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Kenan Thompson on What It Would Take for Him to Step Away from 'SNL' After 17 Seasons
The Emmy nominee and long-running SNL cast member says Lorne Michaels keeps him coming back!
Welcome, Coneheads, to another very special SNL in Review!
Among its many draws, Saturday Night Live — one of pop culture's remaining (still working) institutions — lends itself to its own history and mythology. It's what I love about the show. Characters and moments can be recalled from previous seasons, even decades-old, at a moment's notice; like baseball, you can detail specific minutia such as which cast member has uttered "Live from New York" the most, or what performer appears in a specific segment of the show versus another. What's past is prologue, it's not even past, time is a flat circle — that sort of thing. Which brings me to this week's host: Dan Levy.
Over 35 years ago, on the SNL Film Festival special, SCTV star Eugene Levy appeared alongside John Candy to plug the following week's episode with musical guests Hall & Oates. A brief strike by the Writers Guild of America kiboshed their episode, and Levy never appeared. Levy's son Dan was just a year old at the time. So the idea that tonight we will see him host, when fate had other ideas for his dad, is very cool. Particularly as a second generation member of the SCTV clan — Rick Moranis hosted, as did Catherine O'Hara, and Martin Short. But never Eugene. Will he make an appearance tonight? I'd also love a Noah Levenstein or Moira Rose (!) pretape immensely.
Former SNL cast member Gary Kroeger remembers the elder Levy being asked. He adds: "I met him once and he was as kind and approachable as anyone I'd ever met. I was always in awe of all of the SCTV people. Catherine O'Hara and Robin Duke are great friends and Catherine would sometimes hang out." Today all three are experiencing a resurgence thanks to Schitt's Creek — and tonight's host. I know former SNLer Victoria Jackson is among the show's many fans. Welcome to the 900th episode of SNL, folks. Buckle up — let's see what's in store!
It's the Super Bowl 55 pre-game show on CBS. Kenan Thompson is James "No not that one" Brown. He salutes the league's lackluster COVID-19 response, as well as the NFL's Nickelodeon Guts-flavored twist. (A nice wink to Thompson's past.) Okay, a guy-centic cold open, and it's disjointed, like they didn't know what to do with this one. Some weird technical glitches too.
The commercial parodies fare a little better. They cut to a pre-tape ad: Cheez-Its are historically delicious. There's also a Papa John's child trafficking and Q-pon commercial. (Shout out to the great Comet Ping Pong in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of D.C. I just split a pepperoni pizza there two days ago and it was exceptional.) Anti-vaxxers are an important demographic these days, so the Budweiser frogs have a modern pitch for them. "I love frogs, they're like turtles without shells," giggles Beck Bennett. They predict Cardi B will do a disturbing commercial for "Wet Ass Pepsi."
Finally, Aidy Bryant gets to play Coach Andy Reid — and also Coach Bruce Arians. She has to switch off hats, as they look identical, practically. A nice in-studio performance by Bryant.
Here we go! Levy talks about how wild the last year has been — people started watching his show, Schitt's Creek. People on the street scream "Ew!" at him.
He talks about this iconic stage he is standing on. "They're just a little safer." He decides to give us a COVID-friendly tour of Studio 8H. "Walk with me if you will." Aidy Bryant, as the safety officer Doreen, pops up with a noodle ("in your tummy") to enforce precautions. "Pointing spreads droplets," she assures him. The tours are difficult to pull off, in my view — as fun as they are. The hosts are literally detached from the audience, and pacing themselves as they walk.
He goes to a cast decontamination station, with Melissa Villaseñor. Then he points out Catherine O'Hara's headshot on the hosting wall, and meets a socially distanced Kenan Thompson. And yes — yahtzee! Bingo! Eugene Levy makes his first appearance. 35 years later! How exceptional. Fresh from a plane from Los Angeles, he is enclosed in glass. This is such a fun treat — a living legend, SCTV comedy royalty, who missed his hosting gig. Hamilton, Ontario's own. (Shout out Dan's mom too.)
