Jason Momoa did a Saturday Night Live last night, and we’re reviewing it, because that’s what websites do.
So we start with Don Jr. reading Eric Trump a bedtime story because he’s scared of the “boogeyman in his closet,” which is eventually revealed to be Robert De Niro’s lackluster take on Robert Mueller. I guess there are a few good lines (the stupid Eric calling Paul Manafort “Mr. Pillowfort”), but having to drag yourself through this plodding administrative serial to get to the legendary “Live from New York…” is getting harder and harder by the week. Infantilizing political figures has gone beyond hack, and at this point it’s just lifeless and embarrassing. The best thing I can say about this mess is that Alec Baldwin wasn’t involved.
Jason Momoa did his monologue without shoes on, and I’ll admit it, he exudes an undeniable charm that made it easier to get through what was kind of a meandering joke about his… hotness? Success? (He’s married to Lisa Bonet?! WTF?!?!) It felt like everyone was just so excited to have Aquaman around, they forgot to give him any heavy lifting to do, which is honestly fine. Leslie Jones, Chris Redd, and 30 Rock Immortal Kenan Thompson had a fun time pitching funky Aquaman theme songs though, and Momoa’s an adept enough performer to know his place: a charming, muscle-bound freak that commits to the bit.
Now that I’ve met my contractual obligation to discuss the cold open, guest host, and monologue, I’ll get to what this episode did right.
While it’s a simple enough premise—Jason Momoa’s traumatized Elf on the Shelf is forced to watch his assigned child enter adolescence by discovering masturbation—the performances are really solid, and I love the contrast between the positive younger Shelf Elves and Momoa’s tired, jaded Shelf Elf. I have this theory based on nothing that SNL is only funny when it gets weird or loud, and Elf Momoa’s unwillingness to pass judgement on his assigned child makes this creepy sketch oddly endearing.
This is one of those “I can’t believe this wasn’t a thing already sketches.” Remember in like 2010 when companies tried marketing to MEN by making everything oversized and full of testosterone? This is that—it’s straightforward, funny enough, and obviously a genuine idea that’s been thrown out in many a corporate boardroom.
Can this just be the cold open from now on? Let’s finally put Alec Baldwin’s weird, off putting, spitting man out to pasture and let Darius Trump provide whatever weekly political commentary SNL seems to need to write about. “Them Trumps” got to the point, and SNL Undead Kenan Thompson’s Darius Trump is just a funnier character than Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not funny. I mean, he is, but representations of him are not… unless they’re black.
Mumford and his sons performed. They were men with guitars who sang about love. Not funny.
Weekend Update was Weekend Update. The handsome boys made jokes about things happening in the news. Other people did other things. Sounds like a Weekend Update, alright.
There was a really bad sketch after the handsome boys in which Jason Momoa plays the fourth ghost of Christmas whose thing is that he’s “extra”? The sketch felt kind of outdated, like something out of 2004 and that the joke is Jason Momoa seems… kinda “gay?” It’s weird and not very funny, but Momoa commits in a way that makes it watchable. Plus, it’s sort of funny when Tiny Tim just points him out. (“So… they can see you?” “I guess.”)
Mumford and his sons performed yet again. They sang slowly this time and the lights were low. I think it was about love.
(If you want to hear more from Mumford and his boys, here’s some stuff they did for Daytrotter back in the day.)
“I’m Gemma. I’m British. I got a brand new vagina today… Don’t make me laugh it’ll come loose.” There is so much going on in this sketch, and while I don’t love all of it, the sheer weirdness of it all sort of works. Cecily Strong’s character is so uncomfortably hilarious, and Momoa’s character is so in love with her. I’m not super sure about the point of this sketch, and it probably would have been better if there was one, but the lines it produced were funny enough.
It was a surprisingly watchable SNL overall. Jason Momoa is the ideal host: a captivating entertainer that’s up for anything and more than happy to shit on himself a bit if it gets a laugh. SNL played down the politics and amplified the absurd, resulting in an episode that was consistently fun, if not always funny.
Yusef Roach is Paste’s Assistant Comedy Editor and the cohost of the podcast Death is Imminent. He’s on Twitter @yusefroach.