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‘Saturday Night Live’s’ premiere had Pete Davidson charm, odd music and a surprise Taylor Swift cameo

For the 49th time, “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) is back for a new season. The classic comedy series recently had its much-anticipated season premiere. It premiered on Oct. 14, which is a bit later than usual for the series. That is because of the Writer’s Strike, which involved all screenwriters protesting for better working conditions. The strike had been affecting the entertainment industry since May. In fact, the strike caused the previous season of “SNL” to end early. Fortunately, after a tentative agreement, the strike ended on Sept. 27. This meant that after a couple of weeks of setting up and getting everything back in order, “SNL” was ready to go back on the NBC air, and that is what we all saw. The episode was hosted by former cast member Pete Davidson. He was originally going to host in the spring to promote his television show “Bupkis”, but the shortened season prevented that. Luckily, he got his chance to host again. He hosted with musical guest Ice Spice, a popular rapper that has just arrived on the scene. The night had all of the thrills that come with live television and then some. There were hilarious sketches, meaningful moments and some fun cameos. A strong start like this one indicates that there will be a great season ahead of us.

While “SNL” is usually all about comedy, the episode decided to start off on a more serious note, with Davidson standing alone on stage talking about the Hamas attack in Israel. He expressed the sorrow that he feels for everyone suffering. Davidson then connected it to his loss of a loved one due to a terrorist attack, as his father was a firefighter that died on 9/11. He talked about how depressed he felt during that time, but he was able to smile when listening to some old comedy albums. Davidson then said that “sometimes comedy is the only way through tragedy”. This statement was not him making light of the situation, but how even though it can feel impossible to smile during these times, it could be a great help mentally. The way this cold open was done was probably the best way that “SNL” could have handled the situation. Usually, the cold opens are funny sketches about the news and politics of the week with cast members doing goofy impressions of politicians or newscasters. However, that is clearly not the right approach to what is happening. People may not expect the laid-back and sarcastic Davidson to make an emotional statement, but he made one that was short and certainly sincere.

After the somber cold open, Davidson did his opening comedic monologue. It was a real whiplash of emotions. It’s a good thing that those opening credits are there in between. It’s also good in this scenario that there is a really big cast because it makes for long credits, but this cast is certainly stuffed. The monologue brought a new vibe, where Davidson was relaxed and having fun while the audience was now in high spirits and laughing a lot. His monologue included jokes about watching “Game of Thrones” with his sister, his old Staten Island dream of being a construction worker and the most unforgettable thing that a woman has ever told him on a date. It was a quick stand up set, but it was full of laughs. Often, hosts do the monologue where they have clearly never done any sort of stand-up and most, if not all, of their monologue is written by “SNL” writers. That was definitely not the case for Davidson. He looked very comfortable on stage and everything he said felt natural. His comedy is not everyone’s cup of tea, as many people have started to call him overrated. However, I think that he is actually a unique voice in terms of storytelling and I like his dry delivery. All of his jokes were pretty amusing and had fun punchlines. Some got a little dark, but that can sometimes make a stand-up set even more interesting.

After the monologue, and some commercials, the sketch comedy began. Since “live” is one-third of the words in “SNL,” it makes sense that most of the sketches are live sketches. The cast members are acting in front of an audience where anything can happen. For the most part, the live sketches were pretty fun. There were a lot of them so I’m going to highlight my favorites. The first one was pretty topical. It was a sketch about a football announcer who planned to talk about the big game, but their discussion slowly morphs into one about Taylor Swift. The sketch basically represented what social media society looks like, but the topic has been discussed so much it’s almost exhausting. Still, the sketch was able to be clever and charming at moments. I then liked the sketch about a goofy secretary who always tries to be on top of what people say but that can sometimes lead to a lot of confusion. This sketch starred Heidi Gardner and it really showed off her comedic timing as well as her physical comedy. It demonstrated why she has been a staple of the cast for many years now and I hope she does not leave any time soon. 

Later in the show, there was a sketch about a spaceship with high tech controls and situations, when Bowen Yang shows up a guy who used to work there. His character was very dorky and out of place and absolutely stole the sketch. Yang was able to be a true ham with this sketch and able to grab just enough attention. His characters are often lively and exciting, which worked well in this situation. I’d like to see the character in other sketches soon. I also enjoyed a sketch where Andrew Dismukes plays an eccentric man at a bar trying to convince a fellow customer to sell feet pics. This sketch made the most of Dismukes talent and went off the rails in the best ways. I have always been a fan of Dismukes and I can believe he can get big. This sketch was the last one of the night, which was a great spot for this weirdness. Overall, most of the live sketches were great. I also have to shout out Davidson’s role, as he really gave it his all in all of these sketches. He was never just a simple side character, his parts all had merit. Davidson was able to show in these sketches why he was a great choice for host.

Most of the show is live sketches, but there are also the pre-taped sketches. These are the sketches recorded ahead of time that are usually very polished. They are often funnier than the live sketches, usually because they are very tight and there is no chance of unpredictability or breaking. The first pre-taped sketch was a parody of “I’m Just Ken” from “Barbie,” which became “I’m Just Pete”. This comedic music video had Davdison poking fun at himself, his past mistakes and his reputation. The self-awareness combined with a song that everyone has been enjoying made for a delightful parody. The “SNL” music videos are usually very well-made, and this was no exception. The other pre-taped sketch of the week was a sketch by Please Don’t Destroy, a comedy trio who write for “SNL,” composed of Martin Herlihy, John Higgins and Ben Marshall. They make pre-taped sketches most weeks for “SNL” and their dry yet excitable humor has made their sketches popular on the show. This episode was about their beginnings in comedy, and how they got their start as children doing Def Comedy Jam. For those who don’t know Def Comedy Jam is usually a place where adult black comedians get their start, not white children. However, the sketch demonstrates that they could fit right in. They have child actors playing their child selves, and the children were able to be outrageous and have a lot of fun with their lines, which was the best part. The juxtaposition of the setting and the characters made for a great dynamic, and was a great example of what makes Please Don’t Destroy a lot of fun to watch.

