Comedian Nate Bargatze is surprised to be hosting Saturday Night Live’s Halloween episode, but he manages to elevate the show to its best outing yet with assists from Christopher Walken, Padma Lakshmi, and musical guest Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.
Nate Bargatze is a very distinctive personality as a comedian and he’s got a very distinctive perspective that’s often lacking on this show that’s so closely tied to New York City and it’s big city perspective. That shift made for the funniest Saturday Night Live yet this season.
There were some fun surprises across the night, including guest appearances by Christopher Walken, Padma Lakshmi, and musical guest Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl — who really embraces the silly when these opportunities arise. None of this is to take away from Nate, who brought a great presence to the show.
No one on SNL approaches comedy quite like he does, or has his demeanor and delivery, creating a whole new energy. We found ourselves convinced that his influence must have been present heavily in the writers room this week, as well, with some of the season’s sharpest sketches yet. There was also an authenticity to some of the small town and Southern humor that had us feeling his Tennessee roots were showing (in the best possibly way) throughout the night.
Nate joked at the top of his monologue that he was as surprised as we were that he was here, but what a welcome surprise he turned out to be. He helped elevate the show to its strongest outing yet in this young season, while leaning into perspectives often overlooked on shows like this with their NY and LA foundations.
As usual, we’re ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Monologue, Cold Open, “Weekend Update” and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. We’ll skip the musical guests, because they’re not usually funny — unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
A very slight sketch that just allowed the cast to play some oddball characters while engaging in a debate about the “second best job” after doctor. We definitely got a kick out of the hateful reaction to Chloe Troust’s reveal that she’s a teacher, while Heidi Gardner’s elaborate declaration that she thinks she has the second best job as a … mother … perfectly captured that particular narrative. There were definitely some strong moments in the sketch, but as a cohesive piece of comedy, it didn’t really hold well together. That could be why Dave Grohl was shoehorned in at the end for a cheap laugh.
Sarah Sherman was inconsistent in her Fran Drescher impression, but she was probably still the best cast member to at least try to take it on. The take on the SAG-AFTRA president’s original plea to actors to not dress up as any characters from the studios (roughly interpreted) was pretty funny, with some fun walk-on roles for kids as Fran’s strike-friendly variations. Sarah’s over-the-top approach is actually pretty similar to Drescher’s throughout her career, making the caricature work even when the voice and accent would slip in and out of authenticity. Plus, we loved the little girl at the end doing the classic The Nanny laugh alongside Sarah. The metaphor about the strike was also a pretty good way of looking at the ongoing labor struggle.
There were definitely some fun performances in this, and we appreciated the twist about the dishes, but it then went in a little too hard on the same basic joke over and over and over and over again. We also didn’t quite get Nate’s recurring apologies. It was kind of funny the first time but it wasn’t the kind of response that worked as it (again) went on and on. With a more culturally diverse cast, these kinds of sketches are both possible and extremely welcome, but we’d have liked this one to have a little more depth and diversity in its humor and overall writing.
Cold Open: Biden Halloween
We kind of loved how an actual 80-year-old man came out alongside Mikey Day, newly portraying the 80-year-old POTUS, to help kick off the Halloween episode. Christopher Walken was clearly having a blast in his walk-on role as the Spirit of Halloween and his stalled delivery certainly had Mikey struggling to hold it together. As for Mikey, his take on Biden definitely leans into the breathiness of his delivery and his slow, aged mannerisms. We wonder if he took over Biden so that James Austin Johnson’s superior Trump could appear alongside him as the apparently inevitable GOP candidate for president. With this appearance, though, we are confident Biden is in good hands. Michael Longfellow was funny in a short role as the incredibly bland (on the surface) Mike Johnson, even bringing out his adult Black son, to show just how odd his rise to power has been. This was a solid way to open up the show after two lackluster weeks in a row.
Please Don’t Destroy: Dawg Food
Short and sweet, though we don’t know if it was re-edited after the show was running long, this short clip turned out to be just the right length. PDD is pretty good at running a joke into the ground with laughs, but we were kind of already over the laughs being wrung out of the idea of a new meal prep program just being dog food. They hit about every gross-out beat you could find and then wrapped it up with a perfectly tide and appropriate ending to keep it sharp and funny.
