Saturday Night Live Recap: Ronda Rousey Hosts

Our host for tonight is Ronda Rousey, who has won a lot of medals and championships for being VERY, VERY STRONG. Like, seriously. She could knock you out in a second. It is a little terrifying, but also inspiring in a “You go, girl” kind of way. And now she”s got a burgeoning acting career, with roles in The Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Entourage 1 and God Willing Only. She will make her comedy debut in the upcoming Do Nothing Bitches, based on a script by Sisters writer Paula Pell in which Rousey plays a bootcamp instructor putting suburban housewives, one of which is played by Tina Fey, in their place. Tonight seemed to be Rousey”s chance to prove her comedy chops, but she honestly didn”t get much of a chance– she only truly starred in one sketch, and made minimal to no appearances in all of the others. Still, this was a fairly strong episode, with a fun energy resulting from a cast and audience that had to survive the insanity of Winter Storm Jonas to put on a show.

Cold Open: Sarah Palin announces her official endorsement of Donald Trump at his latest campaign rally. Tina Fey returns to reprise her Sarah Palin impersonation, just as the SNL gods ordered the moment Palin showed up at the Trump rally. Fey”s Palin impression is always welcome, and the writers were smart to take a Katie Couric interview sketch approach, peppering in actual excerpts from Palin”s bitter-clingin” right-wingin” speech amidst the written jokes. From “I wanted to take a break from my career of writin” things on Facebook” to “God bless some of the United States of America,” this was a strong start to the episode. A

Monologue: Ronda Rousey works hard to perform the best possible opening monologue, as her every move is judged by boxing match-style commentators. Rousey held her own pretty well in her first appearance of the night, which was one of the more clever monologues of the season; even if it relied on the old tropes we see way too much in this slot (cast members storming the stage with only sometimes-relevant impersonations, applause-grabbing shout outs to New York, song and dance numbers), at least it utilized a self-awareness of these cliches. But as we learned from the Academy this week, self-awareness is only the first step; next you have to actually do something about the problem (#moreoriginalmonologues2k16). B+

Screen Guild Awards: An awards show presenter introduces clips of each nominee for Best Actor, all of whom are white men with increasingly minimal roles in stories about black people. Speaking of the justifiable shitstorm following this week”s Oscar nominations, this sketch was a deservedly harsh takedown of one of many problems revealed with the Hollywood system at large, and specifically the way that awards nominations work: the tendency toward focusing on white actors within black stories. The sketch started out with the obvious parody: Taran Killam as a Sylvester Stallone stand-in in a Creed-esque movie. From there, it devolved into nominations for increasingly ridiculous roles, from White Man with Camera in a drama about African child soldiers to Unseen Voice on Phone in a film about housing discrimination against Chicago African Americans. The winner for this category? “It”s a five way tie: All the white guys!” As they rush the stage, Moynihan”s actor grabs the trophy and shouts excitedly “We did it!” as if it could go any other way. A

Lovestruck: A group of popular kids pull a prank on a new girl by making her think she”s going on a date with a jock then tricking her into eating dog food. But the new girl immediately fights back, with more strength than her tormentors were expecting. The SNL crew were bound to show off Rousey”s fighting skills in at least one sketch, and this proved to be a decently funny showcase. Of note was Vanessa Bayer”s performance as the lead popular girl, which could compete with those of even the most accomplished evil blonde Disney Channel Original Movie actresses. Rousey did well here; throughout the night she performed adequately, but she did her best in pre-taped sketches, and this was probably her best performance of the night, since it allowed her to be in her comfort zone of straight up kicking ass. The main issue, ultimately, was the weird ending, which turned the whole bit into an ad for “Bullies Against Mixed Martial Arts.” I”m not sure where the SNL writers” impulse to end sketches by turning them into random PSAs comes from, but it”s probably time to quit that one while they”re ahead. B

Bland Man: A Bachelor parody shows a series of female contestants trying to win the attentions of one very boring guy. They had me at “one very bland man, 25 long-haired women,” and from there the hits just kept on coming. It isn”t hard to make fun of The Bachelor (on some Monday nights it seems that that is the sole purpose of Twitter) but this parody was pretty spot-on, and a great showcase for the female cast (though Leslie Jones was missed; I would have loved to see the insanity she could have brought to a Bachelor contestant character). Highlights included the girls” increasingly vocal-fried delivery of “Can I steal him for a sec?” and their descriptions of the over-the-top dates they enjoyed with Bland Man Dan earlier that day (“Thanks for our date this afternoon. I loved taking a race car to that improv class with you”). A

Weekend Update: An enjoyable enough outing from the Update team. Highlights of the news segments included Jost”s “Today was National Compliment Day . . . Dad,” and Che”s series on the Oscars (On the Academy”s search for black presenters: “solving racism by having black people present white people with gold!”). The guests tonight were Leslie Jones with a bit on how she”s pretty sure she could get Leo DiCaprio, and Kenan as Che”s optimistic neighbor Willie. Willie just isn”t really my speed as a character; I understand the potential appeal of a man  chipperly delivering depressing lines about dressing up as a dog at a shelter so that he can get put down, but the whole character just really bums me out. Leslie Jones, however, is pretty much exactly my speed as an Update guest, and I thoroughly enjoyed her typically weird rant about how she deserves to sleep with Lenoardo DiCaprio because she could make him a really good ham sandwich after. B+

Three”s a Crime: A teenager who was engaged in a threesome with two of his high school teachers testifies in court about how awesome his experience was. Ick. I”m sure plenty will cry political correctness at my cold reception to this sketch, but I”m just not into thinking statutory rape is funny just because the perpetrators were women and the victim was a guy. Though I”ll admit to laughing a little at Pete Davidson and Kenan Thompson”s back and forth on the phrase “my man” (“but, like, the way Denzel Washington says it”), this one left me mostly with, as Cher Horowitz would put it, an overwhelming sense of ickiness, perhaps because I”ve never been a teenage boy. D

