The athlete host has a long history at Saturday Night Live, starting with Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton all the way back in the second season (Jan. 29,1977).
Sometimes, this experiment works really well (Charles Barkley, Peyton Manning), while other times, it is an utter disaster (Nancy Kerrigan, Michael Phelps). Ronda Rousey’s first time hosting, sadly, approaches the latter category.
The former UFC women’s bantamweight champion’s performance was very stiff with little or no emotion, which might have been expected from someone whose notable acting experience to date has been beating up people in The Expendables 3, Furious 7, and Entourage. SNL‘s writers either noticed they had their work cut out for them or, still recovering from the holiday break, re-hashed three sketches from the past two seasons (which seems to be becoming a trend), and gave Rousey only a few lines whenever she did appear.
It wasn’t the worst hosting performance by an athlete, but this might end up being the worst episode of the season.
Cold Open: Sarah Palin Endorsing Donald Trump
Donald Trump (along with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin) was the focus of the cold open for the third straight episode. For the third straight time, Darrell Hammond appeared as the billionaire, not Taran Killam. This may have to do with the ever-changing Republican party landscape, particularly the emergence of Ted Cruz, who is played by Killam, as a contender with Trump, and the need to have both of these front-running candidates appearing together. But it may also mean SNL wasn’t happy with Killam’s portrayal.
Best Sketch: Screen Guild Awards
For the second straight year, the Academy Awards failed to nominate a single person of color in any of the four acting categories, leading to calls to boycott the Oscars and a few white actors making some very stupid remarks about the situation. SNL decided to poke some fun at the Oscars with its nominees for Best Actor, including portrayals of Dave, Little Q, White Guy with Camera, and Unseen Voice on Phone.
Second Best Sketch: Football Party
Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney usually team up in their Good Neighbor digital shorts, but in this live sketch, they portray two dim-witted co-workers invited to a party by a fellow co-worker (Rousey). Be on the lookout for a yawn from Rousey about halfway through this sketch. It was the 10-to-1 sketch, so it was the end of a long day for her.
Weekend Update Moment: Leslie Jones and Leonardo DiCaprio
Leslie Jones returns to the Update desk to discuss the No. 1 film at the box office, The Revenant. After seeing the film, Jones is convinced that she is the woman for Leonardo DiCaprio in a bit that gets some extra life from the ongoing sexual advances she makes toward Colin Jost during her appearances.
Current Trend on SNL: Recurring Premises
SNL seems to be scrapping recurring characters (outside of Weekend Update) in lieu of recurring premises. This week, we saw the return of a Bachelor parody; “Bland Man,” a high schooler (Pete Davidson) once again giving testimony about a relationship with his teachers (Cecily Strong and Rousey), and another “City Council” sketch, which I will admit is enjoyable, due to the performances of Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, and Kate McKinnon.
Rousey did get to throw some punches at the expense of Vanessa Bayer’s bully in “Love Struck” and smacked Justin Bieber (McKinnon) during the monologue.
Leslie Jones tweeted out some pictures from a cut for time sketch that appears to be inspired by Rocky, with Jones as “Donna King”:
This was a sketch that didn't make it on but it was great!! pic.twitter.com/mveE8nxh0t
— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) January 24, 2016
Aidy Bryant released a trailer for her Vimeo original short, Darby Forever, that will available to download on Feb. 18. The short stars Bryant, along with Natasha Lyonne and Retta.
Saturday Night Live returns on Feb. 6 with host Larry David and musical guest The 1975.