Tour guide training
Mikey Day is Jeremy, a Universal Studios tour host. He is training Toby, err Thoby, who is drinking coffee. He is new. Thoby shares a "dark as hell" theory about Back to the Future — and dunks on ET looking like a "ball sack come to life." He needs to put down the coffee! He continues to be inappropriate, sharing how Wayne Knight is his sexual "softener." Thompson makes his third appearance already as a tourist. Dobby is his softener. (Andrew Dismukes does not want to share his.) Bowen Yang is a studio Gru, Thoby's friend who is into cocaine. We have seen this before, but it's cute.
Zillow — Late 30s sex ad
Bored? Real estate is an aphrodisiac. "An updated Colonial? mmm" This is hilarious and well-observed. "The guest house has its own little kitchen," murmurs Levy to Yang. Contact the listing agent for a rude awakening. Cecily Strong plays the Remax employee, Donna, injecting reality. Spot-on.
COVID-era Super Bowl party
"Masks off?" questions Beck Bennett at a small Super Bowl party. Turns out, all the attendees are being super safe — except when they aren't. "Quarantine burnout!" exposes a lot of mundane hypocrisy. Again, this is very true-to-life. "We are doing everything right," they applaud themselves. Kyle Mooney has been having anonymous sex in public parks — but Heidi Gardner cuts him some slack, since it's outside and plenty of air. They put on hand sanitizer then share from the same batch of Chili. Dan Levy can't smell, suggesting these well-meaning but deluded friends are going to become the problem they claim to detest. Which likely speaks to many behaving holier than thou right now. Here's the hook: Kate McKinnon shows up as Dr. Fauci. (She did a cold open as him in December.) "Bored, horny, and borderline nuts," she says. This is a PSA ‚ Bowen Yang is Psy, outdated but funny and surreal way to close this.
Lifting Our Voices
Dr. Jeremiah Thibodeau, a host for a BET Black history show, wants to discuss white allies like Harriet Beecher Stowe. He brings out Punkie Johnson and Aidy Bryant, who teaches at Johnson's school. This is pretty wry — "She is trying but maybe too much?" wonders Johnson. This is about needless, embarrassing overcorrection among politically correct, well-meaning progressive white people. The silly hypocrisy of their earnestness.
"White silence is violence" cries Dan Levy, a frontline activist. "White people need to listen!" he says interrupting Chris Redd. He just had to post about 2Pac on his Instagram, @Blake4Justice. He nails the type.
Then Kyle Mooney and Ego Nwodim appear — they are married. Mooney likes to dance, so he hates white women and their lack of culture. "He's a nice man and has a lot of money," rationalizes Nwodim. The money lets him follow his supposed passion: Black art.
Phoebe Bridgers — "Kyoto"
"Kyoto" is the second single from Bridgers' second studio album, Punisher. I am digging the random skeleton costumes, and '90s uptempo, bright alt vibe. This song has earned Bridgers two Grammy rock nominations. Pure sauce.
Colin Jost, with a slightly new hairdo, comes out with a Joe Biden massage joke (yawn), then lands on Mitch McConnell. Hard. This joke kills, brutal. As does Jost comparing Donald Trump to a social media influencer. Michael Che joins in, saying Marjorie Taylor Greene looks like a grown up child star's mugshot.
Che then gets into Morgan Wallen — it is good the show acknowledges their own complicity and hypocrisy here, somewhat. But at the same time, crushes Jost. Oh, the Che era of Update.
