‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: The Best and Worst of Jason Sudeikis’ Hosting Debut

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In a season of so-far first-time hosting stints, this week’s episode of “Saturday Night Live” continued that trend with “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis taking up the mantle. Of course, Sudeikis worked on “SNL” for 10 years — hired as a writer in 2003, before transitioning to cast member in 2005 — and has since made guest appearances on the show. But this episode would mark the first time Sudeikis would be the star of “SNL,” at least for a week.

Host: Jason Sudeikis

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The thing about “SNL” alumni eventually hosting episodes is that even their hosting debut never quite feels like a true “debut.” Whether that’s because they’ve made a number of other “SNL” appearances (outside of their tenure as cast members or, in John Mulaney’s case for example, writers) over of the years or because the audience already has a laundry list of returning characters (Sudeikis, unfortunately, did not revive “Two A-Holes…”) coming in, there’s not quite the same spark that comes with a debuting host out of the bubble. Part of that is also because there’s no question whether they’re going to do well as host, because they know the show inside and out. One could argue it’s like a lay-up.

What prevents it from being so is the particular “SNL” alum host and how much effort they put into their grand return to Studio 8H. In Jason Sudeikis’ case, after cracking some jokes in his monologue, he added some of that earnestness he’s become — much like his character, the titular Ted Lasso — known for, talking about how special of a place it is. (He also did so while putting “Gilly” sketches on the same level as “Wayne’s World,” which is something real ones already knew.) Considering the episode truly began with Sudeikis dusting off his excitable Joe Biden impression, that the opening monologue ended up being a truly emotional and genuinely touching affair was especially impressive.

Also considering the fact that this was the “Halloween episode.”

“What is matter?”
“Uh, Black lives?”

There’s a reason this sketch is officially titled “Science Room with Jason Sudeikis”: This is a follow-up to the previous versions (with Cecily Strong and Mikey Day consistently playing Loni and Josh) from Sam Rockwell and Adam Driver’s turns as host. Of the three iterations of the sketch, Rockwell’s rage in the first was the most pleasantly unexpected, but Sudeikis taking his frustration out on Loni and Josh’s parents — played by Melissa Villaseñor and Kyle Mooney — gave the sketch somewhere new to go.

Of course, not that it needed anywhere new to go, as Strong and Day’s oblivious awkward kid act in these sketches always hits.

The “boy energy,” as it were, of this episode was pretty apparent from the “Ghost of Biden Past Cold Open,” but pre-tapes like the “Mellen” and “Men’s Underwear Commercial” sketches truly solidified that truth. As absurd as it all is, Sudeikis saying “I’m Mellen.” is just as funny as when Kate McKinnon’s (who’s still absent from this season) Ellen would say “I’m Ellen.” — which was also quite absurd. As it wasn’t even necessarily an Ellen impression, it didn’t need to be the same bit, but that’s a large part of why it worked, in addition to Strong’s voiceover throughout explaining the premise and the pop-ins from all the Mellen guests. (While James Austin Johnson’s Louis CK impression was, unsurprisingly, terrific, Chris Redd’s Kyrie Irving getting pranked — classic “Ellen”-style — into getting the vaccine especially stood out during this weird little sketch.)

Best Sketches of the Night: “Parent-Teacher Conference,” “What Up With That: Oscar Isaac, Emily Ratajkowski and Nicholas Braun”

It’s hard to define any sketch as “out of left field” when they’re all part of a Halloween episode that (save for “What Up With That”) has no interest in being a Halloween episode, but “Parent-Teacher Conference” is the one that comes the closest. Sudeikis, Mooney, and Ego Nwodim are all on fire in this unexpected cucking sketch, to the point that the phrase “unexpected cucking sketch” simply feels like a normal thing to say. Sudeikis and Nwodim capture a similar mature (but funny) energy to Rami Malek and Aidy Bryant in “Mattress Store” here, as Mooney continues to consistently prove this season that, even without Beck Bennett around, he’s going to be just fine on “SNL.” (And Mooney’s character’s self-deprecating fractions joke coming up again at the very end of the sketch was a fine button to a sketch that could’ve had ending issues.)

