Jason Sudeikis Returns to SNL: The Six Best Sketches

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Jason Sudeikis returned to Saturday Night Live this week, his first time hosting after spending ten years (or an “actor’s dozen,” as he called it in the monologue) as a writer, then a cast member. Sudeikis arguably has one of the most successful post-SNL careers of the past decade, appearing in multiple hit movies and winning a bunch of awards for his current sitcom Ted Lasso. Having a beloved alumnus return to host can be a deceptively dicey prospect, for a number of reasons. Not needing to work around a particular host’s skill set can create high expectations of an all-killer episode—which can then be dashed against the rocks of callbacks, revivals of old characters, and cameos from the host’s time on the show. The Sudeikis episode had a little bit of all of that, but not enough to tank it. Instead, there no outright duds and plenty of highlights. Here are some of the best moments:

Non-Terrible Biden Cold Open

In a relatively rare host appearance in the cold open, Sudeikis reprised his past role as Joe Biden—with a twist. Sudeikis played Biden during his VP years, and the part has changed hands multiple times since Biden ran for and won the presidency. Plenty of fans yearned for Sudeikis to come back to it for a Jim Carrey or Maya Rudolph-style guest-starring stint, but as this opening sketch pointed out, the Sudeikis Biden was from a decidedly different era.

In this thin but amusing opener, Biden circa 2013 materializes to counsel the Biden of the present, played by SNL’s current impressionist-in-residence, James Austin Johnson. In setting up this in-joke-y contrast, Sudeikis leaned even further into his Onion-style Diamond Joe, an exuberant but not especially accurate caricature of Biden as a loose-lipped, fun-loving uncle. The sketch was brief, and never really dug into the same satire as the vaguely similar The Rock Obama sketches the show used to do, but by interminable-cold-open standards it was downright snappy. In the most self-effacing touch, Alex Moffat also appeared as another Biden variant—the one from “March 2021,” referring to the extremely brief period where Moffat seemed to be taking the job. (Sudeikis himself may recall this awkwardness from his own brief tenure as George W. Bush.)


This filmed piece is so confident about its faux-high concept that it rockets into the extremely bizarre notion that homebound men have been searching for something to watch on television, and new talk-show host Mellen—a male Ellen—has stepped in to provide it. Sudeikis excels as a jovially aggro, DeGeneres-inspired host who’s actually a Barstool/4chan enthusiast happy to sell himself into a dangerous, freewheeling television opportunity. It’s not related to the Insane Clown Posse-spoofing “Under-Underground Rock Festival” sketches Sudeikis used to host, but it has some of that dirtbag energy.

Annie & Ricky

Sudeikis channels some old-school Dan Aykroyd energy in one of SNL’s occasional riffs on musicals, here taking inexplicable aim at Annie with a run-through of the song “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here.” Inserted into this roll call of amenities the plucky young orphan Annie will encounter at the Daddy Warbucks estate is Ricky (Sudeikis), a sketchy-looking fixer for Warbucks whose primary job shouldn’t be spoiled in a recap. It all builds nicely and gives several cast members funny lines.

The Devil on Update

It’s always interesting to see which recurring characters old cast members deign to bring back with them when they host. Sudeikis here opts for a somewhat deeper cut, reviving a bit where he appears as Satan on Weekend Update. The routine is the same as it ever was: the Devil brags about all of the familiar stuff in the news that he’s actually responsible for, and eventually balks at taking the blame for something he considers truly heinous. No revelations here, but Sudeikis feels loose and confident (maybe even just the tiniest bit off-script, at times?) that even the easier jokes land. Also, it’s always delightful when someone goofs on Colin Jost being married to Scarlett Johansson. It’s a good choice for a Sudeikis revival because it unexpectedly plays to the same strengths as the not-remotely-evil Ted Lasso: He’s endlessly amusing and endearing when he’s showing enthusiasm, even if it’s for climate change and intrusive online ads.

What Up with That?

Here’s the other big recurring bit of the night, which just about everyone (on the internet, anyway) seemed to hope was coming: a revival of the silliness parade that is “What Up with That?”—the talk show sketch where Kenan Thompson’s incessantly toe-tapping (and band-introducing) host can’t let any proper guests get more than a few words in. Though Thompson remains a fixture on SNL, the show has sensibly and correctly assumed that this particular sketch cannot continue without Sudeikis wearing a red track suit, silently leaping into the frame to do the Running Man. It can, however, apparently proceed without Bill Hader’s Lindsey Buckingham, as it did tonight. Again, the show’s instincts seem right on here: They found a funny workaround for the lack of Hader, but it’s hard to picture this revival greeted with such joy without Sudeikis. One nitpick: Since the second or third time this sketch aired, Kenan Thompson has sung the theme song as “what’s up with that?” rather than “what up with that?” which I guess adds to the show’s WTF mystique, but has driven me crazy for upwards of a decade.

Indecent Proposal

The last sketch of the night is a simple set-up: The 1993 sorta-erotic drama Indecent Proposal, but replacing Robert Redford’s rich smoothie with Kenan Thompson, playing an eccentric man of indeterminate wealth. Sudeikis and Heidi Gardner are the couple in dire financial straits who consider the offer of… some amount of money for one night with Gardner’s character. There are certainly “why now?” vibes from an episode spoofing Indecent Proposal alongside Annie, but this sketch works especially well because of the former colleagues at its center. Sudeikis is nominally playing the straight man to Thompson’s weirdness, but he expertly adds in a gambler’s desperation. And Gardner’s always-welcome presence keeps the piece from feeling like a straight up 2010 revival.

Jason Sudeikis Returns to SNL: The Six Best Sketches
Jesse Hassenger

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