After a rough start, Dakota Johnson settles in to a much stronger Saturday Night Live this week, with an unexpected return of Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon’s “Barry Gibb Talk Show,” as well as a surprise Shark Tank crossover.
Dakota Johnson is no stranger to Saturday Night Live, but she was perhaps slightly overshadowed by her musical guest — who’s already a member of the Five-Timers Club — Justin Timberlake.
As if to make matters harder for her, JT crashed her monologue alongside his pal and frequent comedy collaborator Jimmy Fallon, which of course led to a reprise sketch from them later in the show. Luckily for Dakota, that was as far as the infiltration went, leaving her to really sink her teeth into some fun performances.
The show got off to a pretty shaky start, dropping its worst sketch right after the Monologue, but things picked up almost immediately and by the time the dust settled there was definitely more good than bad in the episode.
Dakota has once again proven herself a great sketch performer, offering some nuanced character work opposite various members of the cast and one of the most straightforward and funniest Please Don’t Destroy sketches of the season. We’d also like to applaud the show’s restraint about Taylor Swift on this NFL Championships weekend, but more on that in a bit.
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.
Oh lordy, one of the most lame comedy premises ever gets a reprisal here with Sarah Sherman as a server who refuses to write down a table’s order and — shocker! — can’t seem to get it right. We did enjoy some of the performances in this one. Molly Kearney’s consternation later one would have been more effective if she hadn’t been so blatantly reading from the cue cards, though we can understand having to memorize a whole table’s food orders would have been good. We expected a little more silliness/weirdness from Sarah in this one, but she was definitely kept on the leash, to the sketch’s detriment. The only real laughs we got were when James Austin Johnson tried to place his order directly with Kenan Thompson’s chef. Yes, the joke was basically the same, but Kenan’s enthusiastic responses were really working.
An unexpected sequel to Big Dumb Hats, this was just about as random and dumb as the first one. There were a few good moments, but it suffered from a lot of repetition and its extremely limited premise. Marcello Hernandez was a disaster trying to sip from his while less than half of the ladies’ jokes landed with any real humor. Maybe had it been about half as long it would have been twice as funny. As it was, it was as vapid and stupid as the main characters were portraying.
First of all, we have to give huge props for doing an NFL spoof sketch about the Chiefs-Ravens game without going on and on about Taylor Swift. Yeah, she was mentioned briefly by Molly Kearney’s Andy Reid as part of the overall lamentation of the piece that this weekend’s matchups mark the real end of the football season. There was perhaps some truth that the Super Bowl isn’t really for sports fans in the same way, but the whole sketch just didn’t quite sell its maudlin approach. We did get a chuckle out of Kenan Thompson’s James Brown arguing that outside of football, “There’s no other live TV that’s even remotely watchable.”
Kenan also fumbled the ball at the end when things got all Fast & Furious, but it wasn’t even close to the tough time Devon Walker was having throughout this piece. He said “Zemmy” instead of “zero Emmy” and his overall line deliveries were atrocious compared to the effort put in by every other person in the sketch. We’d started seeing some growth from him this season, but his disastrous appearance here reminded us why we thought he might be a one-and-done cast member last season. Overall, it was a nice departure from political nonsense and fit well with the general sentiment of the football season ending, but it could have used some tuning and tightening on the writing end of things.
Monologue: Dakota Johnson
There were some fun ideas to explore, like the fact that she tends not to take anything Hollywood seriously, including a cute shot of her rolling her eyes alongside dad Don Johnson as a kid, and her fun commentary about a photo of her at the SNL 40th anniversary. The problem is that she never really culminated each segment with a strong punchline or even a competent segue. Instead, it was all a little disjointed, with even the audience a little surprised when she would abruptly move on. She’s really trying to keep Madame Web from flopping with a straightforward plug here, but we’re not sure it’s going to help.
Things got a little stronger when she mentioned she and musical guest Justin Timberlake were in The Social Network and he came out with an offer to appear in sketches, followed by Jimmy Fallon in full Bee Gees gear as if they were going to reprise their classic Bee Gees sketches from yesteryear. The only drawback to this was it was reminding us why JT is a Five-Timer as he’s got great chemistry on the show … and it all definitely overshadowed Dakota’s moment. At least we got half of a good monologue out of it.
It turns out Jimmy Fallon showing up in the monologue dressed as Barry Gibb was an actual teaser for the actual sketch coming later in the show. As always, Jimmy Fallon completely dominated the sketch, with Justin Timberlake barely contributing in the non-singing portions and the guests getting cut off almost immediately. Dakota Johnson seemed to be enjoying the nonsense as Jimmy’s Barry flipped his lid multiple times, struggling to hold back her own laughter. While it’s always fun to see JT and JF together again — and we knew Timberlake would have to appear in at least one sketch — but it again seemed to be a bit of a disservice to this week’s actual host. It’s the same schtick, but we admit to smiling and laughing along, too.
