On the night before the Super Bowl, “Saturday Night Live” mostly set aside its political satire and celebrity impersonations to pay satirical homage to the healing power of sports.
This weekend’s broadcast, hosted by Dan Levy and featuring the musical guest Phoebe Bridgers, began with a parody of a CBS Super Bowl pregame show, with Kenan Thompson playing the sports broadcaster James Brown.
He told the audience: “As everyone at home knows, this year has been anything but normal: The pandemic. Racial and political divisions. Armie Hammer. But today, we come together in a spirit of unity to watch football and murder billions of chickens for their delicious wings.”
Thompson also saluted the N.F.L. for the Covid protocols it employed throughout a challenging year. “But with hard work and vigilance,” he added, “we were able to get through the season with only 700 cases.”
He and his fellow hosts, including Beck Bennett as Boomer Esiason, Chris Redd as Nate Burleson and Alex Moffat as Bill Cowher, went on to introduce a series of Super Bowl ads that they said would reflect the impassioned spirt of the current moment. The first showed the images of Jesse Owens, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, former President Barack Obama and John Lewis while a voice-over declared: “We must always strive for equality. And we must always reach for — Cheez-Its.”
They also played a Papa John’s Pizza commercial that referenced QAnon and a pair of dueling Budweiser ads that were pro- and anti-vaccine.
The M.V.P. of the sketch was Aidy Bryant, who with just a couple of wardrobe changes and some fake facial hair, appeared both as the Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (“We’re going to pass it and we’re going to run it, and when they have the ball, we’re going to stop it,” she said) and as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians (“We’re going to run it first, then pass it,” she explained. “And then when they have the ball, we’re going to try to take the ball back.”)
Asked by Redd if Coach Reid could respond to what Coach Arians had just said, Bryant swallowed hard and said, “OK, well, then, just ask real slow.”
Opening monologue of the week
Dan Levy, who was hosting “S.N.L.” for the first time, spoke about his excitement for the opportunity (“My 13-year-old self has fainted in a really needy, melodramatic way,” he said) and about how his life had changed since his series “Schitt’s Creek” won several Emmys last year. He also led the cameras on a Covid-safe backstage tour and paused to acknowledge a framed photo of his “Schitt’s Creek” co-star Catherine O’Hara.
Of course, it was all just a buildup to a cameo appearance from the host’s co-star and father, Eugene Levy, who was contained within a transparent chamber.
“I flew in to wish you luck tonight,” Eugene Levy explained, “but because I traveled, I’m now in an isolation box.” As his son dashed off to face the audience, Levy looked at the stagehands in hazmat suits on either side of him and asked, “Could one of you turn me towards the stage so I could see the show?”
Illicit website of the week
If you’ve ever found yourself watching basic cable in the wee hours of the morning, you’re probably familiar with a style of breathless, soft-focus advertisements pitching phone-chat services to lonely men. This commercial parody followed that same format with a seductive pitch that asked: “Are you bored? Looking for something to spice up your life?
“You used to want sex, but you’re in your late 30s now,” the ad continued. And what you need instead, apparently, is the real-estate website Zillow.com, where you’re free to drool over listings for homes you never intend to buy. (And when you need to snap out of your fantasy, a pushy real-estate broker, played by Cecily Strong, will call you relentlessly and try to sell you these houses.)
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che riffed on the pandemic relief deal and on the Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a supporter of false conspiracy theories whose committee assignments were taken away by the House.
Jost began by saying:
President Biden said Friday that he will move ahead with his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan with or without Republican support. Because this economy needs a massage and Joe Biden isn’t waiting for permission. An interview with Biden will air before tomorrow’s Super Bowl between the Bucs and the Chiefs. Incidentally “Buc” and “Chief” are also what Biden calls his friends when he forgets their names.
Speaking in front of an image of the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Jost continued:
Mitch McConnell, seen here ignoring a toddler who fell through the ice, criticized G.O.P. representative and conspiracy theory huffer Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying that her “loony lies and conspiracy theories” are a “cancer” for the Republican Party. But keep in mind, Greene believes cancer is a bioweapon created in a secret Jewish lab.
Che then started into his own riff about Greene:
Marjorie Taylor Greene, who looks like the mug shot of a former child star, has supported conspiracy theories about 9/11, school shootings, the Deep State and Jewish people. Ugh, I get it lady, you’re my type. I’m kidding — anybody who believes those crazy conspiracies has to be as blind as Stevie Wonder is pretending to be. Greene apologized for her previous remarks, saying 9/11 “absolutely happened,” and to honor that day, Greene plans to hijack and crash the Republican Party.
Don’t try this at home of the week
Imagining a scene that could play out in homes across the country, this sketch found a group of friends gathering for a Super Bowl party and warily agreeing that they are safe to take off their masks.
“We are doing everything right,” they said repeatedly as one guest, played by Redd, explained that he had been leaving his home only to go to the grocery store, the laundromat and his local wrestling club. Another guest, played by Bennett, said that he had restricted his social circle to his wife, his brother, his wife, their neighbor, his brother, his grandparents and their nursing home. (He also shared homemade chili that he and his fellow guests proceeded to eat with their hands.)
Not to worry: It was all a public service announcement from Dr. Anthony Fauci (Kate McKinnon) who offered a reminder to conduct your own Super Bowl responsibly: “At home, in a mask, lights off, no friends.”
— to www.nytimes.com