With women falling in love with true crime documentaries, docuseries, and podcasts, this brilliant parody mashes the killer concept with Hallmark’s holiday movies to create something so bizarrely funny, we kind of wish it were real. Punkie Johnson joins in as the Black best friend who plays on the stereotypes of Black people’s reactions to horror movies (which is to wonder why the white women are so stupid!). Nate Bargatze’s monotone delivery works extremely well in the romantic slasher-lead role with Chloe Fineman the obvious choice as the innocent lover. Honestly, this was unexpectedly delightful throughout even as it was eye-rollingly silly.
Michael Che got a huge audience reaction for his joke about King Charles not returning Meghan Markle when visiting Kenya to address the slave trade. They also got in some good jabs at Trump’s ongoing civil trial, Mike Pence dropping out of the GOP race, and the election of Mike Johnson (who?) as Speaker of the House. Maybe he is AI-generated! Plus, we’re still chuckling at Colin Jost’s quick aside about a picture of Mitch McConnell. It’s an obvious joke, but still had us laughing.
We love that every time Sarah Sherman appears on “Update,” it’s just another way she can rip into Jost. This time, she did so as his agent J.J. Gordon. His suggestions for offensive and awful movie roles that Colin would be perfect for was exactly what we’ve come to expect from how Colin’s persona has been portrayed comedically now for years on this show. Sarah’s portrayal was (again) over-the-top and she definitely had Colin laughing. It’s great to see the show understanding her comedic potential if they lean into her natural comic tendencies. In her element, she shines, in more standard roles, she definitely struggles.
The boys’ second batch of jokes was even funnier, as they got silly with bits about skeleton pole dancers, Viagra helping Alzheimer’s, and olive oil prices. Jost traded on his own negative portrayal on the show with some hilarious jokes about the death of the world’s oldest dog, and Vermont being ranked the safest state in the nation.
This latest music video is a spot-on representation of rural partying at the lake, capturing all the dirty details of the muck and general weirdness. This is another of those pieces that feels like Nate Bargatze’s Tennessee roots really helped to add that layer of authenticity to the comedy, while really emphasizing the most ridiculous possible scenarios. Special props to Dave Grohl for a hilarious supporting role throughout the sketch. This was inappropriate, bawdy, trashy, and really made us feel like we were there. Plus, the inevitable twist ending was just as perfect — because there’s always that ring of truth in the best comedy.
This felt like a standup bit tweaked into a sketch and it worked perfectly. We found ourselves chuckling (and hanging our heads in shame) as Nate Bargatze’s General George Washington waxed poetic to his men about the free future they were building toward, with a distinct focus on the ridiculous system of measurements for weight, distance, liquid, and even temperature in the United States. It was the attention to detail — as well as the blatant ignoring of Kenan Thompson’s questions about freeing the slaves and how the Black man would fare in this new nation — that kept the laughs coming from start to the perfect melodramatic finish.
After a shaky start that we’ll credit to nerves, Nate settled into an incredibly strong standup monologue. Honestly, this is one of the most consistently funny standup monologues we’ve seen quite literally in years. His stories were relatable, but it was his dry delivery and the hilariously unexpected asides he would give, like the details about donkeys jumping off of high dives and his grandmother getting diagnosed as deaf at nine years old. We don’t usually find ourselves laughing out loud at monologues like this, but Nate had us going several times. We’ve no idea how he’ll do in sketches, but at least from this we can be confident he can bring the funny.
This was certainly an interesting week of SNL as it felt like Nate’s comedic presence really impacted the narrative flow of the night. Mikey Day had the most sketch appearances with four, followed by Devon Walker and Heidi Gardner with three supporting roles each. After that, no one appeared in more than two sketches as most were small ensemble pieces.
Mikey gave us a great Biden impression to kick off the night, and a new era for the role, while Punkie Johnson and Kenan Thompson both slayed us as judges in the chef sketch. Kenan then milked more laughs with his role in the Washington sketch, while Punkie had us chuckling as the no-nonsense best friend in the Hallmark Horror piece.
This week, though, despite not everything working to her favor, we’re going to have to give our POW to Sarah Sherman. She really did milk everything she could out of Fran Drescher, while her characterization as Colin Jost’s agent really managed to bring a new layer of humor to the bit. We applaud her and the show for learning how to best utilize her more and more and look forward to where she can go as there really is no one quite like her on the show.
“Saturday Night Live” returns November November 11 with host Timothée Chalamet and musical guest Boygenius.