Jason Momoa isn't exactly known for comedic chops, unless you count his line readings in the Justice League trailer ("MY MAN," "YEA-YAH"). But he noted in his monologue during last night's all-new episode of Saturday Night Live that he was an "SNL super nerd dork," and it showed throughout his debut hosting gig: the guy has tons of charisma, and thanks to his energy, the episode was able to overcome a typically awful cold open and throw out a lot of enjoyable and increasingly surreal Christmas-themed sketches.
I’m at SNL right now and Momoa is blowing the roof off with his charm
— Chris Miller (@chrizmillr) December 9, 2018
But first, about that Cold Open: SNL has been stuck in a rut for well over a year with these mandatory political cold opens, regurgitating the talking points of whatever the biggest news story of the week has been to comedically-empty effect. There was no Alec Baldwin this week, which usually is good because it forces the writers and cast to come up with more clever ways of tackling the administration.
Unfortunately, as reliably good as Eric (Alex Moffat) & Don Jr. (Mikey Day) have become as characters (Eric thinks Manafort's name is Pillowfort), they relied on Robert De Niro's Robert Mueller this week—and while De Niro is one of our all-time great actors, he is also one of our all-time worst cue card readers. Despite a few good lines ("Becoming president is the worst thing to ever happen to your dad"), his inability to handle the cue cards killed any comedy in this one. Maybe SNL will realize they don't have to do a Trump sketch every week to start the show—maybe they should just choose the funniest sketch of the week, and let that set the tone for the episode.
Momoa's Monologue was a step up from that, especially his clear joy at getting to host SNL ("I am so muscular to be hosting Saturday Night Live, huge!"). But it felt a bit overstuffed with things, including a bit with a pre-recorded song "This Is My Moment" (which I wish had been longer), Aidy Bryant getting him to open a pickle jar while making eye contact, and then Chris Redd, Leslie Jones & Kenan Thompson pitching him on Parliament's "Aqua Boogie" as the Aquaman theme song.
However, things got much, much better in the hilarious first sketch of the night, Elf On The Shelf, in which Momoa's conflicted, high-pitched elf is dealing with a masturbating teen who just wants a fleshlight for Christmas. Momoa really kills it here, and sells his torn feelings on the kid he grew up with only to watch him become a manic masturbator.
Also good was the GE Boys commercial, which did a decent job of making housework look super masculine.
In what I'm sure will be one of the most popular sketches of the night, Khal Drogo returned for Khal Drogo's Ghost Dojo, in which the deceased Dothraki interviewed other dead characters from Game Of Thrones. Hodor (Beck Bennett), High Sparrow (Pete Davidson) and Brienne Of Tarth (Heidi Gardner) all stopped by, there was an ad for "little beard twisties," and then Joffrey (Kate McKinnon) and Oleanna Tyrell (Aidy Bryant) got into a Jerry Springer-worthy slap fight. Perhaps the best part of this good sketch: The Red Viper's new look at the very end.
When Them Trumps started, and the premise (the Trumps but as black people ala Empire, with Kenan Thompson as Darius Trump) became clear, this seemed like it could be something special. Unfortunately, the sketch ended before it barely began.
Weekend Update had two guests: seventh grader Carrie Krum (Aidy Bryant), whose travel recommendations are all intrinsically tied to places she and her family have been; and Michael Che himself, who had a really funny bit on the MTA rejecting ads for bidets, which he apparently is a huge fan of. "That's where people need a little splash of hope the most," he said. "What better metaphor for a bidet than a whooshing train zipping through a dirty tunnel."
Also, there were plenty of jokes about Mueller and Trump (as Jost put it, Mueller released the teaser trailer for Trump: Endgame this week), John Kelly leaving because he "requires extensive surgery to remove his palm from his face," and the possibility of Trump faking his own death on Twitter ("I'm dead. Sad!").
Whether you enjoyed An Extra Christmas Carol was wholly reliant on how much you appreciated Momoa saying the word "croosh" and grinding with Tiny Tim while in a fabulous cape.
A bunch of frat brothers plot their revenge in Day Of The Dorks, and Momoa steals this one with his extreme dork-hating character Beef.
Pete Davidson got a rare starring role in a sketch in which he wasn't playing himself in Rudolph's Big Night—he played a bitter Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer who takes out some pent up frustration on his fellow reindeer after years of bullying.
Cecily Strong's Gemma character returned for Gemma Sleigh Ride, which was one of the weaker sketches of the night.
And the 10-to-1 sketch was one of the best this week, in which Beck Bennett's character went to surreal lengths (and utilized a truly bizarre voice) to make a good First Impression on his girlfriend's parents.
Mumford and Sons were the musical guest, playing two songs that sounded like a mix of the worst of Coldplay, Arcade Fire, and Dave Matthews Band. They were truly terrible and I cannot fathom how people enjoy their music.
Next week, Matt Damon hosts the last SNL episode of 2018 with musical guests Mark Ronson & Miley Cyrus.