A quick honorable mention to “Casino Proposal,” as it was a failed attempt at a cucking scenario — a very failed “Indecent Proposal” — propelled by Thompson’s absolute weirdness (and Sudeikis and Heidi Gardner’s asides).

When Jason Sudeikis was announced as host during this season of “SNL,” the predominant immediate reaction was hoping they’d bring back “What Up With That.” Despite “just” being the tracksuit-wearing, perm-rocking dancer of the sketch, he was just as integral as every other piece of the puzzle. Sure, the background singers and announcer could be — and were — replaced over the years. Even Lindsey Buckingham, in a bit that’s even funnier as the actual man was just on “SNL” last week performing with the musical guest. But not Sudeikis’ Vance. (Nor Fred Armisen’s saxophone-playing Giuseppe.)

So not only did they bring back “What Up With That,” they treated it just like they’d always treated it — with Sudeikis still essentially playing background for the one time during this hosting stint — and they got Thompson’s Diondre Cole to believe Nicholas Braun was just Lindsey Buckingham in a “Cousin Greg” costume. Ooh wee, indeed.

Worst Sketch of the Night: “Annie”

This was not the first “Annie” sketch on “SNL,” nor will it be the last. But like most “Annie” sketches on “SNL,” instead of thinking about the premise of the sketch, all one could really think is, “Why is there an ‘Annie’ sketch in this episode?” Especially since there isn’t a new “Annie” movie to promote right now.

Best Male Performer: Jason Sudeikis

Especially when the host is a former cast member, it makes it so much easier to point to them as the workhorse of the episode — which Sudeikis was, much like when he was a cast member. His dancing in this (and every) “What Up With That” sketch alone solidified that.

Best Female Performer: Ego Nwodim

Even amid another male cast member-heavy episode, Nwodim’s work with Sudeikis in the “Parent-Teacher Conference” sketch — as well as her work in the “Annie” sketch, as she got the ball really rolling on trying to figure out what Sudeikis’ character’s deal was — was an obvious standout.

Final Thoughts

The biggest indicator about how this episode would have possibly gone was the cold open, as it opened up the door immediately for “SNL” to go the cameo route. Instead, Season 47 continues its hot streak of cold opens, banking on the cast members they do have — with a highlight on newbie James Austin Johnson, this week returning to his President Joe Biden impression — and not going too long to stop the effectiveness of the bit. And it ultimately works even better in this new state of things, as the brief Alex Moffat Biden detour — as he briefly took up the role post-Jim Carrey at the end of 2020 — also works because it existed in the peak of celebrity cameos taking over the show.

“Declaration Pitch” was one of those sketches you could tell from a mile away would probably have an unsatisfying ending. Fueled by Andrew Dismukes’ Founding Father character’s desire to “put a sickass treasure map” on the Declaration of Independence, this was a simple sketch.

But then the ending did happen, with Aristotle Athari and Aidy Bryant showing up from the future — looking like Neo — and letting the Founding Father know that they come from a time “where the declaration has nothing on the back and people are pissed.” And honestly, it worked. This sketch wasn’t the Sudeikis highlight that the rest of the sketches were, but it continued to carve out Dismukes’ niche as other sketches this season have.

“You don’t see Shrek on Raya.”

It’s rare, but this week’s two “cut for time” sketches were both from Weekend Update. (Update, of course, saw the return of Sudeikis’ recurring featured character, the Devil.) One was a “super single” Melissa Villaseñor segment and the other was Alex Moffat’s “Guy Who Just Bought a Boat,” the latter of which was Halloween-centric. (Again, this episode wanted nothing to do with Halloween, which is impressive, as “SNL” has never met a holiday theme it doesn’t want to take on.)

As a first-time host, Sudeikis naturally and obviously excelled. While not as strong of an episode as last week’s — so, certainly not a lay-up — this was still another solid outing from this season of “SNL.”

Grade: B

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