Saturday Night Live had its first-ever Asian American woman host, Lucy Liu, twenty-five long years after its initial premiere in 1975. After another (ridiculously lengthy) stretch of time, SNL finally welcomed the second: Awkwafina. Her movie roles this year, as the spunky best friend Goh Peik Lin in the record-breaking film Crazy Rich Asians and as Ocean’s 8’s sly pickpocket Constance, have propelled her into the spotlight.
Awkwafina is easy to love. She’s memorable for naming herself after a water company, being down-to-earth, having a keen sense of dry humor, and owning a rap single boldly titled “My Vag.”
I was eager to watch her episode because, as an Asian American woman, I admire her and love to see people who look like me on the screen. I’m not ashamed to admit that I did bawl my eyes out during Crazy Rich Asians from seeing such a huge, all-Asian cast in a Hollywood film. With the movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018) on a streaming service as well, which features a half-Korean household, I hope that the increase in representation for Asians in mainstream media is only beginning.
SNL’s cold open mimicked the reactions of GOP senators to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation in a locker room setting. The mock CNN interview that Heidi Gardner conducted with several of the senators showed them celebrating and even dancing in the background. The video has garnered millions of views on Youtube, and the outrage that the situation has generated was transformed into laughter in the ridiculousness of the sketch. The costumes and makeup were, as always, crafted extremely well. The sketch features the classic SNL spin on the oftentimes grim news, using its arsenal of comedians with impressions of political figures, like the comic genius Kate McKinnon as Lindsey Graham. The sketch was entertaining, but, to me, wasn’t side-splittingly hilarious, probably because it is based on real-life news.
Awkwafina’s opening monologue was pleasant but short—it left me wanting more. I enjoyed the appreciation she expressed for her grandma, who has actually starred in several of the rapper’s music videos, and the endearing anecdote about Awkwafina’s previous encounter with SNL. Her shout-out to Lucy Liu was equally pleasing to hear; she recognized that Liu’s appearance, and her subsequent one, was a momentous occasion.
During the “Late Night Battle,” I kept thinking that there would be an element that would elevate the sketch, but, unfortunately, there wasn’t. The sketch was mildly entertaining as two teams danced, and that was mostly it. Kate McKinnon did shine (as always) with the few lines she had, and Awkwafina’s dancing, paired with a straight face, was amusing. Travis Scott made a surprise appearance, during which he did an unexpectedly great job dancing and acting. His performance was in stark contrast with his usual low-key personality.
The “Emergency Alert” commercial was humorous—I had totally forgotten about that random presidential alert notification I received last week. The other commercial, “Pumpkin Patch”, was so absurd, you had to laugh. Somehow, Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney use their bizarre sense of humor to make sleeping with pumpkins passably funny. The sketch was nothing short of weird; SNL was just wishing its viewers a “Happy Halloween” in the most SNL way possible.
“So You’re Willing to Date a Magician,” “Ted Cruz Rally,” and “Baby Shower” were all decent sketches. Like the dance battle, they weren’t anything extraordinary, but they did provide a few opportunities to chuckle. Awkwafina performed well as the strangely aggressive but protective friend to Cecily Strong’s humorously self-absorbed character in “Baby Shower.” In “Cleopatra,” the wordplay was quite clever. Kenan Thompson had a great moment when he dropped a vase to obey Cecily’s queenly command to “delete that!”
Despite the relatively humdrum sketches, “Weekend Update” did not disappoint. Colin Jost and Michael Che have such skill in riffing off of news stories, which is probably why they also serve as the show’s head writers. Pete Davidson had a short, comical appearance commenting on the hidden events of last week’s show: Kanye West’s pro-Trump rant. Davidson’s goofy self-deprecation, combined with his sometimes quite truthful and serious observations regarding his mental health, are a huge part of his charm.
Awkwafina did an admirable job as the host of the show, but, for me, the episode as a whole was not extremely memorable. Nothing about this particular episode induced a strong fit of laughter like previous sketches have. The highlight of the show was simply having Awkwafina as its host. This weekend’s episode, I hope, will be a good one; Seth Meyer returns to SNL!
Catch Saturday Night Live every Saturday on NBC at 11:30 pm ET.
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons