Six days after the Oscars Slap got here to dominate America’s cultural dialog, Saturday Night Live joined the fray with not only one joke however a torrent of them. Perhaps this was inevitable: The now-infamous pop-culture second—an assault on a comic, no much less—is clearly inside SNL’s wheelhouse, and the present latched onto the second with zeal. But it was an excessive amount of, too late. After per week through which each opinion has already circulated, SNL struggled to seek out something contemporary to say.
It didn’t should be this fashion. The host, Jerrod Carmichael, a considerate and sardonic stand-up comedian who lately launched his third HBO particular, Rothaniel, launched into his monologue really acknowledging America’s exhaustion with the Slap. “I’m not gonna talk about it,” he mentioned, by no means as soon as mentioning Will Smith, Chris Rock, or the Oscars. “I’m gonna be clear up top. I’ve talked about it enough, kept talking about it, kept thinking about it. I don’t wanna talk about it. And you can’t make me talk about it.” He appeared to know how the speedy churn of public debate these days obviated the urgency of any additional dialogue of the smack. “This happened a week ago. Doesn’t it feel like it happened years ago?” he mentioned. “Like, doesn’t it feel like it happened when we were all in high school?” But SNL proceeded to speak about it anyway, solely underscoring how delayed the present’s response felt.
The altercation between Smith and Rock got here up through the chilly open, in Carmichael’s monologue, in a full sketch, and in a number of “Weekend Update” jokes. In the unfocused sketch, Carmichael performed an initially starstruck seat filler on the Academy Awards witnessing an erratic Smith (Chris Redd) unraveling. “Weekend Update,” in the meantime, regarded for simple methods to snicker concerning the violence, together with a personality bit that includes Kenan Thompson taking part in O. J. Simpson. The method the Slap absorbed SNL mirrored the best way it overshadowed extra vital tales within the information cycle this week, such because the more-than-seven-hour hole in former president Donald Trump’s January 6 telephone information, Ginni Thomas’s texts encouraging an overturn of the 2020 election, and the continuing warfare in Ukraine. But SNL has struggled to supply related political commentary this season, and this episode, predictably, leaned into the reliable subject of popular culture.
Carmichael’s flip internet hosting was ripe for a much bigger second than it delivered. The comedian helmed SNL sooner or later after premiering his most poignant stand-up particular so far, through which he comes out as homosexual. An brazenly homosexual Black comedian stays a rareity within the stand-up world, and, traditionally, on SNL’s stage. (Although the present solid has three brazenly queer members—Kate McKinnon, Bowen Yang, and Punkie Johnson—it beforehand had few.) Coming so shut on the heels of Carmichael’s monumental particular, the comedian may have produced an episode on par with these of Daniel Levy and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, each robust writers who pushed SNL in invigorating instructions after they hosted. Instead, the episode felt innocuous. “The nation don’t even know me,” Carmichael quipped in his monologue. “The nation has no clue who I am. I have to be the least-famous host in SNL [history].” Last evening most likely didn’t change that reality.
The disjointed episode made Carmichael really feel extra like a brand new solid member than a celeb host. In the evening’s most relatable sketch, he performed a forgettable contestant on a recreation present that examined folks’s pandemic-era mind energy, and in probably the most outrageous bit, he performed a doll maker who bought an unintentionally lewd creation on a healthful purchasing TV channel. When not speaking concerning the Slap, this episode’s sketches largely felt random and unconcerned with giving Carmichael a possibility to insert his character. SNL, in different phrases, performed it secure. By placing all its power into an incident that felt edgy and stunning practically per week in the past, the present simply felt stale.