Saturday Night Live recap: Oscar Isaac juggles MCU duties and serious-actor cred in hosting debut

Greetings, Conehead nation — welcome to the latest and greatest SNL in Review.

This week's Saturday Night Live host is Llewyn Davis himself (or Poe Dameron, if you please), Mr. Oscar Isaac. 2021 was a big year for Isaac, who starred in both Dune and The Card Counter. And 2022 could be just as noteworthy, as he'll be appearing in the latest Marvel streaming series, Moon Knight. (Isaac is perhaps the poster child for embodying both '70s-era actorly cred, a sort of heir to Al Pacino, and the modern requirements of big-budget franchise output.)

Back in October, Isaac actually made a cameo on SNL, alongside Nicholas Braun and Emily Ratajkowski in "What's Up With That." So he's dipped his toes in a bit. Tonight's musical guest, Charli XCX, also popped up on the show late last year. Her December appearance was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, but she popped up in a pretaped music video segment. So this is her makeup date.

All right, ramblers, let's get rambling.

Cold open

Live from Mar-a-Lago, it's Tucker Carlson (Alex Moffat) and Laura Ingraham (Kate McKinnon). Sustained applause. They justify the maddening things they've said about Ukraine over the past 10 days. Donald Trump (James Austin Johnson) is manning the phone lines, as Fox News raises money. "Joe Biden has gone beyond burger," he blathers, also commenting on the new Fresh Prince reboot. He serenades Putin with "My Funny Valentine," after quoting The Help. This is cutting and mostly works, though McKinnon is a little distracting.

Their first guest: former SNL host Steven Seagal (Bowen Yang). He's close with Putin. Don Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle duet on "Shallow," which of course lets Cecily Strong sing again. It's interesting to see a new version of Mikey Day's Don, now all coked up and strung out. (Previously the wacky duo of Eric & Donald Jr. would talk to Colin Jost on "Weekend Update" to discuss their father's actions, with Eric's cluelessness interrupting his brother. It was silly. So this is Day's first reappearance as the character in a minute.)

This goes on a little too long but seems well executed, given the dark material. Leagues above the Alec Baldwin-era Trump cold opens.


Isaac comes out and jokes about his "white" stage name (he was born Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada) and "ethnically ambiguous" casting appeal. His role in the latest MCU project is full circle, as he made a short film growing up in Miami titled The Avenger. He had to sign a licensing agreement to show these clips on NBC. Love these home video clips, and can relate — shout-out to Andy Productions and the cast of my Tarantino rip-off, Redemption (2000).

Paw Patrol

It's a political ad against Mayor Goodway, of Adventure Bay. Isaac is a city councilman opposed to the concept behind Paw Patrol. It's dangerous and impractical. "Do we feel safe? No!" Two hundred fifty-eight unsolved murders, no sex unit.

Isaac commends himself nicely. Mikey Day is front and center, yelling.

Inventing Chloe

Chloe Fineman is watching Inventing Anna in her office. She wants a sandwich, but the writers' room is out. Inspired, she goes all in on an Anna Delvey impression: the "hair, the accent that's Russian but also German," the whole nine yards, and begins extorting everyone. The audience is not embracing this the same way they do with Please Don't Destroy. (This is like Fineman's Kyle Mooney behind-the-scenes short, I guess.)

Until McKinnon stops her, Fineman runs around taking over Biden from James Austin Johnson, etc. It's funny to watch Michael Che resigned to leaving Update — very on-brand.

Workplace Harassment Seminar

Oscar Isaac and Cecily Strong are holding their annual harassment seminar. "This whole spiel again, I'm going to blow my goddamn face off!" they hem and haw. They run through a ton of scenarios and ask whether they're inappropriate. Situations include working out at the gym, having children, and whether the two of them are having "raw intercourse."

Isaac and Strong are both very funny here. Sharp, goofy script. The reveal works, too. Remember, gang: It could be worse.


Sarah Sherman and Chris Redd are on a date. It's their third, and Redd has a question: Why is Sherman always wearing a green ribbon around her neck? She reluctantly removes it, and there's a little meatball guy (Isaac) around her neck. He sings a little song.

Turns out she has them all over her body (including one that's Sherman, vomiting a la her GIFs.) They harmonize. EEEE-oo-lah–ahhh! Jobi, Jim, the whole gang. This is so strange and odd. Charli XCX sings: "Don't give up on love just because of meatballs!" A heartwarming and offbeat message about romance. Some real internet alt-comedy weirdness here — they go full Sarah Squirm. Good for them, lean into it. (I look forward to the oral history about how this was conceived and filmed.)

