Kate McKinnon hosted 'SNL' after 11 years as a cast member, and the one character she brought back is not what you were expecting

The SNL favorite rocks the host gig, while Michael Che and Colin Jost return with their annual joke swap.

Cat ladies Kate McKinnon and Billie Eilish dish out the feline puns on Saurday Night LIve.
Cat ladies Kate McKinnon and Billie Eilish dish out the feline puns on Saurday Night LIve.
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Former SNL cast member Kate McKinnon returned to the show for the first time as host on Saturday, and despite building a catalog of very memorable characters that goes back 11 seasons, the one and only person she brought back was probably not who viewers were expecting.

McKinnon, who left the show in 2022, continued to entertain audiences this year after appearing in the hit film Barbie as the character Weird Barbie. To help ease her into the hosting waters of SNL was the help of other show alum — Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig — and a musical guest in Billie Eilish who has hosted herself and was totally game to do some sketches.

And while McKinnon was known for playing dozens of characters, the ones that got her the most attention included Hillary Clinton and Rudi Giuliani. But those impressions, along with any other politics-related sketches, were nowhere to be found.

Here’s a rundown of this week’s biggest moments that were “live from New York.”

Announcing the return of… Barbra DeDrew

Despite both Clinton and Giuliani being in the news enough lately to justify an appearance on SNL — via McKinnon's impressions — it was during the return of a sketch called “Whiskers R We” that McKinnon brought back her cat-loving character, Barbara DeDrew. And she got some help from Eilish, who played DeDrew’s co-host, Paw-bree Hep-Purrn.

The ridiculousness of it all was enough to be a highlight of the night, as the pair appeared with cats available for adoption during their Holiday Cat-tacular. But the addition of unpredictable real live animals helped make it all the more memorable.

Kate’s first monologue

To open up her first-ever show as a host, McKinnon admitted to the audience that she’s not comfortable speaking in her own voice, which is why she got into this “racket” to begin with. So after singing a portion of the monologue and “playing” a miniature piano, she was joined onstage by Rudolph and Wiig.

The former cast members joked for a bit about their Wikipedia pages, rattling off stats that clearly belonged to Taylor Swift (Wiig) and Beyoncé (Rudolph), before helping McKinnon finish her Christmas-themed song to start the show.

People’s Choice

The night was filled with plenty of laughs from McKinnon as host, but it was a moment during Weekend Update that was trending with viewers on social media.

In what has become a holiday tradition for anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che, the pair gifted each other jokes to read that they've never seen before live on air — called a joke swap. And those watching at home and reacting on social media couldn’t get enough.

Music-themed highlights

One of the most unforgettable and laugh-inducing moments of the night was a music video for a song called “Tampon Farm.” With McKinnon leading the way on acoustic guitar, the video and song included Rudolph, Wiig, Eilish, some current cast members and also former head SNL writer, Paula Pell.

Keeping with the music theme, McKinnon once again joined up with Rudolph and Wiig — along with cast member Bowen Yang — to play the music group ABBA. The Swedish band was pushing their newly discovered Christmas album from 1978. And this is one of those where trying to not laugh was the name of the game for McKinnon and friends.

For one of the few music performances of the night that wasn’t meant for laughs, Eilish performed her hit song from the Barbie soundtrack, “What Was I Made For?” which was introduced by McKinnon alongside the film’s director, Greta Gerwig. She also sang the song, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" because, well, tis the season.

Looking ahead

After the new year SNL will return on Jan. 20, 2024, with actor Jacob Elordi as host and singer Reneé Rapp as the musical guest.

Elordi is best known for starring on HBO’s Euphoria and as Elvis Presley in Sofia Coppola’s 2023 film Priscilla. Rapp is an actress as well as being a singer. She stars in the HBO Max teen dramedy, The Sex Lives of College Girls, and released an album called Snow Angel earlier this year.

Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays on NBC, and is available for streaming on Peacock.