Of course, “SNL” would not be complete without the always hilarious Weekend Update. For almost a decade, Colin Jost and Michael Che have sat behind the famous news desk and have made audiences howl with laughter from their clever jokes about topical issues. They were able to handle the current issues with grace, making jokes about people’s reactions instead of the actual jokes. They always know how to use theri best wits to the best of their abilities, which is probably because they have a writing team to help them out. The duo also made jokes about interesting and less serious news of the week, like a person’s book being banned in Alabama because their last name is Gay or the world’s second largest mosque being built in New Jersey. That’s the beauty of Weekend Update; I get to laugh at funny jokes and I learn about current events. The real funny part came in a mini joke swap when Che made the very white Jost read jokes that Che had written about the new Ebony Alerts that would find missing black children in California. Seeing Jost’s embarrassed and uncomfortable laughter through reading set-up racist jokes is always a highlight. The joke swaps really should happen more often. Then there are the Weekend Update guests, which usually show off the cast’s acting abilities and creativity. The first guest was Yang as Christopher Columbus, which was delightful. Using the dramatic accent to say he discovered everything, including electricity, jazz and boygenius. It was great commentary due to the recent holiday with a vivacious delivery that only Yang could provide. The next guest was Kenan Thompson as Deion Sanders. There was not that much extra that Thompson was doing for this impression, so it was not that interesting. I will say that the writing was good in terms of the jokes and Thomspon has sharp delivery. This, strangely, involved our only Sinead O’Connor mention of the time, and I will take any crumb of acknowledgement from this show. Overall, Weekend Update is reliable, so like most episodes, this one did not disappoint.

“SNL” is not just about comedy. People also like to tune in to see the musical guest, in this case Ice Spice, do their performances. The standard is two performances, one right before weekend update and one about 15 minutes before the end. Ice Spice performed her songs “In Ha Mood” and “Party Girl”. Honestly, I forgot what they sounded like about five minutes after each of the performances. There was just nothing that exciting about her music to me. The beat and lyrics were not catchy and nothing made the music stand out compared to the rest of the musicians out there. The same goes for her performance. She was doing some dancing, but the dancing was not that thrilling and I have seen a lot more creativity on the “SNL” stage. I’m sure she is a perfectly nice person, but her music is not for me. Honestly, the musical performances are usually my least favorite part of “SNL” because I often do not enjoy the artists and bands that perform. No disrespect to them, but I’d rather take the comedy any day.

Then, there are the special cameos. I’m not just talking about John Mulaney in Please Don’t Destroy’s pre-taped sketch. Of course, I have to shout-out his cameo, because he fit into the sketch very well. He played himself getting his start at Def Jam like Please Don’t Destroy, except he bombs. I think he and the group work well together, so I hope they have more collaborations soon. However, that was not the cameo people were talking about. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you have probably heard about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce supposedly being a couple. They have been spotted together a lot these past couple of weeks, and they can add a certain sketch show to places they have been seen. At the end of the Taylor Swift football sketch, Kelce made a quick cameo as “someone who actually wanted to talk football,” which was an amusing joke. Even though it was just for a few seconds, this cameo got people pumped. Then later on in the show, while Davidson introduced Ice Spice’s first performance as expected, Swift came on stage to introduce Ice Spice’s second performance. Seeing Swift and Kelce at “SNL” sure got fans buzzing, which is obviously what the show wanted. Personally, I think that we have been overexposed to this couple and it could easily be something quick. The obsession happening should be studied. However, I can’t blame “SNL” for feeding that, they are a business. “SNL” brings out stars and stars bring attention, which makes “SNL” happy.

There was a six month break between this episode and the end of the last season. That means that a lot of expectations had been built up for the comeback during the time off. In addition, there were people that were unsure of Davidson’s potential hosting abilities as they felt he does not have enough range and can’t always carry a scene. However, in my opinion, this episode was able to shatter expectations. The majority of sketches were hilarious, both topical ones and ones full of random silliness. Davidson also did an excellent job as host from beginning to end. He delivered a thoughtful cold open, an amusing monologue and was a terrific actor in all of his sketches. His abilities should have been able to prove all of the naysayers wrong. I also believe that since it was the first episode of the season, the cast members were full of energy and were able to do the most. As evidenced by my previous comments, I think Dismukes and Yang were the stars of the night, as they consistently brought funny and characters that absolutely grabbed attention. I also want to shout out new cast member Chloe Troast, who made her debut with this episode. She did not do much, but she seems to have a decent presence so far and I look forward to what she will do in the future. I would say that the main dud was the musical performances, but that is not really anything unique in terms of my “SNL” opinions. Overall, there were not that many problems and the show went smoothly. For a premiere, the episode was certainly a solid way to set the tone. I hope Davidson comes back to host soon as he did a great job. Next week’s episode has Bad Bunny being the host and music guest, which is certainly intriguing. You never know what you get from “SNL,” and that is why I try to tune in as much as I can.

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