SNL Recap Season 46 Episode 11: Dan Levy Hosts
Photo: NBC / Rosalind O’Connor / NBC
Perhaps it was the slow but steady growth of a modest Canadian export over the six seasons. Maybe it was because in the early days of the quarantine, people needed simple pleasures. Maybe it was just a matter of spotting amazing eyebrows. Whatever the reason, Schitt’s Creek swept its Emmys categories in 2020 and Dan Levy’s star, co-creator-showrunner-writer-actor-director-producer, rose significantly among American showbiz types. Levy, like last week’s host John Krasinski, is an SNL decision to start the year with a gentle, loving, and dependable comedy. He came for the occasion during the show and showed fans a lot more than just small permutations of David Rose.
As usual, this week’s sketches are presented here from best to worst.
In this parody of phone sex commercials from the 90s, we learn what makes people in their late 30s really horny: real estate ads. Zillow is there to fulfill hot, late night desires with expensive properties that allow surfers to indulge in fantasies of life without a life. The tone is right, the allusions are perfect, and the observation at the heart of the sketch is painfully appropriate. The writers also make a really fun twist with the appearance of ReMax broker Donna Lazzarini (Cecily Strong). In just two short moments, Strong extinguishes the fires of real estate lust with a bucket of ice-cold reality. While her part amounts to a walk-on, she still kills. While Gen Z may not have direct experience with the source material, this will be the water-cooler piece of the week for middle-aged people.
While Joe Biden is the focus at the beginning of Update, it’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump who are getting the most attention. Colin Jost pulls Greene’s defense of her damaging conspiracy theories (“nobody is perfect”) apart with precision. Jost also receives points for introducing Trump as a “former social media influencer” and making him testify in next week’s impeachment proceedings. Michael Che has a great joke that Jeff Bezos has stepped down as CEO of Amazon even though it takes a second to get to the audience in 8 hours. The first guests are Lowell Fitzroy and Janet Noonan (Mikey Day and Heidi Gardner), self-proclaimed culture warriors who cancel toddlers online. The characterizations take a back seat to the very sharp writing here. Even those on the left will see how close this exaggerated outrage is to real online behavior.
The second part of Update is significantly shorter and none of the jokes do justice to the material in its first segment. Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd appear as YouTube sensation TwinsTheNewTrend, who create reaction videos for old songs. Since there’s a lot of acting in these videos, this is the game here as Che plays everything from “Baby Shark” to the SNL theme. As with the Twins channel, the individual lines are less important than the mood and their reactions. Redd and Thompson bring with them an enthusiasm that makes up for the lack of scripted gags.
A large number of CBS hosts (Kenan Thompson, Beck Bennett, Chris Redd, Mikey Day, Alex Moffat) are considering the upcoming Super Bowl match. Pre-match rituals, commercials previews and chats with the team coaches will be discussed. Coupled with last week’s opening, this suggests that SNL is taking a helpful breather after Trump after the usual political sketches. The game, we are told by several news outlets, gives America the opportunity to give up its partisanship for a few hours. There are tons of fun little things here that purported advertisers are involved in, and Papa John’s ad is both the most disturbing and the closest. Aidy Bryant’s appearance as Andy Reid and Bruce Arians is particularly enjoyable, right down to a winking, self-referential gag that confirms that it will take her a moment to change costumes.
A group of friends (Beck Bennett, Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, Kyle Mooney and Dan Levy) gather for the Super Bowl and take off their masks for “doing everything right”. However, in their quest to stay safe and socially aloof, every friend has lost some vigilance. This scene will undoubtedly take place in some form across the country today – as has been the case for many months with those struggling to balance personal responsibility and otherwise normal social behavior. The confessions all have funny twists, and the character’s excuses for her friends are spot on. Letting the occupation eat chili with their hands (to avoid sharing utensils) is a great way to upgrade their automatic justifications for bad behavior.
