‘Saturday Night Live’ Feasts on the Bounty of the State of the Union


It was inevitable that “Saturday Night Live” would sample heavily from the buffet of satirical potential offered by Thursday’s State of the Union. Perhaps the only question going into this weekend’s broadcast, hosted by Josh Brolin and featuring the musical guest Ariana Grande, was who would play Senator Katie Britt of Alabama, who delivered the much-discussed Republican response to President Biden’s speech.

As it turned out, “S.N.L.” did not draw from its own cast for this role, but it didn’t look far to find someone: Britt was played by Scarlett Johansson, the two-time Academy Award-nominated actress, six-time “S.N.L.” host and — yes — wife of Colin Jost, the Weekend Update co-anchor.

Following a brief introduction from Ego Nwodim as CNN’s Abby Phillip, the show began with Mikey Day, now the resident Biden impersonator at “S.N.L.,” taking his place in front of Punkie Johnson (as Vice President Harris) and Michael Longfellow (as Speaker Mike Johnson).

“Folks,” Day said, “tonight I’m going to cover a lot. There’s going to be a lot of applause. So, Kamala, I hope you didn’t skip leg day, girl. You’re going to be up and down all night.” (Naturally, Johnson stood up and applauded; Longfellow did not.)

Day continued: “Tonight, I’m also going to be talking about my predecessor,” he said. “Mainly because every time I say predecessor, Mike Johnson shakes his head, like he just accidentally caught 30 seconds of the show ‘Euphoria.’ Look at that weirdo.”

After being booed by Heidi Gardner (who was playing Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene), Day threw to the Republican response: “I think she’s going to help me more than anything else I could say here,” he said. “Enjoy.”

Johansson sat in a replica of the kitchen where Britt gave her now-notorious speech, mimicking the senator’s staccato delivery and odd turns of phrase.

“Tonight,” Johansson said, “I’ll be auditioning for the part of scary mom. And I’ll be performing an original monologue called ‘This country is hell.’”

Johansson added, “Like any mom, I’m going to do a pivot out of nowhere into a shockingly violent story about sex trafficking. And rest assured, every detail about it is real. Except the year, where it took place and who was president when it happened.”

As her rebuttal proceeded, Johansson slipped into a QVC sales pitch and an allusion to the hypnosis scene in “Get Out.” She noted that “kitchens are where families have the hard conversations.”

“Like the one we’ll have tomorrow about how Mommy freaked out the entire country,” she said.

As a host, Brolin seemed game for just about anything “S.N.L.” threw at him, especially if it involved stripping down to his underwear. But he shone just as brightly (while keeping his clothes on) in a segment where he sings a slow jam with Andrew Dismukes, who plays an airplane passenger trying to watch a movie on Brolin’s screen. The guys look dashing in their Michael Bolton-style wigs, Chloe Troast comes in with a vocal flourish at the end, and it’s probably the most that anyone has talked about the Brad Pitt sci-fi thriller “Ad Astra” since it was released.

Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on the State of the Union.

Jost began:

Well, on Thursday, Sleepy Joe finally woke the hell up. President Biden delivered the State of the Union and he honestly kind of crushed it. I mean, even Trump’s house elf, Lindsey Graham, was laughing and enjoying it. Normally he’s only that happy when he’s secretly watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Biden’s speech was great. But you could also tell the bar was very low. The New York Post’s headline was just, “He’s Alive.” That’s it. That’s like a headline you see about Bigfoot. Biden also got a big response while addressing the issue of abortion when he said, “We’re about to find out how much political power women have.” Then he turned to Kamala and said, “Except you.” Former president and current reverse-mortgage applicant Donald Trump criticized Biden’s speech, saying, “The words are not flowing smoothly out of his mouth.” Well, we can’t all speak with the same effortless grace as Donald J. Trump. [Clip of Trump slurring his words at a rally.] It sounds like someone just inserted a colonoscopy camera.

Che continued:

Some Democrats criticized President Biden for talking about migrants by using the term “illegals.” But come on, he’s 81 years old, let him slide. He means well. Like when my mom put up that sign to “Stop Oriental hate.”

We’ve still got a few months to go before Grande and Bowen Yang share the screen together in the coming film version of “Wicked.” Presumably, it will have slightly higher production values than this very silly parody of Baz Luhrmann’s movie musical “Moulin Rouge!” in which Grande and Yang take the parts played by Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor (the film’s doomed lovers, Satine and Christian). Though the sketch has a tenuous tie-in with this weekend’s Oscars, it’s mostly an excuse for the two actors to sing in a bombastic, Luhrmann-esque style as they perform snippets of songs that include TLC’s “Creep,” Styx’s “Come Sail Away” and — repeatedly — “Happy Birthday to You.”



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