Having a “Saturday Night Live” host join the Five-Timers Club is quite an honor. More often than not, it results in a star-studded sketch featuring some of the most beloved and frequent hosts of the late night sketch program. But apparently “SNL” couldn’t muster up any of the usual suspects for Woody Harrelson’s induction into the usual club, so they turned the lack of presentation into a bit of a recurring gag throughout the night. Even musical guest Jack White was given a Five-Timers Club jacket before Scarlett Johansson surprised Harrelson right at the end of the show when Harrelson and the “SNL” cast were saying goodnight.
Coincidentally enough, this lackluster moment was fairly representative of a mostly mediocre episode of “SNL,” starting with Woody Harrelson’s chaotic, meandering, and awkwardly unfunny monologue. There were only a couple of truly great sketches throughout the evening, but the rest of the night was filled with sketches that felt like they’d been sitting on a shelf, just waiting for a host who could fit into a forgettable role.
What was the best sketch of the night?
Please Don’t Destroy hasn’t been kicking around “Saturday Night Live” very much since 2023 began, though the trio has been writing a lot of sketches that aren’t attributed to their group namesake, so it was nice to have them back in a big way this week. It’s a bit of a bummer that this episode relied on them to deliver what was easily the funniest sketch of the night, but we’re just glad they were able to give us something this hilarious during such a disappointing show. Even Woody Harrelson was solid in this sketch, mostly because he was able to be himself. In particular, the fact that he said “it’s 2015” in this sketch gave me a good laugh. It’s just frustrating that this was as good as the evening got.
How was the rest of the episode?
Cologuard – In case it wasn’t clear, the rest of the episode was rather subpar. Coming in behind Please Don’t Destroy is this commercial parody for Cologuard, the mail-in colon testing company. Woody Harrelson is bombarded by talking Cologuard boxes who are all anxious to have them “unleash” upon them. It’s a twisted and gross sketch, and it’s made even funnier when it’s revealed that Harrelson is again playing himself, and he’s actually just tripping balls. It doesn’t explain why there are so many Cologuard boxes on his porch, but overall, this was a pretty hilarious sketch.
Beautiful Gym – In recent years, the rise in younger comedians with alternative senses of humor has resulted in “SNL” getting weirder overall, so much that it’s made the 10-to-1 slot reserved for more strange and experimental humor somewhat obsolete. But in this episode, the 10-to-1 slot was alive and well with this premise that came completely out of left field. I don’t know what inspired this sketch that is introduced by explaining the premise right up front: Two Men Speak in the Most Beautiful Gym in the World. The extravagancy of the gym and the straight-faced expressions and fancy but deadpan dialogue makes this funny right away, but the increasing absurdity of the gym adds another layer of comedy too.
Submarine Launch – After the hilarious mistake that was Boaty McBoatface, all the way back in 2017, we have this totally timely and relevant sketch about a navy submarine being named Mr. Dingleberry’s Goochballoon Asdfkl; 6969. Yes, the name came from an online poll. No, I’m not sure why a branch of the military would allow this to happen, which the sketch attempts to make a joke out of, but it falls pretty flat. This is exactly the kind of sketch I’m talking about when I say that some of the sketches felt like they’d been sitting on a shelf somewhere for awhile. The same can be said about the Slingshot ride sketch, which had an amusing physical and technical gag in theory, but didn’t work very well in execution.
Overall, this episode just felt like it meandered straight down the middle of the road. In fact, most of the episode was so average that it made the political open seem a bit better than usual by comparison. But even so, retreading the same Donald Trump nonsensical speech formula is still wearing pretty thin these days.
How was Woody Harrelson as a host?
Woody Harrelson brought plenty of enthusiasm to Studio 8H, but he doesn’t bring much when it comes to comedic versatility. The variety of characters Harrelson played was certainly lacking, and he was at his best when playing an exaggerated version of himself. Thankfully, he did do a pretty good job playing a subtly flamboyant gentlemen in the beautiful gym sketch, but that was about it.
However, the worst part of Harrelson’s performance came from his monologue. Though the joke driving Harrelson’s opening remarks was that his drug-fueled brain kept losing track of the focal point of the story, it wasn’t funny enough to keep the entire thing from feeling incredibly drawn out. This was a nearly seven-minute monologue, and that length is typically reserved for more involved bits that actually involve a certain amount of sketch comedy with other cast members or a host that does their own stand-up bits. But this was painful to watch, and frustrating to get through. It was like watching molasses on paint drying. Plus, it didn’t help that it ended with what seemed like an anti-vax joke about quarantining and being forced to take drugs. Did Harrelson write this himself? Yikes.
At least Weekend Update was pretty great
Aside from the few sketches that brought decent laughs, I’m happy to say that at least half of Weekend Update was a knockout. In this case, it was the second half, and it’s because Michael Che and Colin Jost delivered my favorite thing about their dynamic. I love when these two laugh at each others jokes, and it’s even better when they write jokes that make each other look bad. The first half delivered the former, and the second half delivered the latter in a hilarious fashion. First, Jost got Che to question whether Harvey Weinstein or R. Kelly actually did anything wrong to deserve their extended prison sentences, and then Che got back at Jost with a callback to a joke about the NBA’s slam dunk contest being won by a short white dude. This resulted in a hilarious back and forth, and it’s one of the funniest things this duo has done in recent memory.
We’ll be back next weekened after Kansas City Chiefs tight end and recent Super Bowl champion Travis Kelce makes his hosting debut on March 4. Athletes hosting can be a mixed bag, so we’re cautiously optimistic about this working out. But it helps that Kelce will be following one of the less satisfying episodes of the season so far. If it goes south, at least we can look forward to Jenna Ortega hosting on March 11. For more on every new episode of “SNL,” you can check out The Ten To One Podcast.