Although Dafoe was game to do anything, SNL underutilized the actor.
Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Willem Dafoe — one of the great modern character actors, who has eclipsed that label to become a Marvel villain and movie icon — hosts tonight's Saturday Night Live. Welcome, my Coneheads, to SNL in Review. 

I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member Matthew Laurance, who worked with Dafoe on his first big movie gig — Streets of Fire, a weird, underrated '80s movie. (It's Walter Hill's follow-up to 48 Hours, and also features a young Rick Moranis.) Laurance both appeared in the movie and served as the film's acting coach: "One of the greatest things was watching Willem work. He was not well known but was an amazing theater actor. Just a fascinating, extraordinary actor." 

He adds that off-set, Dafoe was "very funny, he has a great sense of humor, which is why I can't wait to see him host. And just warm, kind, funny, compassionate — just a great person. And he's scary as bleep in [Streets of Fire]!"

When asked what his his expectations are for tonight's episode, given that he's worked with Dafoe and is a fan, Laurance says: "I'd love to see him cut loose. And I have a feeling he will. I'm one of those people that loves most of Saturday Night Live now. I think some of the people on that show are as good as have ever been. I'm excited to see Willem, and what they give him to do. I'm sure there will be [the sketch] where he's the villain, obviously. He'll be as great at this as he is at everything else. Remember: He's a theater actor at his roots. He's done a ton of improv, which is valuable at SNL. Or when they're going over sketches, right at the first writers' meeting where everyone sits around and reads sketches, I know he'll have great ideas. He'll come up with things during rehearsals. That's what I'm looking forward to seeing. I hope they let him go crazy." 

Willem Dafoe during his monologue on SNL.
Willem Dafoe hosts 'Saturday Night Live'
| Credit: Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Of course, his work with Wes Anderson aside, four-time Oscar nominee Dafoe does not have a huge history of working in comedy, or even appearing on television. The kids in the hall can fact-check me, but — aside from some voice work on The Simpsons — this is among Dafoe's first opportunities to actually act on television aside from an early appearance on The Hitchhiker way back in 1986. (He also actually filmed an Adam McKay short film for SNL, "The Procedure," in the early 2000s.)

Laurance comments: "When I was watching last week with Will Forte, seeing Lorne there with Willem, that whole bit at the beginning, 'Actually, we wanted Willem to do the show,' my first thought was, 'I don't think I've ever seen Willem in this setting.' Jarring to see him standing there!" 

Let's jump in!

Cold Open

Many of us saw James Austin Johnson again go viral this week with his impeccable Donald Trump impression on Seth Meyers. Well, tonight he's running point again in the cold open, this time with his commendable if slightly less transcendent work as Joe Biden.

Military and administration officials (including Kenan Thompson) are updating Biden on the situation in Ukraine. Ego Nwodim provides a timely joke about Tom Brady's retirement. They discuss disinformation efforts by Russia. Alex Moffat mentions Neil Young's decision to remove his music from Spotify over Joe Rogan. More meme humor from the show too — the tail is wagging the dog. 

Biden decides to flame some TikTok dancers (Aristotle Athari) via his Finsta account, before getting confused over a pro-Russian commercial. Pete Davidson is sporting a beard — and a silly Russian accent — playing Aaron Rodgers in a fake State Farm commercial. 

Chloe Fineman — the "face of Pantene's Conditioner Collective"(?) — plays Mikaela, a social media operative consulting on how to combat the disinformation efforts. Everyone has a role — you know, Sarah Squirm as a sexy nurse. The only thing lacking here is a Beck Bennett cameo. The proceedings conclude here with a very clunky group "Live from New York..."

Well, the sloppy writing here reeks of Colin Jost's Mad Lib approach to political cold opens. (Remember when SNL cold open premises were as simple as Adam Sandler serenading Santa on guitar?) Johnson continues to excel when given the opportunity — the question is, is SNL set up to let cast members really shine? 


New York City is where Dafoe started — he moved here when he was 21 and rented an apartment for $200. He comes from experimental theater, as Laurance notes, and jokes about his expressive face. 

