Written By: Mark Henely and Melissa Jouben
Mark: I have been a huge Drake fan for years now. I saw him in concert back when Lil’ Wayne was in jail and Drake’s first album, Thank Me Later, hadn’t dropped yet. I even loved him him as Jimmy in Degrassi: The Next Generation. And while my love for the man has cooled slightly in the past couple years, I was very excited to see him host the show. I loved his last appearance as host and I was hoping for big things.
We didn’t get big things. We got good things, but not big things.
We got a decent show where Drake did a good job, but he wasn’t a tour-de-force like Arianna Grande was earlier in the season (with her vocal range and ability to really nail impressions). But, Drake didn’t under perform. He did a good job. I think Drake’s performance was only disappointing because he is a two time host. His first attempt was remembered fondly and I think I wanted him to step it up this time, but he just turned in a serviceable performance. It’ll be interesting to see if there is anticipation for a 3rd time around for Drake, but I would be surprised to see a fourth.
A Spotlight on some sketches:
American Ninja Warrior:
Mark: This was just good, dumb fun. While the concept of an unathletic guy failing at the Ninja Warrior obstacle course is an obvious premise, I actually think the obviousness works for it. It allows the anticipation of each pratfall to build on the previous one. This is a sketch you could show to someone who has never seen either SNL or Ninja Warrior because the humor is universal and the execution is very well done.
Melissa: When Drake came out dressed like some kind of Hollywood Hulk Hogan wannabe I was like, “Yes, this is good. I’m on board with this.” I think that SNL has a really good track record for creating interesting characters whose whole weird deal drives the entire sketch, but less of a good track record for building a beginning, middle and end for these characters. I loved the idea of a “professional chaperone” going to children’s dances and laying out his many fantasies of having some of the worst people in history drink beers with him and reassure him that he’s a good guy. I don’t think that it works as a satisfying sketch but if this character reappeared a few times I feel like they could begin to build a world around him the way they’ve built worlds around should-have-been-one-time-characters in the past.
Dennis Walls & The Cookies:
Mark: This sketch could have been one to watch. Drake plays a narcissistic soul singer named Dennis Walls and Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong play his backup singers (also known as his Cookies) in a cheesy sexy variety show. The dynamic between Dennis and his Cookies is very funny plus the costumes and set design are on point, but the game of the sketch is off. The main action is driven by Dennis’ feud with the director of his special, but there was a sub-game where one of the Cookies didn’t understand innuendos that I though was much funnier. Had the game shifted slightly onto Walls relationship to his Cookies, I think the sketch would have been funnier. I think there is something appealing about watching smooth and soulful Dennis Walls break his sultry persona and start yelling much in the way you imagine the real singers Walls is supposed to be parodying must have done and I think his feud with the director brought it out nicely.
Mark: I’ll say it about the monologue and I’ll say it about this sketch: play to what Drake is good at. And this is the essence of Drake – or at least Drake’s image. Hard, but nice, but also really sensitive. It was honestly just Drake being what we’re accustomed to believing Drake is, and some of it was pretty funny: him lamenting that he still had “ten more sips” of his water bottle, or in typical over-emotional Drake fashion, referring to the cleaning woman who threw it out as an “ice queen.” It was mostly just a fun way to showcase a host like Drake who is such a unique comedic and musical talent. Although he’s done better (I recommend literally any sketch from the first episode he hosted), I like seeing them give Drake chances to take himself out of his comfort zone but also make sure he absolutely shines, and I think if SNL released this as a song on iTunes, nobody would be complaining.
Musical Guest: Drake
Mark: Drake is my favorite type of musical guest in that he didn’t just come on and play a song. His performance was thought out and had cool, unique staging. I liked the songs he played and I even liked his joke song in his monologue. I think he looks at SNL as a real opportunity to build his brand rather than just another gig and I appreciate that.
Melissa: I haven’t been more excited about a musical guest this season. I love Drake.