Saturday Night Live recap: Jake Gyllenhaal returns to host for the first time in 15 years
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What's kickin', Conehead nation? You're entering another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. It is an area that we call SNL in Review.
That's right, set your dials. It's time for another riveting Saturday Night Live recap. Accept no substitutes. Tonight's host is Nightcrawler himself, Jake Gyllenhaal, star of Michael Bay's latest movie, Ambulance. He previously hosted way back in season 32, though he's subsequently made several cameo appearances over the years. I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member Jeff Richards. (Astute comedy fans will recall this week Jeff dropped a hilarious new episode of his deep fake podcast featuring James Austin Johnson as Billy Bob Thornton. Check it out!)
On Gyllenhaal, Richards reflects: "I still remember him as a kid opposite Billy Crystal in City Slickers and then he did a spot on Homicide with Robin Williams, a.k.a. Mork. It's been wild watching him evolve over the years. Favorite role: hard to not pick Bubble Boy, which was on Comedy Central all the time years ago, or maybe Donnie Darko. Brokeback Mountain made me want to be the hiker I am today. A lot of people might not remember his work in Okja or as Mr. Music in the John Mulaney special. But he's got a really weird comic sensibility that's underappreciated."
I think that's a solid place setter. Gyllenhaal is a versatile actor, and willing to take risks. Let's see how that translates to the sometimes risk-averse modern iteration of our favorite Saturday night sketch comedy program.
Joe Biden (James Austin Johnson) is congratulating Kentanji Brown Jackson (Ego Nwodim) on her recent confirmation to the Supreme Court. "It's a big, damn deal," he assures her, encouraging her to soak up the history of the Oval Office. She reflects, conjuring the ghost of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Kate McKinnon). Ah, the return of the "Ginsburn." I could do without ever seeing this bit again.
She is also imagining Thurgood Marshall (Kenan Thompson). He gives his advice: Never give up. Democracy moves slow. Punkie Johnson appears as Harriet Tubman; she wants to know what they are doing in the White House.
Jackson is also greeted by Jackie Robinson (Chris Redd), the first Black player in Major League Baseball. He warns her to watch out for batteries: "You will get so many batteries thrown at you."
This is a straightforward, sort of banal yet well-intentioned tribute to Jackson's historic confirmation. It's great to see Nwodim at the center of a cold open, though there's not much of a "hook" to Jackson right now.
(Re: Biden, Richards says James Austin Johnson "captures the tone of people he impersonates with a specific and hilarious take. And with the ease of someone who has been on the show for many years. On my podcast, he was an incredible guest, doing a really fun, unhinged Billy Bob.")
Gyllenhaal is back in his element. He notes that he last hosted back in 2007, or "400 Marvel movies ago." He summarizes some of his sketches, including singing in drag, and calls out Brokeback Mountain and Nightcrawler. He admits that there was lots of "problematic" material in his last show, despite him having a lot of fun doing it. Richards recalls: "His last SNL hosting was pretty good. Laser Cats 2 was a highlight I think. Also Bronx Beat. Looking forward to those coming back tonight."
"Acting is a really stupid job," Gyllenhaal continues. Now, he is embracing the joy of his profession again, after a period of being overly serious and method. He sings a parody of "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" by Céline Dion. (Of course, Cecily Strong backs him up.) Pretty fearless rendition.
Why'd You Like It?
This is a game show where contestants are shown pictures that they liked on Instagram and questioned about their intentions. "You did the double tap," chides the host (Thompson). An embarrassed Gyllenhaal liked a photo of a bikini picture, despite having a girlfriend. It was a sad attempt to plant the seeds for hooking up down the road. Beth (Chloe Fineman) liked a picture from five years ago posted by her ex-boyfriend's sister, in the hopes she is reminded to bring her up at the next family gathering. The point is: People are shallow, desperate, and addicted to online thirst traps. Hate to say it, but this hits home.
"Pass," says contestant Chris Redd. But you can't escape what's coming — these people must face the small sad truths about their Instagram liking habits. Very unhealthy platform!
Round two: Why Do You Follow Them? Joe Biden is the subject. We hear their false rationales before the real reasons are revealed.
This is hilarious! Bleak as it is.
HGTV presents Dream Home Cousins
Gage and Rick (Mikey Day and Gyllenhaal) are designing a lakefront oasis for the milquetoast Pat (James Austin Johnson) and Lillian (Heidi Gardner). The catch? Pat's elderly mother, Bea (Kate McKinnon, in makeup), is moving in with her 27-year-old cat. Suffice to say, huge sacrifices were made. Bea orders Pat to "hit her," meaning her daughter-in-law.
I am not a fan of Kate's mugging here. Johnson talking about "giving" his sweetness to Lilian on their wedding night was funny and bizarre, however. And as Gage and Rick, Day and Gyllenhaal embody those hosts and their odd chemistry nicely.
It's cabaret night! The Singers Four (Bowen Yang, Strong, McKinnon, and Gyllenhaal) have reunited after several years. They are celebrating mediocrity. It's the little things in life: zero unopened emails, not losing a Chapstick, meeting cast members from the original Real World. "I grew out of a peanut allergy," shares McKinnon. Yang hated Hamilton before it was cool.
