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Saturday Night Live recap: SNL covers Oscars slap but host Jerrod Carmichael is 'not going to talk about it'

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Warm greetings to you all — it's another SNL in Review. Turmoil has engulfed the comedy world just in time for tonight's Saturday Night Live. Will Smith's now-infamous slap of Chris Rock at last Sunday's Academy Awards dominated the news cycle. While talking heads and online commentators endlessly debate this alarming event, the nation turns its lonely eyes to a scrappy late night sketch show. How will Lorne Michaels' tribe of satirists make sense of the biggest water cooler controversy since the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show? Will it get relegated to Colin Jost and Michael Che's knives-out Update desk? Or will it be the basis for the cold open? (Maybe that's too easy; people are already sick of the takes. And, after all, Sarah Palin did just announce a bid for Congress in Alaska, paging Tina Fey.)

Maybe it'll be left up to the host monologue. Tonight we have Jerrod Carmichael, stand-up comedian, creator and star of The Carmichael Show, and filmmaker. Carmichael recently came out as gay in his new HBO special, Rothaniel. (In his 2019 HBO short "Home Videos," he told his mother that he'd had relationships with men.) It's possible he has a routine already set – or, that miraculous or, he could wax on the trauma of seeing the Fresh Prince crack after three decades in the public eye.

I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member Ellen Cleghorne. She says: "I like Carmichael for various reasons. I watched his two-season sitcom. It was a brave show. David Allen Grier played his father and I would have given anything to be his mom. I play Che's mom on his HBO show, but I can pull double duty!" Agreed! The rapper Gunna, who dropped his latest project DS4Ever in January, is tonight's musical guest. Let's see what they cook up.

Cold Open — Fox & Friends

We're watching Fox & Friends. Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy, and Ainsley Earhardt are chipper and glib spewing their conservative talk show propaganda, as always. They've gotten Trump's new social app, Truth Social, the "only app with a smell." They welcome Justice Clarence Thomas (Kenan Thompson) and his MAGA activist wife, Ginni (Kate McKinnon). The tightlipped Thomas is playing close to the vest, despite the recent controversies surrounding him and his wife. Ginni is the Yoko Ono of Supreme Court.

"Hello my only friends!" bellows Judge Jeanine Pirro (Cecily Strong). She is welcomed with applause. Scary that she is a known recurring character. James Austin Johnson's Trump comes on FaceTime to discuss the slap, with "His Hitch." As malevolent and rambling as always. It's hard to knock Johnson's impression, but overall this cold open underwhelms. Lots of box checking of recent political headlines, but no real arc to the sketch beyond the co-hosts' chipper, dim-witted corruption. I do miss when this morning talk show template featured Gretchen Carlson (Vanessa Bayer), Steve Doocy (Taran Killam), and Brian Kilmeade (Bobby Moynihan). Not having Moynihan especially feels wrong no offense to Alex Moffat, Heidi Gardner, and Mikey Day.

Monologue

"I'm not going to talk about it," says Carmichael. "You can't make me." He points out that it's only been six days since the slap-heard-round-the-world. Indeed, he takes us through the week. How exciting it was on Monday, and the proxy arguments that began on Tuesday. By Wednesday, he says he wanted to kill himself, he was so sick of it. He's only discussing it now at Lorne's behest. "He said, 'the nation needs to heal.'" That's funny. "The nation has no clue who I am… I am the least famous SNL host." That can't be fully true, but fair enough! I like the humility. This has a younger Dave Chappelle quality to it, a sharp comic mind making sense of modern times in a monologue. (Cleghorne says: "Carmichael reminds me of Chris Rock.")

He gets into having just come out on his new special. Then, a pause. He switches to camera two, and addresses Barack Obama: "We need you back" to talk about it. We need that hope and change back, not Spotify lists. This was polished and sharp! Pretty tight set. Clever.

Is My Brain Okay? Game Show

Lisa Something (Kate McKinnon) comes out to discuss the reality of the COVID-19 virus, and how we got stupid. The ghosts of Celebrity Jeopardy hang over us here. They can't identify a picture of a wheelbarrow – one of the contestants thinks it's a "Farm Bicycle."

Ah, another tried and true sketch template. Ding ding! You ever wonder how SNL props up game show's prominence in pop culture through these parodies? It's not the '70s. I do like the dissection of Lisa, and her depression. She feels empty - the contestants, dumb otherwise, nail it. (Lisa's therapist blocked her number!) "Your brain is also bad," she says. There's a despondency about modern life here that I enjoy.

Short Ass Movie

Guest star Dirt Nasty (a.k.a. former MTV VJ and Red Rocket star Simon Rex) lists out a bunch of Ernest movies, prime examples of watchable movies. He also loves the Pixar shorts! Indeed they pack a wallop in three minutes.

