Saturday Night Live Season 43 Premiere: Ryan Gosling (Host), Jay-Z (Musical Guest)
-Written by Melissa Jouben & Mark Henley
Melissa: If you were regularly following our SNL reviews from last season, you might be able to pinpoint exactly where my frustrations with the show started. It was probably right after the election.
While current events just keep getting darker and politics as a whole are becoming more polarizing than ever, it feels like SNL is giving themselves a pat on the back for hard-hitting satire while others would say that the show is treating these issues with kid gloves. We’re a far cry from the days where Chevy Chase could portray the president as a literal bumbling idiot and everyone could smirk about how edgy and punk the whole thing is.
SNL is an American institution now, and as such, it is here to entertain America. Sure, it has a liberal slant, but liberals are only half of the audience they’re trying to court. I wanted to say all this just to remind myself as well as all our readers – liberal, conservative, or otherwise – that SNL is for you but it’s also for the person diametrically opposite you. The show probably won’t always do what you want them to do but they’re going to do it with or without you so we might as well get used to it and keep our fingers crossed that they just don’t do something as egregious as having Sean Spicer host. For my part, I’m going to try to steer clear of emphasizing SNL’s politics for the sake of trying to enjoy the show for what it is.
Mark: I’m coming into this season very optimistically. I thought last season was a really great season that really utilized its cast well (except for Melissa Villasenor) and successfully tapped into the cultural zeitgeist with its Trump and Spicer impressions. While I agree with Melissa Jouben that I don’t love how self-important Alec Baldwin is about his Trump impression, I think that it has been very therapeutic for viewers (especially just prior to him winning the election) and I am happy to see it come back.
Melissa: Ryan Gosling felt like an odd choice for the season premiere, until I remembered that he’s in Blade Runner 2049, that it’s coming out next week, and it is not only one of the most anticipated movies of the year but that it’s also been getting very positive reviews. So with that in mind, I was actually a little more excited to see him. I will say that the “I saved jazz” bit was starting to grate on me and make me worried that the tone they were setting for this episode was going to make me regret everything I had written before I watched the episode.
Keenan coming in to lightly plead with Gosling to stop saying he saved jazz was a nice touch that reminded the audience how self-aware the bit was and while I still think it was too one-note to have carried the whole monologue the way it did, it was clear Gosling was having fun with it. It was clear Gosling was having a lot of fun in general. He’s the kind of host who is down for literally whatever and is absolutely giddy to have the opportunity to leave his comfort zone, which is a joy to see. He did break character maybe one too many times, but it’s easily forgivable.
Mark: I’n a big fan of the Gosling and I thought he did a great job as host. I think he is an incredibly charismatic and charming man who really looked like he was having a great time. I really liked that he broke a bunch of times. I thought it was endearing. Also, SNL is supposed to be a spectacle and if the people on stage are laughing, it makes the spectacle feel even bigger to me. I liked Gosling on this episode so much that I am willing to say that:
Mark’s Favorite Bit was Gosling’s “I Saved Jazz Monologue”
Mark: Gosling insisting that he saved Jazz was my favorite part of the show. It was a silly playground style bit that must have driven some people crazy, but really worked for me. Basically, the bit was that Gosling would repeatedly insist that he saved jazz even though he seemed to not truly understand jazz. It’s a simple premise that he repeats over and over again. It has the same comedy DNA that trolling humor has in it and I kind of couldn’t believe that NBC was paying to air a troll bit on TV.
Melissa’s Favorite Sketch – Henrietta and the Fugitive
Melissa: A sketch about an old movie where a hen named Henrietta falls in love with a fugitive (Ryan Gosling) who hides out in her barn after committing a crime, and decides to cover for him when the police show up so they can escape to Barcelona together. At first I thought that Henrietta was a woman dressed up like a hen to distract the police, which I was honestly on board with.
Then I realized she was an actual talking hen who was covering for Ryan Gosling’s fugitive character, and I was entirely on board. This sketch is total nonsense, and I mean that in the best way, because the nonsense sketches are always my favorite. I was also excited to see Beck Bennett and Keenan in this sketch, since the episode had been very heavy on Mikey Day and Alex Moffat up to this point. Keenan’s “Henrietta, why!?” after getting shot was probably the highlight of this sketch, with Ryan Gosling breaking while trying to deliver what was supposed to be the most emotional/serious moment of the scene coming in at a close second. The end, which is set 20 years later as the fugitive is getting out of prison and is greeted by Henrietta, was extremely funny and satisfying. It might not be the clip everyone is sharing on Facebook Sunday morning, but in my opinion it’s probably funnier.
Melissa’s Least Favorite Sketch – Dive Bar
Melissa: When I said Ryan Gosling broke one too many times, I think I was mostly referring to this sketch. It was fine end-of-the-show fare. A three-man band playing at a dive bar devolves into discussing the personal life of the flutist (Ryan Gosling) and the weird legal issues he’s having that involve a married woman he was involved with. It wasn’t exceptionally funny and Gosling was smiling almost the entire time, which got distracting. It did come back around when Leslie Jones had trouble ripping up Keenan’s pair of “good jeans,” and sure it was funny that she broke character doing it, but at that point I was like, “just get through the sketch!” It’s also kind of weird that this is a recurring sketch, because there’s nothing going on in that full warrants trying to put a new spin on it.
Mark: This was certainly an odd sketch. A lot of weird stuff going on with it. One highlights of this sketch though was Kyle Mooney, who played the keyboard player in the band. He had only a couple of lines that weren’t the focus of the sketch, but he got massive laughs with every line. It shows you can still do a lot as a performer in an imperfect sketch.
Musical Guest – Jay-Z
Melissa: First of all, I love that he mentioned his twins in both songs, and I love that he sang one of his “I am so sorry to my wife” songs. I love that Jay-Z used SNL as a venue to continue the apology tour he’s on to try and make amends for the mistakes he made in his marriage. I feel like most guys would be too embarrassed to keep reminding the public what he did, but he wants to be the last person to forget. Anyway, it was nice to see him perform because I’m not very well-acquainted with his new album, not having Tidal. It also feels way more fitting to have him on as a musical guest for the season premiere than it initially did to have Gosling host.
Mark: I kinda zoned out during these segments. I like Jay-Z and I liked the set design, but I didn’t get too into the whole thing.
Melissa: After the reinvigorated buzz that surrounded last season, and with more or less a whole summer of news to draw on that honestly felt like years’ worth, I’m sure the pressure felt high for a good show. I don’t think it was a letdown in any way, although it did feel unceremonious in a way that season premieres for SNL aren’t usually. That may be a good thing considering there wasn’t a concentrated effort to reinvent the wheel.
Two of the three new cast members had a few opportunities to show you what they’re all about, Mikey Day is up to his old tricks, and Ryan Gosling proves that he’s always down for a good time. Gal Gadot hosts next week, and since we don’t know much about her comedic sensibilities or how seriously she takes herself, that could prove to be a surprisingly fun episode or a really stiff performance. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Mark: Thought it was a fun start to a, hopefully, good season. Can’t wait for Kumail in two weeks.