doesn't really escalate. One comments on the other, then things stop, without conflict. It always feels like SNL could do more in these situations.
The sketch ends with Tampa Bay Janae teasing a performance by TikTok rapper Lil Idiot (Kenan Thompson) because why not?
Melissa Villasenor, Ego Nwodim, and Beck Bennett hate the cheerleader approach that Peloton instructors bring. They need negative reinforcement to get results. Thank goodness for Pelotaunt, whose instructors use emotional manipulation techniques: "No corny inspirational speeches here!" They gaslight, they show images of your butt, they use the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme song to make you feel stupid.
And hey, Lauren Holt gets to play your mom! Go Lauren!
Kenan Thompson and Regina King play lawyers Denzel and Latrice Commode — Denzel is a character straight out of early SNL, the Dan Aykroyd repertoire — who are looking to represent clients who have fallen victim to "using Gorilla Glue in place of a beauty product and deserve compensation." (In case you missed it, this is a spoof of the odd Tessica Brown situation, which went viral this week.)
Several testimonials are given by Denzel and Latrice's family members like Chantel (Ego Nwodim): "It just says really strong glue and dangerous… that can mean anything Gorilla Glue. You gotta pay." Next, Chris Redd appears as Darius, who used Gorilla Glue under his do-rag, while Cecily Strong, his wife, wants to also go after Sharpie and Silly Putty, which she claims ruined her butt. Punkie Johnson's Tasha is unhappy too — she tried to glue an Infinity Stone to her forehead.
"If this has happened to you like it's happened to our family, call us today," says Latrice. "We know we can't be the only family," adds Denzel. "Look, we are not stupid people. We're coming for you Gorilla!"
Aidy Bryant is having a get together with her friends, who keep giving her goofy home signs that say things like "Can you drunk how tell I am?" They obviously love wine.
Then she starts receiving sings with increasingly despairing messages such as "I drink too much." Bryant does not see the joke in that one. She no longer wants the attention — or the presents. Is it possible her friends are trying to tell her something? This becomes a cruel sport, as Bryant's character spirals.
Mikey Day has taken Andrew Dismukes hostage on a rooftop. Regina King and Bowen Yang are the cops down below. Unfortunately, King has taken some of Yang's bad gummy worms. She is high. Oh boy, antics will ensue! Looking up she hallucinates and sees Pete Davidson as a weed gummy bear who starts rapping gibberish. Aidy Bryant also appears as another gummy.
Then Melissa Villasenor pops up as Marge Simpson, or is she the devil? King is totally tripping, with Beck Bennett as the sun. Finally, she passes out. "I'ma I'ma." Drug humor, ladies and gentlemen. So random!
Nathaniel Rateliff — "Redemption"
"Redemption" is Nathaniel Rateliff's song for Justin Timberlake's new movie, Palmer. "Just set me free," he howls in his bluesy drawl. This chorus mantra may be familiar to those of you who have seen the Apple+ trailer. It has an empowering gospel feel, and Rateliff's got a good stage presence.
The impeachment trial is extremely "dumb" to Colin Jost. He thinks Mitt Romney and Mike Pence make him look like Ice T. Then he says Ted Cruz looks like the manager of a paintball ranch, without the leadership skills. Michael Che and Jost take shots at Governor Cuomo. Better pacing than last week, but the laughs are not quite there.
QAnon member Stephanie Green (Kate McKinnon) appears to explain her beliefs. She looks like a straight-up cartoon witch, but works at a regular office. I get the gimmick here, she's really into eating children. She's really a witch from New Hampshire, so she's hoping the rumors are true. But Q has not posted since the election. She is evidence eating children does not improve one's skin condition. She jokes she eats dog when she can't find kids, but she actually just eats Chipotle.
Jost brings up Morgan Wallen again — his album sales went up after saying the N-word. He jokes that he wishes he could say it to help ratings, but NBC won't let him. Che shakes his head. But again, SNL. Is. Complicit. Like Trump, they gave him a platform! Then joked about it! Twice! Ooooooooof.
And hold the phone, here is Lauren Holt! She is the author of If You're Single, You're Doing It Wrong. She has date ideas for couples, then gets dumped over text during the segment. We see her crush in real time. I like her wearing Rihanna brand highlighter. Fans have been clamoring for Lauren to be given this kind of spotlight, and potentially avoid becoming this season's Luke Null.
Weekend Update ends with an appearance from drunk Tom Brady (Beck Bennett), who is coming off his recent Super Bowl win. Tampa has changed him. (John Krasinski played the NFL quarterback two weeks ago, while the real Brady hosted in season 30.) He is sad though — no one likes him. It would help if Bennett -- a live action Randy Marsh, who specializes in delusional doofuses — was a little closer physically to the inhuman Greek God physique that Brady possesses, but it's harmless as a one-off.
Bowen Yang is Maurice, a struggling music manager in 1978. He reps Regina King, a kind of Diana Ross-style diva who is set to perform a show in Chicago. She has a number of food requests on her hospitality rider, but the venue is striking out. All they have for her in her dressing room is a tiny dry salad. The dialogue is rat-a-tat-tat paced and bizarre, and pops like a nightmarish, sadistic episode of Gilmore Girls. It's technically dense, something Will Forte might've once crushed. The delivery here is slightly less confident, but it's hard to fault them for being silly yet ambitious. Tough tone. "No!" ::slap::
Mikey Davis is an elementary school educator, who has to tell an auditorium of students that the magician who was supposed to perform had to be replaced by a feminist theater ensemble (made up of Regina King, Kate McKinnon, and Aidy Bryant) called Fembox. They promised their material would be age appropriate, and riff about elbows, instead of doing The Vagina Monologues. They changed their material as little as humanly possible.
Andrew Dismukes is well-cast as an awkward pre-pubescent. You can see him borrowing an oddball foothold for himself.
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats — "A Little Honey"
Okay, this track from the Night Sweats is almost three years old. They have a newer album, so I wonder why they decided to go with this versus a different record. Here's the music video. It's still a jam. Rateliff has a bouncy Joe Cocker energy.
-What did you all think? Regina King has certainly excelled in comedies before. But here this felt like her acting chops are little too dramatic, or formal to be natural in live TV sketches. She's a treasure and capable, but I dunno. Am I wrong? Vote here or tell me what's good in the comments.
-Thank you to Ellen Cleghorne for her excellent thoughts this evening!
-Nice to see Lauren Holt get some shine tonight. Was it enough to win over audiences and finally establish herself on the show? You tell me.
-Decent cast work overall — the silver lining to the pandemic is capping the cameo addiction.