I love Pete dissecting Jurassic Park — and all the ground it covers — versus the longer Sex in the City 2, which is reintroducing previously established characters. Davidson isn't a natural rapper, but this is him at his most charming in this format. Rex also calls out the length of The King of Staten Island — great final moment. I liked this!

ShopTV

Home shopping hosts Cecily Strong and Mikey Day are talking about Squeal Deals at the 5 p.m. hour. Correspondent Thomas Parker-Nubbs (Moffat) is selling Jesus lunchboxes doing modern things. Next: Kevin Lickitt (Carmichael) brings out Rhylee Rainbowlocks. Her hair grows when you cut it. Lickitt demonstrates how to change the doll's clothes, revealing her "thick ass" pubic hair. He shows a version of the doll in a swimsuit, which also unveils the same problem. His hand gets caught as a last beat here. The audience enjoys this. Good character work here. I like that you think it might just focus on Strong and Day's characters, then it builds.

Oscar Seat Filler

This is a pretty good take on the traumatic, violent event at last Sunday's Oscars. Carmichael is a star-struck seat filler interacting with Will Smith just as he attacks Rock on stage. Chris Redd is not a natural Will Smith, a la Jay Pharoah, but he really captures the intense, off-putting friendliness of the Oscar-winning movie star. They play up the notion of Smith effortlessly leaping into rages before pivoting back to his every-man normalcy persona. Carmichael is rightly put off. The censors barely catch Redd's second profanity. Not sure they needed Kyle Mooney here. Ego Nwodim as Jada Pinkett Smith might have been better.

Gunna — "Banking on Me"

This Metro Boomin-produced song, which features a romantic piano beat, was released last Valentine's Day. It's fine. Gunna is a low stakes artist — catchy, talented, but not essential. The best point of entry for Gunna is likely his joint album with Lil Baby.

Weekend Update

The return of our heroes. Jost compares Putin to Will Smith, to start. Che lands a few blows, joking about Smith's open marriage and how comedians should not be expected to retain everything about their lives. This is great. (My favorite commentary on this issue is from former SNL stars Dana Carvey and David Spade FWIW. Check it out.)

Heisman Trophy winner and star of The Naked Gun OJ Simpson (Kenan Thompson) shows up to discuss the Will Smith-Chris Rock fiasco. This is a reference to Simpson's actual post online. Always good to see Thompson embody the jovial, yet simmering football star.

Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), played by Cecily Strong, is brought out to discuss the Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings. She asked Jackson how to define womanhood. Here's the bit: she gets tangled up trying to do that herself. "Don't we love these big stupid dumbass boards?" she quips, still struggling.

The segment ends with a nice callout to Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who died March 25 at age 50.

Pop Pop's Goodbye

At an island's edge, a family faces the sea. A father (James Austin Johnson) tells a beautiful story about his deceased dad. They prepare to discard the remains — but instead of cremated ashes, it's an actual corpse that goes down the cliff. The funeral home morticians (Andrew Dismukes, Jerrod Carmichael) are nonchalant and strange, with Dismukes leaping over the cliff to retrieve the body. Count me as a fan of this one. It's not perfectly done, but it's weird and specific and dark, a kind of throwback to an era of the show that didn't rely on political takes and COVID despair.

Trip to NYC

Bradford (Kyle Mooney) is visiting his cousin (Heidi Garnder) in the Big Apple. They sit peacefully at a cafe. She introduces him to two of her friends, including Carmichael who is great at telling stories. Bradford — a classic Mooney geek — is overly enthusiastic, constantly interrupting the story. "I've never heard anything like that!" he chirps. He continues to focus on the story, asking unnecessary follow-ups. Really dwelling, and apologizing. This gets ridiculous, concluding with Mooney flailing over the table, and stumbling out of the cafe. This would be an excellent final sketch for Mooney, if he were leaving the show soon.

Gunna - "Pushin P"

This hypnotic, alliterative ode to "keeping it real" debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gunna is joined by Future, who was the musical guest back in 2016.

"Born This Way" Baby Clothes

This is a funny spoof of new parents assuming babies will be straight, or date fellow babies. It challenges that with a new woke lines of baby clothes. Onesies themes include "Future Twink," "Assman Can't Host," "Holland Taylor Can Hit Me With a Truck," and "I Love Milk — Harvey Milk RIP." I especially love the critique of how performative things like this can be — note the look Bowen Yang gives when Dismukes inadvertently blurts out gay couples aren't exclusive.

Final Thoughts

—Thank you again to Dr. Ellen Cleghorne!

—What did you think? Did they nail their Will Smith-Chris Rock coverage? Comment below or vote here!

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