Saturday Night Live opens with a message from the National Football League. Universally despised commissioner Roger Goodell (Colin Jost) addresses the scandal that’s enveloped the league following the leak of Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach Jon Gruden’s emails, which contained numerous racist, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic comments. Goodell is horrified and offended by the content of the emails, not least of all because he factors heavily in many of them, with Gruden referring to him as “the F-word, the P-word, the C-word, the R-word, the F’ing-R-word, and the F’ing-R-word-P-word. And once, weirdly, I was called a DILF.”
He then hands the mic over to a series of speakers, including Gruden himself (James Austin Johnson), who plays innocent (“I hope you won’t judge me on one email I sent ten years ago … or the 20 emails I sent last Tuesday”); Raiders owner Mark Davis (Alex Moffat), aka, “the botched circumcision”; new chairman of women’s relations for the NFL, a cheerleader from the Washington football team ([Heidi Gardner], “I, just like my team, don’t have a name”); a new, mascot, Giuseppe, the Stinky Italian (Mikey Day); Colin Kaepernick (Chris Redd), who sarcastically wonders if anyone had recently raised warnings about racism in the NFL; and, finally, the Raiders’ new head coach, LaVar Burton, who sings everyone off with a new, football-themed rendition of the Reading Rainbow theme.
Another week, another SNL cold open built around a seemingly endless stream of brief, walk-on impersonations, most of which leave us wanting. Still, there’s some decent stuff to be found here – Johnson does a good (if not particularly memorable) impression of Gruden, Day is funny as a conscience-stricken stereotype, and the show makes good use of Jost’s inherent smarminess by casting him as Goodell.
Tonight’s host is Oscar winning actor and new James Bond villain Rami Malek. Speaking of Bond: the last episode of Saturday Night Live before the Covid-19 pandemic went into full swing saw host Daniel Craig promoting his latest (and last) entry in the 007 franchise, No Time to Die. Obviously, that film would be shelved for 19 months, during which time SNL would go on hiatus, before transition to remote and limited capacity tapings for a long while. With the film now finally out in theaters and the show pretty much back to normal, this episode marks something of a milestone for both institutions. The only question now is: can Malek rise to meet the occasion?
He admits right off the bat that he’s not too practiced at comedy, his “resting villain face” making him gravitate towards playing bad guys in serious dramas (although a quick perusal at the actor’s filmography puts the lie to this claim). He proves his point by hurrying through an annoyingly mannered stand-up routine about how villains are always misunderstood: “Jaws is hungry; Dracula is thirsty, Frankenstein is horny … Darth Vader is just trying to reconnect with his son … Freddy Krueger is just encouraging kids to dream.”
Malek mostly sticks to the background in his first sketch, playing one of a group of awkward middle schoolers dressed as…