When he mentions his hometown of Appleton, Wisc., two Midwestern visitors played by Aidy Bryant and Mikey Day pop up. They won tickets to the show in the lottery. The payoff is a fun joke about Speed 2: Cruise Control, which is fun. They goad him into reviving his Wisconsin accent. Cute. He seems affable and nice. 

I believe Mike DiCenzo and Jake Nordwind had a hand in writing this.

Tenant Meeting

It's the first tenant meeting of 2022, being led by Alex Moffat and Chloe Fineman. Punkie Johnson is a resident who is only there for the Munchkins. Sarah Sherman is upset her maintenance fee was raised by 12 dollars this month. She has fun, loud energy. Ego Nwodim and Heidi Gardner are also unhappy tenants. Mr. Fillmore (Willem Dafoe) wants to know, "What the hell happened to this city?" He recalls Iggy Pop puking on his face at CBGB back in the day. Oof, remember the school board meeting sketch from last October? Same template.

Nearly the entire cast gets in on the business. I hate these overstuffed, self-amusement parades. They do not click. 

The crowd applauds at Pete Davidson saying: "Bad." For the second time in under 25 minutes, 37-year-old Kyle Mooney is playing a student. Kate McKinnon mugs.

Now I'm Up

This sketch lists all the various causes for waking up at around 3 a.m. It's cute and well done. Chris Redd is awakened after going to sleep playing Spotify Sleep, when a DoorDash commercial comes on. I love his vocals here. He stays up watching an infomercial hosted by Dafoe and Gardner. 

Meanwhile, Kenan Thompson is dreaming when he's kicked by his wife and her sharp a-- toenail and now he's up, too

Then, just when Redd is about to fall asleep, he remembers something embarrassing he did back in high school.

This is super relatable — who hasn't laid awake in the middle of the night tortured by a vague embarrassing memory?

Dog Show

It's the Badminster Dog Show! I believe this sketch was originally planned to run during Paul Rudd's holiday episode last month. It's hard to top Best in Show, but I love seeing Willem Dafoe host something like this. 

Shaky Dog Group is the first category, and it's a realistic breakdown of how dogs behave. The Netflix startup sound and spoken Spanish are among the anxieties of Melissa Villasenor's dog, Luna. Next up: Pigeon from the Mean Group. He once tripped an old lady on purpose. He wakes up owner Andrew Dismukes every morning by biting his ankles. 

Blueberry from the Non-Walking Group once slid on a tile floor and it permanently made him insane. Gizmo from the Medical Group has many problems! "Tell us about his weird little penis!"

Embarrassing! I Married a Monkey with Tim Kazurinsky is the only acceptable use of live animals in sketch comedy, in my opinion.


Mikey Day meets Frank Thomas (Kenan Thompson) at a driving range. This is a spoof of Nugenix, the ever-present testosterone-boosting male hormone commercials that are always on TV. 

Thomas asks him if he can still get hard. Doug Flutie (Kyle Mooney) then joins them and wonders the same thing. "Sir" Willem Dafoe is also there. They all know each other from "boner stuff" meetings. 

Katy Perry performs 'When I'm Gone'

Eat me! Giant mushrooms straight out of Super Mario Bros! This dance-pop diddy is from DJ Alesso and Katy Perry, and it was released at the end of last year, coinciding with Perry's Las Vegas concert residency

Laurance is looking forward to this performance — more than his kids, in fact! "I'd be shocked if they've ever heard a Katy Perry song!" he says.

Weekend Update

Our friends Colin Jost and Michael Che are going hard on President Biden today — knocking him over the stock market and Ukraine. Some brutal, mean digs.

Two trend forecasters (Aidy Bryant and Bowen Yang) drop by to discuss the most popular consumer habits. They reveal what's in for fashion trends ("shirt too big for body, hat too small for head, male cleavage") and out ("shiny shoe"). When it comes to men, dry calloused feet and doing the damn dishes are in, while movie posters as decor are out. Baby trends include small socks, being twins, and getting burped by a friend. But babies dumping in their pants and saying nothing is out. The duo wraps up their segment with one final out: Michael Che. This was inspired, if sometimes hard to follow. 