This sketch is cute and well-written.
"That's enough for me!" they harmonize.
Spring has finally sprung! And Mr. Green Thumb (Kenan Thompson) is busy tending to his garden. Gyllenhaal, Redd, Strong, and Sarah Sherman play flowers greeted by a horny bee (Yang). While the older flowers aren't thrilled that he's rubbing up against all of them, the youngest bulb (Redd) is excited when it's his turn. "It kind of tickles," he laughs, distracting the bee. "Shut up, I'm close!" When a weed (Kyle Mooney) appears, he wants to choke the flowers.
Unfortunately, Mr. Peanut — Thompson's dog — urinates on them. It's gross, sort of clever. Toy Story with plants. Sure. A bit tired.
Another song featuring Cecily. For those of you playing SNL drinking games at home, take a shot, folks!
Melissa Villaseñor, Chloe Fineman, and Ego Nwodim are in a corporate ladies' room, gossiping about their co-worker Janet. She is too quiet and eats tuna every day! In their anger, they compare her to the evil Chucky doll. Suddenly the toilet stall flushes.
It's Chucky (Sarah Sherman)! His first instinct is violence, and he attacks them. That results in an HR meeting.
Meatball short film aside, this is a great distillation of Sherman's bizarre, off-putting body humor. And, of course, we remember season 24 when Chucky made a guest appearance on Weekend Update to discuss the Clinton impeachment.
Camila Cabello performs "Bam Bam"
Familia is the third studio album by Camila Cabello, released yesterday. And "Bam Bam" is the second single, a tropical-inspired bop with a salsa-infused chorus and reggaeton flavor. Pretty charming. Very colorful, lively performance.
A fun Update!
Regarding Will Smith's 10-year ban from the Academy Awards, Colin Jost makes a funny reference to when he and Michael Che hosted the Emmys. The real punishment would be to make him host the Oscars next year! Indeed.
Aidy Bryant and Bowen Yang are back as the trend forecasters — they rattle off a list of what's in, what's out, and share future trends. It's an education for viewers, goofy and absurd. The contagious energy here reminds me of Stefon. "Jogging to Kelly Clarkson? You're out! She has a talk show now!" They debuted back in January. "Go to bed and never wake!"
Lights Camera Achoo, hosted by Cecily Strong, looks back at some of the sickest performances in film history. Strong introduces a riff on Tombstone, with Gyllenhaal's Doc Holliday outdoing Val Kilmer's iconic take on the tragic character.
"It's just allergies!" he sneezes, spewing blood across the set. "I have a normal body temperature of 108," he assures the concerned cowboys. Fluids are flying everywhere. Scatological humor wins the day.
Oh good, Punkie Johnson gets a showcase! And Melissa Villaseñor in a decent-sized role! Punkie is a couple's therapist, counseling Jake and Melissa. But when she takes a phone call during the middle of the session, things turn aggressive. "Anger is never the answer," she assures her clients, before flipping out on the caller.
Punkie's partner, an angry Ego Nwodim, shows up with a super soaker. Texts are exchanged, and Punkie asks Jake to read them aloud, giving him the opportunity to say "Girrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl" in a voice. Fairly slight (two stars), but I love seeing Ego and Punkie play off each other.
Camila Cabello performs "Psychofreak" (featuring Willow)
This is a haunting and trippy track, with some personal call-outs to Cabello's departure from Fifth Harmony. (Watch the music video here.)
This is also noteworthy, given Willow Smith's role here. Her parents have never hosted or appeared on the show. And while her dad is in the news for his now-infamous encounter with Chris Rock at the Oscars, Willow launched her music career way back in 2010 with "Whip My Hair." So. at 21 years old, she's a vet. "I haven't heard her stuff, but I'm sure it slaps," quips Richards.
Truck Stop CD
Ego Nwodim and Kyle Mooney are examining the knick-knacks at a truck stop convenience store. When Mooney wonders who the weirdos are who are still buying CDs, quirky Aidy Bryant interrupts: "Well, truckers, that's who!" She goes on to introduce a medley of trucker songs featured on Truck You, You Trucking Truck. A little condescending to the trucker industry as harmless, strange hicks, given the recent convoy that stalked the Beltway last month. Songs include a duet with a trucker's wife, as well as a ditty about helping El Chapo.
Yet another Cecily Strong song. Take a shot. It's a compulsion. (I do like the pan out at the end of this sketch, revealing the studio audience. Playful.)
—Thank you as always to Jeff Richards! Go watch his latest podcast episodes, the aforementioned JAJ appearance… plus, his dual deep fake with Josh Robert Thompson as George Lucas. Fun, innovative stuff.
—"Live your life with joy!" implores Jake Gyllenhaal while saying good night. We've come full circle.
—Fair amount of Chloe Fineman tonight.
—Based on the box office returns, it looks like Gyllenhaal's Ambulance is underperforming. Ouch. In a different era, this would've found an audience immediately. "Michael Bay movies aren't not bad, I get why people like them. Apparently, Ambulance is very entertaining," offers Richards.
—Two recurring themes for tonight's episode: song and liquids played for laughs. And peeing. What did you think about Jake Gyllenhaal's return to 8H? Comment below or vote here.
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