This BET Special pays tribute to the white allies who have been “part of the black American struggle” since Harriet Beecher Stowe. A crazy math teacher (Aidy Bryant), an overzealous protester (Dan Levy) and an adored husband (Kyle Mooney) step up their advocacy, black friends (Punkie Johnson, Chris Redd, Ego Nwodim) in tow. Each ally’s easily misguided enthusiasm is well spent, and all white players dig into their self-deceiving heroes. Specifically, Mooney plays the mischievous, creepy artist – and Nwodim looks like he’s ready to crack as he talks about greens on the stove and the “deep, sweet fruits” of their love. All in all, it’s a nice thing when Kenan Thompson’s host sums up well: “That was fun. I doubt we’ll ever do it again. “
This short film asks former youth participants what has improved in their lives in the ten years since the It Gets Better movement. While most things are positive, the subjects (Bowen Yang, Kate McKinnon, Punkie Johnson, Dan Levy) also have problems with taxes, iguanas, and criticism from other gay people. The message here is subtle and well-worded: As the acceptance of the culture increases, the LGBTQ community is faced with “problems previously only available to heterosexual people”. The claims feel very honest, even if they are uncomfortable: the organized bullying of other gay people, legalizing homosexual divorce, the idea that wearing gym shorts makes people believe you are more of a fighter than your girlfriend. McKinnon has a lot of heavy lifting to do with the iguana stuff, but she makes it work.
A bar’s TV breaks during the Super Bowl and while they wait for a new set, the bartenders (Cecily Strong, Dan Levy) try to distract guests with an alleged football song. The song “Hot Damn” becomes an elaborate number that includes dance shorts, tap shoes, and playing around “football holes” and kissing between players. While there is a ton of exposure and explanation in the first half of the sketch, things get a lot better once the song and dance take control. The beautiful silliness is illustrated by the collective dance break behind the bar. When all the patrons start to join in, of course, Kenan Thompson has to react to all the craziness – and just keeps things that way.
Two wedding guests (Kate McKinnon, Dan Levy) wait until the middle of the ceremony to object to the groom (Mikey Day) chosen by their boyfriend (Ego Nwodim). McKinnon and Levy agree on the tenor of their partygoers: passive-aggressive, panting and ultimately moody. As they evade the underlying truth, they work their way into a wordless squeak that is the best piece of the sketch. A lot depends on the chemistry between McKinnon and Levy, which is great, but it could use some more tough jokes.
On the Universal Studio Lot tour, a trainee (Dan Levy) who drank too much coffee deviates from the usual script pattern. His trainer (Mikey Day) can’t stop him from doing everything from movie-related conspiracy theories to confessions about why Wayne Knight kills his erections. (Behind the wheel of the tram, Ego Nwodim delivers the underestimated line of the night on the subject of “softeners”: “Goofy dudes don’t do me good.”) As with a lot of caffeine brains, there is no real thread between thoughts, and not all of them are worth broadcasting. Even so, Levy has a nervous kind of vertigo that makes the sketch worthwhile.
After reminding the audience of Schitt’s Creek at home, Levy takes viewers on a backstage tour to watch quarantined SNL. For the most part, it’s a lot of plexiglass, antiviral mist, and pool noodles to enforce social distancing. Once Levy leaves the stage and moves through the aisles, the sketch has problems with speed. The chatter can’t quite fill the gaps between the gags, and the gags themselves don’t have much to offer. (And some, like Kenan Thompson talking to people in those inflatable bumper balls, are a little too far to land.) The best moment comes with Dan’s father Eugene Levy cheering for his son while he’s in a safe, translucent Box is included.
Despite this being his SNL debut, Dan Levy seemed at home all night and unimpressed. He was happy to get silly with the cast, and there was no hint of David Rose’s legitimate snottiness in any of the characters he played. The authors deserve credit for articulating a number of unspoken or underrated parts of the zeitgeist. The underlying observations in “Zillow,” “Super Bowl Pod,” “Lifting Our Voices,” and “It Gets Better” have been carefully crafted and show the rewards of thoughtful social satire. Next week seems to be the last show of the run, with Regina King as host and director and Nathaniel Rateliff as musical guest.
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