After the inevitable bout of political jokes about Trump’s defamation loss, Ron DeSantis eating crow and endorphins him and Trump’s “de-bank” declarations, the boys’ jokes got a lot stronger when the shifted into Texas teen pregnancy rates, Lily Gladston’s historic Oscar nomination and another brilliant jab at Spirit Airlines — this time combined with JetBlue.
This Oscars segment was actually the Ethans with Bowen Yang as an enthusiastic oddball who has his own awards show with categories that make no sense. In fact, the whole appearance made no sense, but at least Bowen almost solid it through sheer charisma and charm. The problem is that the bit didn’t take the nonsense quite far enough, making it just odd and almost off-putting like why was this a segment on “Update.” Maybe Colin should have fought against him a bit more considering it was supposed to be his take on the Oscars — some tension might have helped ratchet up the humor. Instead, he just went with it.
Once again, the guys were in strong territory with non-political jokes, with Michael Che really enjoying the night’s crowds as they responded to his strong/harsh jokes about the British museum returning looted artifacts to Ghana and the punishment for a soccer federation official after a sexual assault. Meanwhile, Colin Jost got in a good one about the 99-year-old woman’s swimming records. All in all, it felt as if the politics was obligatory, but they had a lot more fun writing this other stuff.
Heidi Gardner’s portrayal of a Tarot card-reading clairvoyant was fun, but not nearly as fun as the silly card readings she did about “Newsman” Michael Che. It was all about his upcoming hourlong special, OnlyFans and how Colin Jost just might play into his romantic life. We enjoyed the twist of the segment being readings about Che (as well as allowing us to see the custom-made silliness of the cards). Heidi really did a great job in committing to her almost cluelessness about the readings, only enhancing the humor.
The fun thing about this sketch is that it didn’t even need the cameos from Shark Tank stars Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban. It was already a bona fide success with the audience applauding before Barbara even worked out. We weren’t completely sold on the premise of the sketch itself, but we did adore the detail of Dakota Johnson’s Shark Tank contestant character berating her friends in anticipation of her pending fortune, as well as her idea being just a t-shirt with a slogan on it. But it was the twist at the end with Heidi Gardner’s character (before the cameos) that brought it in for the perfect landing.
Look at that, a showcase for Devon Walker in an episode where he’s kind of been a disaster and he’s killing it! This was a great character piece for Devon, who played extremely well off of Dakota Johnson’s traveler just looking to reclaim her lost luggage. We also enjoyed the layer with Michael Longfellow lurking beneath the more obvious humor as she tried to prove the bag was hers by reciting her diary entries and detailing an embarrassing medication. Kenan Thompson only enhanced the experience. Once again, the audience was applauding before the final sting.
What a beautifully sentimental piece that shifted even more beautifully into a Maury Povich parody. We’re not sure why they couldn’t just have it be an old Maury episode (maybe no one on the cast can do the impression), but we were loving everything about the vibe and energy of the piece. The setup being Andrew Dismukes watching with parents Mikey Day and Dakota Johnson the moment Mikey found out he was the father and it being an old episode of this show was a great bait-and-switch. Then, everything that happened in the episode was just the kind of trash these shows were known for back in the day. Everything about this pre-taped sketch worked from the twists and turns on the old episode, to the sweet reactions of the family now to the final twist. Yes, a final twist that actually strengthened the whole piece.
Please Don’t Destroy: Roast
One of the simplest premises yet and yet so effective. This one hit better the more you know about the histories and works of both the PDD guys and Dakota Johnson. The nepo-baby mantra was absolutely brilliant, but the sick burns flying back and forth were inspired. This had to be so fun and therapeutic to write and perform. Or, when it was all said and done, they all went back to their respective homes and cried their eyes out over a half gallon of ice cream. Either way, it was great for us!
We’re not sure if something was missed or not, but Dave Chappelle showed up for the farewells at the end of the episode, but did not appear in the episode at all. Was he just hanging out and got invited up or did something get cut?
We’re kind of glad he didn’t appear in any sketches, as Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon already overshadowed Dakota Johnson in two appearances on the night. All in all, though, she turned in some solid performances … which only further proves she didn’t need the assists.
We’d also like to give a special shout-out to Devon Walker for really bringing it together with his Baggage Claim character after an extremely rough start to his night. It can be tough to rebound as a performer, but this character felt lived in and he really did a great job. It’s good his night ended strong as we were really questioning him after the restaurant sketch.
As for the rest of the cast, it was a pretty uneven night with Punkie Johnson and Ego Nwodim only making one appearance, and those were barely speaking roles in the Shark Tank piece. James Austin Johnson and Kenan Thompson were consistently strong, as always, in their appearances, but this week we have to give a nod to the night’s workhorse.
Dakota and Heidi Gardner must have gotten along extremely well as Heidi showed up all night long. She didn’t always have dominant roles, like her blink-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance in the Cold Open, but when she was on, she killed it. Heidi’s breakdown sold the aforementioned Shark Tank sketch, and she slayed opposite Michael Che on “Update.”
“Saturday Night Live” returns next week with host Ayo Edebiri and musical guest Jennifer Lopez.