Thes new Idris Elba Netflix comedy, Turn Up Charlie, debuts March 15. This week, the Wire star hosted Saturday Night Live to show off his comedic chops. It was Elba’s first time hosting the Saturday Night sketch show and he threw himself into it, doing a variety of characters and accents. The show had a lot of sketches that featured social commentary and current events this week—with a few twists. Some made great points; others felt messy and convoluted. While Elba always seemed to have a lot of fun with what he was doing, other parts of the episode didn’t work as well as he did. Laughspin is breaking down this week’s SNL using our totally official star scale.
SNL Cold Open
SNL often has a problem ending sketches, but the best part of this sketch is the end. This non-political cold open mocks the R. Kelly-Gayle King interview. There are two recurring jokes throughout the sketch: Kelly is dumb and Kelly keeps doing Trapped in The Closet. The joke about Kelly being dumb is funny but feels juvenile at moments. The Trapped in The Closet joke would be great if it was done a little better. There is so much to make fun of and so many ways to play with the form if they wanted to commit to a Trapped in The Closet bit, but the lack of execution is why this only gets three Eddie Murphys.
Idris Elba SNL Monologue
Elba was not only personable and funny in his monologue, but he told the perfect set of stories for SNL. He talked about being a bouncer at Carolines—which is perfect for diehard comedy lovers—and a laughworthy tale about his family. It’s wonderful when SNL lets the monologue be a true monologue without bringing out cast members to interrupt or interact.
The Impossible Hulk
This week’s SNL was full of sketches that had twists. The twist in this sketch works particularly well since you would never be able to guess what this is about before it starts. The sketch is funny and works, but it might have missed a chance for social commentary that the writers seemed to sets up.
Can I Play That?
The end line of this sketch is five Gildas-worthy, but the lead up to it is such a mess. The issue of the sketch is it doesn’t take a clear stance. The sketch is about if actors can play disabled people or people of other races, but the sketch flip flops on if they should be or not. It starts making fun of people caring about colorism on Twitter, suggesting actors should ignore outrage culture and play whatever roles they want—but that message gets muddled quickly. By the end, it isn’t clear what this sketch is saying, which is hard for a sketch based around social commentary. It has its funny moments, but the confusing structure ruins it for me.
This sketch is pure goofy fun. Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant are perfect as behind-the-times secretaries who are trying to learn PowerPoint. The visual gags in this sketch are particularly good as Elba tries to get through their nonsensical slides.
If you haven’t heard of Mo Mo, you must not be a parent or work with tweens. The YouTube horror phenom is certainly in the zeitgeist at the moment. This sketch is funny, but in the end, simple. It really all relies on McKinnon’s scary face.
Gold Diggers of the WNBA
This sketch already feels dated. The concept of gold diggers going after players who are underpaid is funny, but it doesn’t really go anywhere and the sketch ends with a lesbian joke that feels straight out of the late ’90s. There is nothing wrong with this sketch, but nothing feels fresh or new (or that funny), and the writers could have pushed the idea a lot farther.
Weekend Update is always a mixed bag and this one was a long one. The segments that everyone will be talking about are Goop and Pete Davidson. The recurring segment where a Goop employee breaks under pressure was taken to the next level when the real-life Gwyneth Paltrow comes by to make fun of herself and her company while playing a Goop manager who breaks under pressure. While Paltrow seems nervous to do the bit, the fact that it is really her makes it funny and shocking.
Davidson comes on to talk about how he won’t stop listening to R. Kelly. It is okay, but a little all over the place. The end where he talks about his new relationship with Kate Beckinsale is perfect. He shuts down all the critics of their age difference in a perfect way which will have you laughing and snapping in approval.
Elba got to do his best character work in this sketch. He showcases his comedic timing and really commits to the character in his body language. For soccer fans, this sketch is nothing short of spot-on. The broadcasters have that perfectly British sense of dad humor and nervous energy that brings realism to the sketch. While a couple of sketches in the show relied on dumb jokes, this one is done the smartest.
There is a twist in this sketch that doesn’t make any sense, but it’s good to see sketch writers really focusing on the endings and making sure the sketches don’t just kind of trail off (which unfortunately happens too much in the medium as a whole.) The sketch relies a little too heavily on ‘Leslie Jones is big,’ but Jones saves it from being incredibly stale with her physical humor.
This sketch just kind of ends. It almost feels like there was more, but they ran out of time. This ‘supportive friend’ bit has its moments but doesn’t really feel like a fully realized bit. The sketch revolves around a friend that wants to be supportive but is really jealous. The premise feels like it has been done and the ending doesn’t work in SNL’s final piece of the night.