Wow — a Full House joke, and a Lori Loughlin diss, just mere weeks after Bob Saget's death? Painful and cruel. 

Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning shows up! He has morphed into a steady television presence since his retirement — you see him often in various commercials as a spokesman. Instead of watching last week's classic football playoffs (featuring one of the great quarterback match-ups of all time), he confesses he binged Emily in Paris instead.

Manning, of course, hosted SNL back in 2007. He's got great comedic timing. It's the circle of life — as Terry Bradshaw gets older, Manning will be a constant presence, to be sure. He will always stay true to himself. Thanks to Emily, he speaks love. 

"Go to bed!" urges Che. 

Beauty and the Beast

Remember when Pete Davidson smooched Kim Kardashian as Aladdin? Um, now he's Beast. He asks Belle (Chloe Fineman) if she's happy; she is getting used to it, but wants to see her father again. She gets her wish thanks to a magic mirror. Willem Dafoe then appears — he's alone, he's crazy. He's never had the place to himself before. Get the drift? He lights a bunch of candles, turns the pictures over. Finally, Dafoe gets an opportunity to "cut loose," which I suppose is good. This premise? "Sick stuff."

Now Kyle Mooney is playing Chip… a child. For a third time tonight, he is playing way under his age range. This is a compulsion. (Dismukes, stop him.) 

SNL loves its Disney parodies. Great costumes and production design. Kudos to the crew. 

Please Don't Destroy — Martin's Friend

Connor is Martin's 10-year-old friend. He wants to pitch Colin Jost some Update jokes. I like this, but it seems to be in-studio flopping? "Don't be such a Jacob." 

Martin's writing partners, John and Ben, want to know why he's hanging out with a 10-year-old? Because Martin was tired of only hanging out with his toxic work friends!

When dinner arrives, John steals Connor's rare porterhouse steak and begins choking. Connor steps in as Nickelback's "Hero" plays and saves him. Maybe John was wrong about Connor. 

Katy Perry performs 'Never Really Over'

This is a standalone ballad Perry put out as a single way back in 2019. It's an ode to a dying relationship. Not for me. 

Good Morning Columbus

Bowen Yang and Ego Nwodim are a great team — they're cohosting a morning talk show. Dr. Bloom (Dafoe) has a feel-good book he's promoting, Knowing Yourself. But due to a teleprompter miscue, Yang announces it's Blowing Yourself. Har-har. Get it? Do you get it? Okay, buckle up. There's a ton of sexual innuendo and puns. Gross. 

This is the third sketch tonight putting Dafoe in a very cheeky, sexual situation — huh! Is this what he was given, or is this a little cheeky insight into his sense of humor? Like, we waited nearly 40 years to see him host, and he's teaching Mikey Day how to fellate his mic. 

Remember, folks: "It's okay to suck. It's how we learn."

Office Song

A law firm is working an overnighter. Willem Dafoe is reentering the workforce, he's the new temp, Jeremiah, and in charge of ordering pizza. Andrew Dismukes and Punkie Johnson begin playing music with their office supplies. Heidi Gardner starts to scat and Kyle Mooney busts out "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." It's organic and wonderful. Then Dafoe ruins it when he throws a chair out of the window. He thought it was going to sound cool and wanted to contribute to the impromptu performance. Chaos ensues. 

Kent Sublette and Ailson Gates wrote this. My favorite sketch of the night. 

Final Thoughts

—Thank you to Matthew Laurance for his excellent commentary tonight! 

—What did you all think? Seemed to start off very slow, no? Did it squander Dafoe? Vote here or comment below! 

—I also caught up with Siobhan Fallon Hogan who is "a huge fan of Willem's… we share the honor of having worked with Lars von Trier." She is currently in Paris finishing the edit on her latest movie, Shelter in Solitude. She notes that von Trier treats his cast like family, with "no hierarchy or the Hollywood concept of above the line or below the line. Even though working on SNL is drastically different from working on a Lars von Trier film, there is still that same concept that the crew is equally as important as the cast."

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Saturday Night Live - Season 42
Saturday Night Live

The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.

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