I mentioned at the top of last week's superlative Will Forte episode that this has been one of the more successful seasons of Saturday Night Live in recent years, so it figures that we would get hit with a bit of a dud this weekend. That is no fault of host Willem Dafoe, who was making his SNL debut alongside musical guest Katy Perry. Dafoe was enthusiastic and extremely game for whatever the writers threw at him, whether he was a self-flagellating dad in a Disney spoof or playing a version of himself hocking testosterone supplements.
His wild, expressive features and body movements were put to great use throughout the night, particularly during a very charming Monologue in which he lightly roasted himself for having the vibes of a sociopath.
The problem this week was that the material just was not as strong as some previous episodes this season; the writers never really gave Dafoe a spotlight sketch, despite him being the highlight of almost everything that was aired. Nugenix, the aforementioned testosterone ad in which Dafoe plays himself flanked by the sublimely random duo of Frank Thomas (Kenan Thompson) and Doug Flutie (Kyle Mooney), was probably the closest we got to a signature sketch for the seasoned actor. His perfume-induced groans at the end were particularly inspired.
Dafoe also was by far the best part of Beauty & The Beast: The Mirror, one of the few times he was really able to let loose with a Lighthouse-esque physical performance.
In most of the other sketches, Dafoe was content to be just a supporting player, like with Tenant Meeting, one of those recurring sketches which gives almost everyone in the cast a chance to play a character. This was probably one of the most successful, funny sketches of the night, with no jokes wearing out their welcome and a lot of NYC specificity in the humor ("When will Verizon install the friggin' Fios? It's been ten years!"). Dafoe, Heidi Gardner, Aidy Bryant, James Austin Johnson and Chris Redd were all particularly great, but Aristotle Athari stole the sketch with just a few lines of Greek.
Dafoe and Bryant played the announcers of the Badminster Dog Show, but everyone was overshadowed by the adorable pups, all of whom stole this sketch.
Dafoe was my favorite part of Now I'm Up, a pre-taped musical parody (led by Chris Redd and Kenan Thompson) about the little things that wake you up in the middle of the night and prevent you from going back to sleep.
It's been a bit since we had a Please Don't Destroy video on air, but if you're a fan of the trio's work (as I certainly am at this point), Please Don’t Destroy - Martin’s Friend was a highlight of the entire episode, despite not featuring Dafoe at all.
Check out the rest of the sketches below: the Russian Disinformation Cold Open really fell flat for me this week, with a plodding pace and groany punchlines. Your enjoyment of Good Morning Columbus depends entirely on how much you find blowjob jokes and innuendo hilarious. And the 10-to-1 sketch, Office Song, felt like a half-completed sketch.
After last week's Weekend Update bonanza, we only had two excellent guests this week, including a very left field one: first up was Bowen Yang and Aidy Bryant teaming up as Trend Forecasters on the Latest Trends, a delightfully weird new pair who send bad trends to bed (because they aren't allowed to send them to death). Then came Peyton Manning on the NFL Playoffs, in which Manning ignored football in favor of ranting about his love for Emily In Paris. The most shocking thing about this seemingly random cameo is how well it worked.
Katy Perry indulged in some surreal, fungi-based imagery to perform "Never Really Over" and "When I'm Gone," and it made me feel like I was missing some key context for everything, but in a good way.
SNL is taking the next couple weeks off, and will return on February 26th with host John Mulaney joining the Five Timers Club, alongside musical guest LCD Soundsystem.