With a couple of exceptions (the Owen Wilson and Kim Kardashian episodes, and the unavoidable Christmas episode mess), this has been one of the more successful seasons of Saturday Night Live in recent years, thanks to the infusion of new writers and performers boosting the core group of veterans whom Lorne Michaels has forbidden from leaving the show (Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson). Another factor helping keep things fresh: with the exception of Paul Rudd, every host this season has been a first-timer, and that pattern continued this week when former cast member Will Forte took the stage at Studio 8H with musical guest Måneskin.
Forte was always a slightly awkward fit on SNL—while his contemporaries like Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg were happy to throw out impressions, goofy accents, or adorably weird digital shorts, Forte reached for the more unnerving side of silly with his comedy. He's an absurdist who likes playing seemingly meek characters, then pitching them toward the abrasive. A lot of his best material seemed to go over the heads of the audience at the time, but sketches like Potato Chip have gone on to become all-time classics.
But his brand of comedy fits in really well with the current cast/writers, making this one of the best episodes of the season so far. His homecoming during the very enjoyable Monologue, which featured him getting upstaged by Kristen Wiig and Willem Dafoe, played up his underdog status while also giving him a few moments of sincerity.
Of course, there was no way Forte was coming back without bringing his most beloved recurring sketch creation, MacGruber (especially since he's promoting the first season of the MacGruber series on Peacock). MacGruber: Coronavirus was a delight, particularly because there were three segments spread out through the night—in-episode continuity is a rare and exciting thing to see on SNL—detailing MacGruber's turn toward becoming a QAnon vaccine skeptic.
Another immensely enjoyable returning sketch was Jackie & Clancy, in which Clancy T. Bachleratt (Forte) and Jackie Snad (Wiig) sing songs about spaceships, toddlers, model-T cars and jars of beer. This sketch is all about the sublimely silly wordplay and the absolute commitment from Forte, Wiig, and Thompson, who plays country music hit-maker Jevner Keeblepooble.
Of the other three major sketches of the night, Kid Klash was my favorite, in which Forte put a sinister twist on the kid's game show host trope. I also am a long-time fan of the recurring Reese De'What sketches, and this latest version, Cinema Classics: Gaslight, includes an excellent McKinnon performance in addition to Thompson's usual brilliance as De'What. And lastly, Threesome was the one weaker sketch of the night—a good premise and funny Forte performance in a sketch that goes on a little too long.
The Ingraham Angle Cold Open continued this season's trend of having markedly better cold opens than almost anything from the last five years (albeit, it's still an SNL political cold open, so not one of my favorite things on the show), and the best thing about it was James Austin Johnson's Trump impression, this time mashed up with Wordle.
But you know what was exceptionally good this week? Weekend Update, which had three fantastic guests. Kicking it off was the first appearance this season of Bowen Yang as Chen Biao on the Beijing 2022 Olympics, which included a particularly great joke about season two of The Wire. Sarah Sherman made her second Update appearance, Sarah Sherman on Staying Cozy in the Winter, and like her first hilarious time, it was mostly an opportunity to roast Colin Jost-Hansson for violently rejecting radical acts of queer interracial love.
And last but certainly not least, Alex Moffat's tongue-twisting, long-running character Guy Who Just Bought A Boat was joined by Colin Jost and Pete Davidson, who just bought a ferryboat ("the windowless van of the sea") together, to become Three Guys Who Just Bought a Boat. "Yes, it's very exciting, we thought the whole thing through," Jost noted dryly.
There was one cut-for-time sketch: ESPN’s First Take was a shouty, accurate take on sports talk shows and the men who love to yell on them, with Chris Redd showing off a very exceptional Stephen A. Smith impression.
Eurovision 2021-winning Italian band Måneskin performed "Beggin'" and "I Wanna Be Your Slave."
Next week, Willem Dafoe will make his hosting debut with musical guest Katy Perry.