Now that we’ve all recovered from SNL’s awkward 40th anniversary celebrations, Fifty Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson guest hosts to welcome us back to Studio 8H. Johnson’s appearance doesn’t make things un-awkward, but she brings a subtle humor to the proceedings that will either win you over or lull you to sleep. See how Johnson fared during last night’s episode and determine if audiences can separate her from the role of Anastasia Steele, below.
“Dakota Johnson Monologue”
Johnson trades places with Zooey Deschanel in the dictionary under “adorkable.” She’s nervous, but clearly proud of her familiar connection to acting (even though she gave mom Melanie Griffith the business on the Oscars red carpet the other evening). Mom and dad (Don Johnson) pop up to joke about nudez, while Kyle Mooney plays a fan dressed as a leather daddy. It’s not an earth-shattering monologue, but Johnson seems to charm the audience.
“Father Daughter Ad”
This pre-recorded sketch is the first of many ISIS jokes throughout the evening. It starts out like the typical daughter-leaving-home-and-dad-just-can’t-seem-to-let-her-go short — until the daughter’s ride shows up and it’s the extremist Islamist rebel group. Oops.
“Say What You Wanna Say”
Hilariously set to Sara Bareilles’ morale-boosting anthem “Brave,” this pre-recorded segment with the women of SNL encourages the shy office worker, office bathroom pooper, and self-interested friend to let the white-hot truth rip.
Kyle Mooney steps into the shoes of Adam Sandler (and maybe Andy Samberg) for the part of a school boy who says bawdy things — here interviewing Johnson as herself during a Fifty Shades press junket. He wants to know about her “violent sexual encounters” and confirms that the ice cubes in the movie felt… cold. Mooney has gone from the most misunderstood player to an audience favorite. It’s nice to see him in the live segments letting his freak flag fly.
A sketch for people who say things like “I literally cannot,” ironically or unironically. Predictably, it’s kind of a snooze — but Aidy Bryant plays a picked-on office worker who just can’t catch a break (apart from her two arms that are literally broken and useless). I’m most excited to see Bryant when she isn’t the butt of everyone’s jokes à la Chris Farley — but that seems to be a rare thing.
Kate McKinnon as Supreme Court badass Ruth Bader Ginsburg shouting, “You just got Ginsburged!” is everything. Jay Pharoah’s Kanye continues to be on fleek. Bobby Moynihan returns as Michael Che’s friend Riblet. The last time Riblet hit the “Weekend Update” desk, I was convinced Moynihan was going to announce himself as a replacement for Jost or Che. He got a little closer to doing that in this episode by tearing off his jogging suit (and pigtails, with sound effects!) to reveal a business suit underneath. I guess SNL is feeling things out?
“Giuliani Cold Open”
Rudy Giuliani has an existential crisis, Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) 2.0-style. The audience doesn’t seem to get it — or maybe they didn’t bet the Oscar office pool on Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film. Dakota Johnson pops up to do her best Emma Stone impression — and her pre-monologue appearance seems to go unnoticed.
All I remember about this Cecily Strong character is “c-u-n-thursday,” which isn’t saying much. Her appearance brings the funnies to a screeching halt, before they even get started. Johnson and Taran Killam have great chemistry, here playing Cinderella and Prince Charming, but all that goes to waste thanks to Strong’s annoying caricature. This would have been a great opportunity to write a sketch inspired by Disney’s new princess Elena of Avalor, to keep things topical.
Kenan Thompson plays Star Trek Klingon Lieutenant Commander Worf in a bizarrely morbid (ugh, what were they thinking?), but well-meaning sketch honoring the late Leonard Nimoy.
SNL attempts to comment on net neutrality and bores us to tears instead. Big points for Johnson’s character — a nerdy computer type who mutters, “It’s really good to be out of the house” when she’s introduced on a tech talk show. It’s a tired joke, but her delivery is great. See the sketch through for the moment Johnson gets slapped in the face, channels Anastasia Steele, and screams, “Harder!” Johnson’s style of humor is quiet and self-effacing, the opposite of the perfect SNL host, but these tiny surprises are fun nonetheless.
“Mr. Riot Films”
Here’s another brotastic Beck Bennett/Kyle Mooney pre-recorded sketch. This time, the duo plays bros doing YouTube social experiments under the fictional production banner Mr. Riot Films. Their interactions with non-actors (at least they seem to be non-actors) don’t cut it, making the goofy titles the best part of the segment (“Women Be Bullied,” “Kid Dat is Lost,” and “A Dog” to name a few).
Musical Guest: Alabama Shakes