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Donald Glover is, not surprisingly, great at Saturday Night Live

Donald Glover is, not surprisingly, great at Saturday Night Live

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Donald Glover is, not surprisingly, great at Saturday Night Live

“It’s so great to be back here, especially now that I’m rich.”

“I’m not an actor, I’m an [everything, including Star Wars] star!”

Unsurprisingly, Donald Glover is really good on Saturday Night Live. I wasn’t aware—as Glover revealed in his monologue—that the Atlanta/Solo: A Star Wars Story/music (as Childish Gambino)/everything else star tried out for SNL, twice. (And was rejected twice—smooth move, Lorne.) Also in the monologue, Glover, goofing on his polymath status, asks SNL long(est)-timer Kenan Thompson about his audition, to which Kenan replies, “Do you know how long ago that was?” As great and indispensable as Kenan’s become on the show, one wonders how a Donald Glover on Saturday Night Live career would have gone. On the evidence of both Glover’s career track and tonight’s good-but-not-great Saturday Night Live, it’s easy to see either Glover becoming the next Eddie Murphy and taking over the show (before splitting for greener pastures), or splitting for greener pastures a lot sooner after getting frustrated by the show’s historical blindspot when it comes to talented black actors.

Crooning “I really can do anything,” as he cockily screws up all over the backstage area, Glover does the requisite self-deprecating thing just fine in the monologue. (That fall out of camera off of Kyle Mooney’s skateboard is some stellar physical comedy.) But Glover really can do anything. Not to bring in his former bosses to back up what’s readily apparent, but Tina Fey hired him to write for one of the best sitcoms ever when he was still living in the NYU dorms, while Dan Harmon spent the first few seasons’ worth of Communitycommentaries extolling the found gold that was Glover on that other superlative sitcom while accurately bemoaning the fact that it was inevitable Glover would fly the coop once his talent kicked down door after door. Pulling the rare and coveted double-duty as host and musical guest here, Glover wasn’t out to prove he belonged on a show that twice said he didn’t. And he neither came off as feeling himself above the gig nor awed by it. Donald Glover, simply, was Donald Glover, imbuing his characters with hilariously specific inner life and holding the screen by virtue of being, well, Donald Glover. He was outstanding.

And the sketches weren’t bad. They could have been tighter—the Barbie and Lando sketches had endings that sort of dribbled out after some solid laughs. And even his winning monologue needed some more snap to the writing and the presentation. Still, Glover is, for all his many talents, an innately funny performer. He would have been a star on Saturday Night Live, but it’s probably for the best that he didn’t get pulled into the weekly task of elevating good-but-not-great material.

Weekend Update update

Jost and Che got roasted on their own showcase tonight, as Pete Davidson—under the guise of doing a “Spring in New York” piece—goofed on the Updateduo about their recently announced Emmy-hosting gig. Calling Jost and Che “the less entertaining version of Riggs and Murtaugh,” and complaining that awards shows are now handed over to “just cute friends,” Davidson did his kid brother, “kidding on the square” routine perfectly, mixing professional jealously in with a handful of the critiques habitually hurled at Jost and Che’s rise from awkward unwatchability to their hard-won, chummy chemistry.

But Jost and Che do have chemistry now (and it did take a long time to get here), with the Update anchors and co-head writers (along with Kent Sublette and Bryan Tucker) so easy in their odd couple riffing that it’s easy to forget how painful their mismatched sensibilities once were. Here, Che got his usual, thoroughly earned gasp-groans, joking that, if there weren’t two FBI approaches to investigating white and black powerful people, Martin Luther King would have died of old age on top of his mistress. He got another when referring to Donald Trump accuser and tonight’s most surprising guest star, Stormy Daniels. (More on that in a bit.) His joke about her not coming on Update because her price goes down if “she’s seen on camera with a black guy” isn’t a knock on the adult film actress so much as on the racism of the adult film industry and its consumers, but, with Daniels in the house, it got another well-deserved intake of breath from the audience.

Jost, too, has honed his delivery, snapping off his uniformly cutting Trump jokes with a confident hand. The political situation is so off-the-charts ludicrous and self-parodying that finding comic angles on it is nearly futile. Still, Jost came at the Trump-ian shitshow with apt comparisons (leaking Robert Mueller’s supposed interview questions as crowdsourcing legal strategy like Lay’s crowdsources its new flavors), and with appeals for sanity in the form of to-camera broadsides about the insanity. Referring to newest and least-competently duplicitous Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Jost called Trump’s ill-concealed payouts to Daniels “the loudest hush money in history.”

 

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