Welcome back to SNL in Review, fellow Coneheads! Tonight’s host, Jennifer Lopez, made her first Saturday Night Live appearance as a musical guest in February 2000. Subsequently, she pulled double duty as host and musical guest during season 26 and 35. She’s also been impersonated by Maya Rudolph, Cheri Oteri, and even Lucy Lawless way back in 1998.
A little contrast: the show’s musical guest, DaBaby, blew up earlier this year on his lead single, the Suge Knight ode, “Suge.” So tonight’s show welcomes a historic host back to Studio 8H, as well as a young upstart bringing new life and energy to a (sometimes) stodgy setting.
I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member, Ellen Cleghorne. Today, Cleghorne is an educator and has taught students at a college level about Lopez’s legacy. “I use her as a way into looking at the history of Puerto Rico and Hollywood, ergo the history of Latinos in [the film industry]and Hollywood in Spanish-speaking America.”
Related: Jennifer Lopez on Oscar Buzz, the Super Bowl and Her Amazing Year at 50
She adds: “There is a vast difference between Mexican Americans, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans. Unfortunately, ‘Latinx’ — the new politically correct term for people of ‘spanish’ heritage — has become a conflation without distinction which is reductive and mean-spirited. Sketch comedy can be a great intervention here. J. Lo should do a sketch wherein she is confused for ‘everyone’ — America Ferrera, Penelope Cruz, Selena Gomez, Selma Hayek, and Antonio Banderas.”
While Cleghorne appreciates Lopez’s symbolism and business savvy, she also brings it back to her origins: “J. Lo was a Fly Girl. I hope she dances.”
Nearly 30 years after In Living Color, Lopez is hoping to use her SNL appearance as part of her PR awards blitz around (the Will Ferrell-produced!!!) Hustlers. For her role as Ramona Vega, a veteran stripper, Lopez is campaigning for Oscar attention in the Best Supporting Actress category. Cleghorne is supportive: “Yeah! Good for her… I also think her body of work is saturated with women who make bad choices. Ninety-five percent (hyperbolic) of her movies she plays a character who gets beaten by her husband, abandoned…But she overcomes it all to find happiness. She’s every abusive husband’s nightmare.”
Justin Trudeau, Boris Johnson, and other NATO leaders — caught on camera trashing President Trump this week — get lampooned in a 90210/Mean Girls-style sketch. Naturally, the show immediately enlists Jimmy Fallon and James Corden to play hack versions of Trudeau and Johnson. (Guest star Paul Rudd can do no wrong.) As much as I hate this cameo fest, I will say Corden looks remarkably like Chris Farley.
“Those are my best friends, we run this!” sputters Alec Baldwin’s Trump staring at the other guest stars, not yet realizing he’s been banished to the loser table. On the one hand, this kind of sketch explains a topical international moment in fun terms; it also weirdly humanizes Trump.
Lopez enters the main stage to wax on the Christmas season — in a tux, no less. She had a great year to be sure — she got engaged A-Rod, woof — and will perform in the Super Bowl halftime show in a few months. “The best is yet to come,” she assures me. “They tried to count me out so much. But I’m still here.” It’s a heartwarming moment, leading to her Rockette-assisted rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” This is a genuinely strong monologue — which of course concludes with J. Lo in a signature outfit — that iconic green Versace dress.
Here’s Cleghorne remarking on Lopez’s longevity over the years: “She’s not only a producer, dancer, singer, actress, and mother — she’s a judge. She was a judge on American Idol. She is a judge on her dance contest show. And now she’s a judge in the Bronx municipal night court. Who wouldn’t want to catch a case and get some face time with Jenny from the Block?”
HGTV’s Surprise Home Makeover: Holiday Edition
Kenan Thompson is surprising homeowners (Lopez, Mikey Day). The joke here is that Lopez would be married to a nerd, her husband-by-choice, Smurf-man, Matt. “I never get lucky like this!” an oblivious Matt says. He has no clue the hand he’s drawn — the guy has a Smurf tramp stamp, for Christ’s sake! This feels like a Day sketch, and allows Kenan to be frequently shocked and exasperated, which is a great way to play to his comic strengths.
Fun camerawork entering the house from the outside set. Good to see some movement on live TV.
J. Lo stage rehearsal — and the return of Chad
Chad (and Pete Davidson) is back — as a roadie! J. Lo went from being romanced by Chris Kattan’s Mango, to Pete Davidson’s Chad. “Heh, rod.”
Chad is one-note, seemingly, but I think he’s such a funny Gen Z spoof. Or rather, a blank canvas other people project onto. “Somebody had Doritos,” she murmurs before a distraught Alex Rodriguez shows up. (You will remember A-Rod popped up in the Charles Barkley “Champions” sketch in 2018. He was also played by Drake in 2014.)
