From Covid Vaccines to YouTube, SNL Thrives With Daniel Kaluuya as Host

In last weekend’s episode of “Saturday Night Live” (SNL), Daniel Kaluuya, who has mostly starred in dramatic roles (most recently, “Judas and the Black Messiah”), showed off his natural comedic timing and charisma as a host for the show. While some of the sketches fell flat, others shone through alongside musical guest St. Vincent’s impressive performance. 

The episode starts with a cold open sketch of Britney Spears (Chloe Fineman) hosting a talk show wild enough to keep viewers intrigued in the episode. Her first guest is Lil Nas X (Chris Redd), who defends his controversial “MONTERO” music video and shoes made with blood by saying he’s just misunderstood: “I’m just your typical gay-black-country-sneaker entrepreneur,” he says. Spears then asks the artist to give a lap dance to God to even out the score before inviting Pepe le Pew (Kate McKinnon) and Matt Gaetz (Pete Davidson) to the stage. The sketch is full of shocking moments, but they aren’t enough to make it stand out as the episode’s best. 

A few other sketches do stand out though. “Proud Parents,” for example, features Kaluuya playing the father of a young man, David (Chris Redd), who has just announced to his dinner guests that he is switching from pre-med to poetry in college. While other parents in the room encourage David’s decision, his own parents mock them, shouting that “David is yours now!” Kaluuya delivers on other great one-liners — “If there’s anything we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that the world needs more poets” — in a sketch that may feel all too familiar to students of the humanities. 

“Weekend Update” sees Colin Jost focus on the scandal surrounding Congressman Matt Gaetz and makes the hilarious point that only now are QAnon supporters questioning what they have read on the internet. And fan-favorites Vaneta and Wylene Starkie (played by Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, respectively) stop by and once again attempt to sell a basket of raw meat to vegetarians and vegans by insisting that it comes from useless animals no one could possibly have any empathy for. 

Other sketches include a family game night in which Kate McKinnon shines through (as always) and a game show about whether contestants would get a free Covid vaccine attempts to find humor in the fears surrounding the vaccine, particularly in Black communities. 

But none of these could top the best sketch of the episode. In it, Kyle Mooney and Daniel Kaluuya play YouTubers who make ridiculous videos, and — when something inevitably goes too far —  they make half-hearted apology videos before going right back to pushing their luck. It’s a timely take on the toxic culture cultivated by many young YouTube creators whose apologies are little more than insincere attempts to get back in the good graces of the public. 

Overall, last week’s SNL was a pretty good, if not overly impressive, episode. A few of the sketches were well-written and executed enough to make the episode worth watching, although others felt lackluster. Kaluuya doesn’t waste a second of the screen time he is given, and it is delightful to see such a gifted dramatic actor do so well with lighter material.