Super Crew: When Metro City faces attack from evil robots, the Super Crew arrives to save the day– but first they have to make sure they each get a proper introduction. File this one under “perfectly adequate, nothing to write home about”; a classic two-to-three-chuckle sketch. It was a good opportunity to give most of the cast members a chance to assemble together in one sketch, and it gave Ronda Rousey more of a prominent role than she got for much of the night. Also, I”m glad I live in a world where I”ve gotten to see Pete Davidson say “It”s noodle time!” then dance away in an elaborate noodle-themed superhero costume. C+

Penis Rap: Three men hit on three women at a club; two of them brag about how big their penises are, while the other desperately insists he”ll go down on them as long as he can keep his pants on. First of all, I”d like to fully own that this is the worst title and description of a sketch I have ever offered. I wrote down “penis rap” in my notes thinking I”d come up with something better later, but I cannot think of a single better title. But, I mean, penis rap isn”t necessarily an incorrect description of this sketch, you know? ANYWAY, what I”m really here to say is that this was a decently funny musical sketch, and made good use of Beck Bennett”s penchant for deeply embarrassing humor (between this and the commercial for fake cocaine to hide that you”ve been pooping, Bennett is really going for it in the no shame department this season). He managed to slide some typical weird Bennett and Mooney style humor in there with the part where he asked the girls what their favorite fashion and dance move are, plus the list of all of the items of clothing he”d leave on in a sexual encounter. Man, this sketch does not read well in a written description. Just go ahead and watch it. B

Citizens” Forum: We”ve seen more of these town hall-style sketches than we ever needed to. Every time one starts I am tricked into thinking I like them based on the way that Aidy Bryant says Jan Krang, but then we get to Kyle Mooney”s Holland expat rapper and I remember that I”m pretty much over it. These tend to feel like filler sketches thrown in when material for the week is feeling too thin; there is potential in letting the cast loose with disconnected weird characters, but it just doesn”t work out with this particular sketch layout. C-

Office Party: A woman invites two of her coworkers to a small party she”s throwing to watch a football game, and their stressed confusion reveals that they have never been to a party before. This one was almost a great last sketch of the night, but I was really thrown by the voices Bennett and Mooney chose to use here. The writing was there (lines like “Do people have allergies?” “No, I don”t think so” “Cool, then I”ll find a couple of dogs to bring” genuinely made me laugh out loud), but the speech impediments they chose sounded a little too close to developmentally delayed speech patterns than I was totally comfortable with. I recognize this is two times in one review I”m setting myself up to be called overly politically correct, but here we are. Still, I”d classify this as an overall good sketch with (in my view) one unfortunate flaw. B-

Quotes, Extras, and Final Thoughts:

  • Donald Trump description of Sarah Palin as the whole package: “Smart, legs, yelling, everything”

  • Donald Trump can”t be in an A Christmas Carol situation, because he”s richer than Scrooge, ghosts love him, and he”d never help someone like Tiny Tim

  • Interesting that Darrell Hammond played Trump tonight even though, unlike the presidential debate sketches where he”s busy playing Ted Cruz, Taran Killam would have been available to fill the role. Perhaps they”re now officially handing the reigns back to Hammond?

  • “Rock and roller, holy roller, pro bowler with an abscessed molar” honestly could have been an actual direct quote from Palin”s Trump speech and I wouldn”t have been surprised

  • Ronda Rousey on her hosting gig: “This is the first time I”ll be on live TV without getting punched in the face.”

  • Is it just me or was Taran Killam basically using his exact Trump voice when he played that boxing commentator in the monologue?

  • Bland Man introduces himself: “My name is Dan, and I”m from Chicago or Denver or something. I have blue eyes, brown hair, and gray shirt.”

  • Another great date from Bland Man: “I loved taking that hot air balloon with you and the cast of Chicago Fire

  • Sasheer Zamata”s character on Bland Man introduces herself as “the black one.” When Taran Killam”s Dan suggests she go ahead and leave right then, she interrupts, “Wait, I didn”t tell you that everyone I”ve ever met is dead.” “Oh,” Dan replies, “You have a sad past. Then you can stay one more week.”

  • Michael Che to Donald Trump, on the insanity of his supporters: “You could literally pull out your shoe mid-speech, hold it up to your ear, say you”re getting a call from Batman, and they”d be quiet until you hung up your shoe.”

  • Leslie Jones on her past with Leonardo DiCaprio: “Our relationship was like Inception: Leo inside Leslie inside a dream.”

  • Thoughts on the Musical Guest: I liked how Selena surrounded herself with a harem of men snapping and crouching, and I also wondered if their legs were getting tired. I felt a little weird about that super touchy bed dance on her second song, but it was a grabby performance (accidental pun there, but I”m KEEPING IT). I”m also very intrigued by the phrase “metaphorical gin and juice.” This has been Thoughts on the Musical Guest.

  • New Guy Jon Rudnitsky playing Fire Butt in the Super Crew sketch was one of the saddest things I”ve seen in 2016. Someone give this poor white boy something to do.

  • The one part of the citizens” forum that made me laugh was Ronda Rousey promoting the single sideshow attraction at her carnival: “Todd Baldwin, the lost Baldwin brother.” I”d pay good money for that.

  • Ronda Rousey tells Kyle Mooney about her party: “Feel free to bring something, but no pressure.” “Oh,” he responds, “like a bucket.”

Next week”s a hiatus, and then we”re back with Larry David as host, which hopefully means a 90-minute long Bernie impression.