Saturday Night Live: Host: Idris Elba, with musical guest Khalid
March 11, 2019 11:29 PM - Season 44, Episode 15 - Subscribe

Edgy! This episode was filled with wincey and funny and not-funny moments galore... but where was Kyle Mooney?

• Cold Open: R. Kelly Interview — Jones, Thompson
• Monologue — Idris Elba
• Game Show: Can I Play That? — Thompson, Strong, Elba, Bennett
• Commercial: Bok Bok's — McKinnon, Nwodim, Day, Villaseñor, Gardner, Bennett
• Powerpoint Training — Day, Elba, Moffatt, Jones, Redd, Gardner, Bryant, McKinnon
• The Impossible Hulk — Elba, Strong, Villaseñor, Thompson, Nwodim, Redd, Day
• WNBA Gold Diggers — Elba, Thompson, Redd, Davidson, Strong, Jones, McKinnon
• Khalid, "Talk"
• WU — Jost, Che, Gardner, Paltrow, Davidson, Jones
• Football Commentators — Moffatt, Day, Elba, Bennett
• The Great Rudolpho — Elba, Jones, Thompson
• Khalid, "Better"
• Actors' Friend Gets the Part — Bennett, Elba, Moffatt, Strong, Bryant, Day

• Cut for Time: New Cast Member — Mooney, Zekeman, Thompson, Day, Jones, Bennett, Bryant, Jones, Moffatt, Jost, Elba, Murphy

Lotta weird energy on this show. IMHO 60-70% of the show worked, and the rest was thrown together. The parts that were the cringe-iest were also sometimes the parts that were the funniest. I found myself asking my sweetie, "Why is this so funny? This really shouldn't be funny."
posted by not_on_display (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I fell asleep during Football Commentators and haven't had time to watch the rest, but I thought this was a great episode!
posted by rhizome at 12:10 AM on March 12, 2019

...puts Elba in the Momoa Box of charismatic, game performers who just don’t quite have that live-sketch-comedy spark. (yet?)
posted by Etrigan at 3:48 AM on March 12, 2019

Yup. From the clips I watched, it was mostly awkwardness, both from Elba, but also in general. "WNBA Gold Diggers" was a couple decent ideas stretched into a sketch, much like "Powerpoint Training," and "Game Show: Can I Play That?" was only a bit better, but not for Elba's participation (sorry, he lacked comedic delivery). The best bit there was about who could play James Bond.

TV/AV Club rating: C+
posted by filthy light thief at 7:29 AM on March 12, 2019

With “One mistake and we’ll kill you,” as Twitter’s motto, according to Kenan’s host, I took it more as a joke on public sentiment at large, and media portrayals in general, particularly with Strong's answers of “mom,” “horny mom,” “white teacher who learns from—not teaches—minority students,” and “President of the United States (comedy only).”

Here's a take from Dennis Perkins on A.V. Club:
The fact that pop culture is finally talking about representation (like, at all) isn’t necessarily the sketch’s target, although the fact that we’re clearly meant to nod along with Elba’s protest that acting is all about pretending to be something you’re not, which smacks of some middlebrow “hasn’t this gone far enough” sensibility. (“Now it’s about becoming yourself but in a different haircut,” beams Kenan.) Still, the fact that everyone in the game is left to navigate these new waters makes for some cleverly roundabout logic, as when everyone debates who gets to voice all the African animals in the live-action The Lion King. (John Oliver’s presence as Zazu is a holdover from British colonization, suggests one.) And if the sketch turns out to be one long setup for an Idris Elba as James Bond joke, it’s a pretty good one.
Emphasis mine -- I agree that this sentiment is present, but I don't think it's the only premise presented. /beanplating
posted by filthy light thief at 8:18 AM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I agree that this sentiment is present, but I don't think it's the only premise presented.

I would be more inclined to agree* if it weren't about the ninety-seventh spin on "Oh man, it's so hard to be a well-intentioned, vaguely liberal, probably white person these days!" in the last few seasons.

* - I agree that there are other jokes in the sketch, but the premise is still that the PC police are cracking skulls.
posted by Etrigan at 8:30 AM on March 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think, were it not for the Twitter joke which wrapped it up in a bow for this era, that sketch could have been played in any era, by any cast (even the shit 80-81 cast), mixing up the tropes, zeitgetsts and contemporary cultural references a little, and still have been relevant to its time. People have been talking about what appropriate casting is, forever. The joke (and probably product placement) is on Twitter.

Speaking of product placements—is it good or bad that I don't even notice anymore this year's heavy increase in product placements? Or that I don't really care when I do spot one?
posted by not_on_display at 8:40 AM on March 12, 2019

Weird energy is right. I don't think I've ever seen Idris Elba being "himself" or doing comedy, and, well, it's on me if I'm surprised someone has a totally different vibe than the roles they usually play, innit?
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:10 AM on March 12, 2019

People have been talking about what appropriate casting is, forever.

Yeah, but how often is one of the head writers dating one of the most visible targets of "White people can play any role!" jokes?
posted by Etrigan at 10:34 AM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I cringed hard.

Oddly, I felt like they spliced in Weekend Update segments that might have been cut from the Mulaney episode last week.

Davidson riffing on his age difference with Beckinsale was lovely, though.
posted by porpoise at 10:41 AM on March 12, 2019

Otherwise, what purpose was it meant to serve?