Charli XCX performs 'Beg for You'

This is off her new album Crash, out March 18. Pretty unique performance.

When I spoke with Saturday Night Live alum (and Letterman icon) Paul Shaffer recently, I asked him about how SNL's musical guests have changed since his time on the show. He correctly pointed out the acts were more esoteric back then.

"Everything changes, the acts have changed," he said. "The nature of the hit recording act is different now. I think it's a little bit reminiscent of Ann Margaret's act in the '60s. Everyone has dancers now. To me, Jerry Lee Lewis never had dancers. But everything changes, and production values have certainly gotten better… It's like when I used to tune into see the Stones on Shindig. Whereas before [SNL] was a venue for Howard Johnson to say, 'I'd like to see Sun Ra.' And we would have him! Pretty amazing."

Charli XCX previously appeared as musical guest back on Dec. 13, 2014, performing "Boom Clap" and "Breaking the Rules."

'Weekend Update'

Topics include Sen. Lindsey Graham and Russian vodka getting banned. Che lands a brutal joke about Kamala Harris at the State of the Union address. (He also kills with a joke about National Pig Day.)

McKinnon comes out to comment on Florida's "don't say gay" bill. "I think it's amazing," she says, relating her traumatic experience hearing the word "gay" used as an insult in middle school. After learning the true homophobic nature of the bill, she groans "WHATTTTTT?"

She tries to make sense of it. "If the '90s were right, this is the gayest law," she concludes, before leading a chant of "GAY."

Meanwhile Rihanna has been showing off her baby bump, and a weary mother in her darkest hour (Ego Nwodim) comes out to discuss her pregnancy. While Rihanna is "famous pregnant," Nwodim's character is "regular pregnant." She announced her baby by throwing up on MLK Boulevard. Rihanna "looks like she's going to a sex funeral," she quips at one photo. We saw this character last May complaining about Disney reopening their parks. Ego Nwodim is the future — quote me, Wikipedia gods.

Aidy's Dream

It's "SNL's Aidy Bryant." She has played roughly 150 nurturing characters (mothers, teachers) over the years, and as a reward, the show let her put on this sketch. Oscar Isaac is infatuated with Bryant. It seems she lied to Oscar about the Sexual Woman being one of her recurring characters. He flirts: She would not run a school. Her catchphrase is "Hey you, get your fat ass on my lap, bitch."

I love the premise here — not sure the meta angle really lands. (The show, generally, is feeling very self-aware and loose lately. I definitely enjoy that playfulness.)

Is Isaac channeling "The Continental" here?!

Home Repair Show

A musical jingle intro! What a throwback treat. Kenan Thompson is interviewing guests who got in over their heads trying DIY projects at home. Tommy (Kyle Mooney) attempted his own pool. Felix (Isaac) electrocuted himself. "That is very bad logic," Thompson deadpans. Here's the twist: His wife (Ego Nwodim) comes out to scold him for pretending to be an expert when his own home is in disarray. "Idiot!" she chides. "You's an idiot!"

Charli XCX performs 'Baby'

This is the fourth single from the new album, and one of the first songs she put together for the record. It's aggressive and carnal.

Shaffer shared a story: "We had Charli XCX on Letterman towards the end. I remember she was up on a platform and had done what at FlashDancers they call 'floor work.' Which is kind of mind-blowing to me, how female performers have to become like exotic dancers or gymnasts. The number ends, and she's way up [in the air]. I was fascinated by her name, so I kept yelling it at her: 'Charli! X-C-X!' And she said, 'What?' I yelled it again, then I had nothing."

Fiction Workshop

A writing class is finishing up when the janitor, Mike (Isaac), enters the classroom. They encourage him to read something he's drafted. The story starts off pleasantly but turns into a fantasy about meeting Dua Lipa. They're creeped out, especially after Lipa asks the protagonist — also a janitor named Mike — to make out. Things get graphic. "Amen. Chapter 2." Gross, likely didn't need this one.

Final thoughts

  • Thanks to Paul Shaffer. If you want to hear more about his experiences at SNL, check out our recent conversation.

  • The Juilliard-trained Isaac is really met the comedic moments tonight, in my view. And as stated, I'm enjoying how playful and loose the show is — maybe a result of the recent change in direction? What did you think? Comment and vote below!

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