Has #cancelculture gone too far? Heidi Gardner and Mikey Day appear to discuss. They want to cancel kids, including a baby — @We_Cancel_Kids is their handle. "That pig, he's five." They even use #BuhBye as a hashtag, hope David Spade is watching. Silly, we get it, but fun. Che has been watching a lot of YouTube. Twins, the New Trend (Chris Redd, Kenan) come out and react to iconic songs they have never heard before. They went viral a few months back listening to Phil Collins. Che puts the Friends theme song on, and they react. "That guitar hits." Then the Baby Shark song. "That song has eight billion views on YouTube!" counters Che, before putting on the cat jingle and the ABC song. It's all news to them! Their enthusiasm is infectious. Finally, Che puts on the saxophone-heavy SNL theme.
Hot Damn — football anthem
The bar's TV is broken during the Super Bowl. Cecily Strong and Dan Levy are the bartenders — they suggest singing football songs while they wait. Beck Bennett wants an example. So Strong and Levy sing something called "Hot Damn." The crowd is confused. "We don't know this song!" says Kenan Thompson, before the rest of the group breaks out in song too. We get a fun Kenan reaction shot (gif it please) and a Clipse reference — but I am not a fan of the Broadway theater kid cosplay. "Hot damn, I'm in the zone!" offers Thompson, being subsumed in the music. Turns out the TV is just unplugged and the bartenders wanted to perversely flaunt their talent. We have seen this many times before. Strong is contractually obligated to sing in every episode yes? Yes.
Mark (Mikey Day) and Carrie (Ego Nwodim) are getting married. Her mom, Punkie Johnson, is giving away the bride. Kate McKinnon and Dan Levy decide to tell Carrie how amazing she is. Is it an objection? More of a hint. "What are we saying?" Johnson hedges. McKinnon and Levy continue to be polite — but they suggest maybe, just maybe she is settling. McKinnon and Levy begin texting each other while Day's vows talk about Friends and Grey's Anatomy. "You guys all talk in mean little riddles!" he shouts. "I don't care what you two think!" His outward, plain-spoken confrontation wins them over.
Phoebe Bridgers — "I Know the End"
"I Know the End" was Bridgers' fourth single. It also was both the first song to be developed and the last to see completion for her last project. It is a snapshot of depression, but also the beauty of highway billboards, family, life, and the SpaceX launch. It is dark and restless. Very moving, with a great horn section and a searing guitar solo. Some Arcade Fire vibes, in my opinion. I love the psychedelic and brooding end, as she demolishes her guitar on stage, kicking the speaker. Boom, just a hint of danger returns to 8H.
It Gets Better follow-up
Bowen Yang, Punkie Johnson, Kate McKinnon, and Dan Levy revisit this iconic and important campaign. Real life continues to haunt them. "It's scary when gay people are mean," asserts Yang. He does not like most of his family, even though they accept him. Kate's kids forced her to get an oversized iguana. "It figured out doorknobs." Levy sums it up: progress — having problems previously only exclusive to straight people.
— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) February 7, 2021
-What did you think? TELL ME. Do not hold back. Weigh in below, or vote here.
What did YOU think of the Dan Levy SNL?
— THE “SNL in Review” Experience (@SNLinReview) February 7, 2021
-Thank you to Gary Kroeger once again for his comments. He shares with me that Schitt's Creek star Catherine O'Hara "once told me I was a really good actor after having seen the 4 Minutes to Live video I'd done." Again, Schitt's Creek is such a modern classic for so many reasons — the SCTV connection is one of many reasons. Kroeger adds: "Having met all of them - and worked with Marty Short - every single one of them impressed me as down to earth and talented beyond the earth."
-Pretty fun, mostly! Some familiar beats but overall I really enjoyed Levy as a host, and the utility of the cast (mostly, see below). Bridgers crushed it (literally.)
-Chloe Fineman and Pete Davidson really snubbed here, eh? And periodic reminder that the show is failing Melissa.
-For those keeping score, if you squint, Dan Levy is the second Degrassi alumnus to host SNL, following Drake. He is the producer who hires Paige during the Degrassi Goes Hollywood arc. His friend Stacey Farber (Ellie Nash) appeared in an episode of Schitt's Creek, but alas made no cameo tonight. #LetStefanBrogrenHostSNL