That whole sketch was a setup for the Idris=Bond idea so clearly that I wouldn't be surprised if it was paid-for. I think in general I liked this episode due to not really expecting much, but I thought it was better than Momoa.

I'm usually pretty flat on the Aidy&Kate improv team exercises, but the Powerpoint made me laugh. Impossible Hulk was hilarious. Paltrow didn't acquit herself in life, but she made me laugh here.
posted by rhizome at 11:35 AM on March 12, 2019

Beck’s “karate-forward” acting was glorious.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 11:45 AM on March 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

It was up and down, but I thought Football commentators was funny. I'm glad I watched it online the next day so that I could skip the musical performances.
posted by transient at 3:44 PM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

> I'm glad I watched it online the next day so that I could skip the musical performances.

Yeah, I like getting it Sunday from some video feed where someone's edited out the commercials, and the whole show ends up an hour and two minutes long, nonstop. One time the copy I fished out DID have commercials, though, but it was neato to see the local spots from Dayton or wherever, after the nationally shown ads. Weird Local Spots are the best.
posted by not_on_display at 7:30 PM on March 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

"One mistake and we'll kill you" is absolutely true.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:31 AM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

how often is one of the head writers dating one of the most visible targets of "White people can play any role!" jokes?

Is that Scarlett Johannson? Other than Pete Davidson I never know who is dating whom.

I feel a little bad for it, but to see seeing Paltrow showing up was like seeing Trump showing up or that Republican with a patch on his eye. It felt somehow like tacit approval and I'm pretty grumpy about Paltrow's scam machine.

That said I thought it was interesting seeing Elba doing comedy. It's clearly not his area but he seemed up for it and more power to him. The last time I remember seeing a sort of weird macshup like this it was Daniel Craig (interestingly enough). PowerPoint sketch had me laughing the hardest because I see these people every day though it did feel a little punching down, I was looking for redemption for those women.
posted by jessamyn at 8:53 AM on March 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

Yes, Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost are the world's blandest white couple.

I loved the football sketch. I still hate the focus on Pete's personal life, but he spoke truth, so, respect. Everything else I had to be reminded of here in the thread.
posted by Ruki at 3:25 PM on March 13, 2019


It's funny: I think the focus on Pete's personal life, even before any of the mental health issues were in the open, has been one of his most original contributions to the show. Very few desk pieces have featured people talking not in character, about their personal life, speaking truth, owning it when they stick their foot in their mouth (and then stick their foot in it again)... and he's kinda been doing that since Day 1*, from unknown status all the way through to celebrity, in and out of challenging mental health problems... and making it funny. I have rarely seen a desk piece of Pete's and been like, "That was a complete waste of time," rather, I usually thing, "That's an interesting/funny window into someone who's suddenly famous and trying to keep his head above water." I'm always rooting for Pete—sheepishly when he's being a little dickish, but still, he's out there, dealing with his own messy brain, and bringing the funny. I can't think of anyone quite like him in the history of the show. It's like the fucked-up but funny kid you know from the neighborhood deli, suddenly winding up on national TV, and winning.

*so was Brooks Wheelan, by the way, but did anyone listen to me? Noooo. It could be HIM dating Naomi Watts or whoever.
posted by not_on_display at 3:58 PM on March 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

Pete didn't mention Jason Momoa in his list of other age-differential couples, did he? Dude, he was just there! You met him!
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:03 PM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Pete didn't mention Jason Momoa in his list of other age-differential couples, did he?

Pete's list was entirely older men dating/marrying women a lot younger. The list being all male was pointing out the sexism of people making a big deal about Kate Beckinsale dating younger.

Jason Momoa marrying someone 12 years older wouldn't fit. Also, 12 years wouldn't qualify when most (all?) of the people on his list were at least 20 years older.
posted by Gary at 5:38 PM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

fair enough, but he included the president of France in that list, so I assumed it was going both ways
posted by prize bull octorok at 5:42 PM on March 13, 2019

Oh, you are right! I guess the age difference just wasn’t big enough to mention.
posted by Gary at 5:47 PM on March 13, 2019

I second not_on_display's feelings about Pete. There's just something kinda amiable and likable and funny about the guy when he's just being himself, being honest and chatting and hanging out. You root for him.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:28 PM on March 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Gwyneth Paltrow's cameo pissed me off. When she appeared, I said, "Oh for fuck's sake," out loud. She's ripping off women by lying to them in order to sell them ridiculously overpriced and useless, sometimes even harmful, "health" products out of greed and narcissism, and then when she gets called out on it, claims she thought she was just blogging and that these problems happen with "a startup" (item: GOOP, which was founded in 2008, is valued at $250M), but let's all just laugh about it as though there's nothing worse going on than her being twee and pretentious, and bring her in on the joke.

I rather liked Pete Davidson's monologue. He made some great points. I had to agree with him that supporting the Catholic church is analogous to buying R. Kelly's music.

This was a so-so episode, on the whole. I thought the writing was rather weak.

Idris Elba is an incredibly appealing screen presence, and I was left feeling that he's probably lovely in real life.
posted by orange swan at 8:34 PM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Idris Elba brings the funny. (slYouTube, a "Luther" skit starring Idris and most of the famous black people in the UK, all doing Idris Elba impersonations to his great irritation.)
posted by Mogur at 1:49 PM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

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