What Do You Figure Is Goin’ On in That House?
In this Baby Jane riff, Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant team up again to deny Lopez her own reflection. They’re trying to keep their beautiful sister from sight, despite her instincts to be instantly, insatiably attractive. “It’s too hot when she moves!” they exclaim.
Kenan is back as Darius Trump, alongside Chris Redd and Ego Nwodim in this Empire spoof. Honestly, this reimagination of Trump’s appeal works way better than the Baldwin cold opens.
DaBaby — first performance (“BOP”)
Last month, the legendary dance crew the Jabbawockeez stole the show in DaBaby’s “BOP On Broadway” flash mob music video. Cleghorne hopes the America’s Best Dance Crew performers appear alongside Baby tonight. Good performance — masks and all!
This was the second single off his album, Kirk. It was co-produced by Jetsonmade, the mastermind behind “Suge.” (Side note: I wonder why Lil Nas X hasn’t been on this season.)
More Trump gallows humor — with a side of Trudeau blackface humor! Granted, there’s certainly a ton of news to mock. And I’ll be needing that Trump-Giuliani TikTok ASAP!
Kate McKinnon shows up as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to comment on the “Breitbart Ryan Seacrest” who asked if she hates the president. Here’s a bit of trivia: the first Nancy Pelosi on the show was Cameron Diaz on the Barry Gibb Talk Show in 2005. Amy Poehler also played her before Kristen Wiig took over through 2011.
Also showing up: Beck Bennett’s Jules, who sees things a little differently. This is Jules’ third appearance on Update. He really captures a specific type of privilege, doesn’t he?
Che giggled a lot this segment! He’s having fun.
Heidi Gardner, Kyle Mooney, and Alex Moffat are a whitebred family visited by hip hop carolers (Lopez, Kenan Thompson, Pete Davidson, and Chris Redd.) There are a ton of fun references to Home Alone and Lopez kills it. And that’s before DaBaby shows up to rob the family.
It’s wild to see J. Lo in a nostalgic spoof, since she was a peer of many of those late ’90s acts! You may not have been wondering what her cover of City High’s “What Would You Do” sounds like — so thank you, SNL gods! Feast.
Oh, man, this is great. Lopez is Gino’s girlfriend and Melissa Villasenor is her cousin, peddling various hoop earrings. If the first several sketches tonight were a meta-glance at Lopez’s enduring beauty — and Hip Hop Carols links her to a great period of pop music — Hoops is a reminder when J. Lo ran this look and made it iconic. A nice tribute.
“The bigger the hoop, it hurts more!”
Potty PM commercial
Kyle Mooney shells out a new product, only to be confronted by J. Lo, who wants to know how this nighttime toilet assistant can be catered to women. It can’t! His only solution is they sleep on the toilet. A sturdy addition to Kyle’s off-kilter, late show bits.
Wisconsin hardware store
Lopez — alongside McKinnon and Strong, and later Chloe Fineman as Kimmy — play outdoorsy, wilderness types. You want to hear Lopez try a Midwestern accent? Here you go, universe! This sketch flails, and never gets off the runway.
We don’t get a dog show this episode, but SNL does toss in a giant bear costume!
DaBaby — second performance (“Suge”)
DaBaby knocks someone out as part of his choreographed performance of “Suge.” This is entertaining — full of backflips and dance moves. But DaBaby has an aggressive, energetic style. He’s got crossover flair, but a menacing ethos underneath the presentation.
Reflecting on Suge Knight and the history of Death Row Records, Cleghorne says: “I met Tupac and Snoop. I’m so sorry for the way things worked [out for Tupac]. Too many great talents, gone too soon. It’s a metadiscourse in black life, though. The AIDS epidemic, drugs and violence and hip-hop is synonymous with the black community’s struggle for visibility and ‘Audibility.’ Hip-hop was and is our audible humanity. Baby keeps the tradition flowing.”
Barry’s Bootcamp Audition
The workout audition sketch returns! Always great to see Bowen Yang in his element. You likely remember their SoulCycle sketch from the David Harbour episode in October. This one suffers a little bit by comparison, despite Yang and J. Lo being standouts. (I love Lopez quoting Britney Spears but attributing it to Mother Teresa.) I wish Yang’s trainer would just be his own recurring character and make this less an ensemble.
What a fun episode. Good luck to Lopez this Oscar season! She’s already been nominated by for Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association, so she’s on her way. If nominated, she would join fellow In Living Color alum Jamie Foxx, who won an Oscar in 2005 for Ray.
Thanks again to Ellen Cleghorne for her insight!
Did you like tonight’s episode? Hate it? Let me know in the comment below — or vote here!