Adam Driver is a flawless Saturday Night Live host.
He is goofy. He is menacing. He is an absolute natural when it comes to being on the stage with the SNL cast. (Try to find one moment where he looks like he’s reading the cue cards.)
To borrow from The Simpsons, whenever Adam Driver is not on the screen during an episode of SNL, everyone should be asking, “where’s Adam Driver?”
This was Driver’s fourth time hosting SNL, returning to the show for the first time since January 2020. (Ah, January 2020. We were so young and naive back then.) Driver didn’t miss a beat after his three-year absence, delivering an episode fueled by the kind of creative writing that last week’s Emma Stone episode was missing.
Hopefully we don’t have to wait another three years for Driver to host again and join the Five-Timers Club.
(And for all you new Popculturology readers who discovered this newsletter through Go Long, Colin Jost even tackled Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott’s inspirational 9/11 speech during Weekend Update.)
I didn’t have this hearing on my bingo card of what SNL would feature as it’s cold open this week. The sketch got a bunch of digs in against the university presidents played by Chloe Fineman, Heidi Gardner and Ego Nwodim, but the highlight was Chloe Troast as Rep. Elise Stefanik.
- Stefanik’s debut: I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve seen Stefanik in SNL form, and freshman castmember Troast fully delivered with her portrayal. The line “I’m going to start screaming questions at these women like I’m Billy Eichner” nailed it. Troast has quickly become one of the castmembers I most look forward to seeing in a sketch.
- “Willing to say yes to anything”: Kenan Thompson played the president of the University of Phoenix, repeatedly noting that a college that exists on the Internet probably isn’t the best place to fight antisemitism.
- “Is Taylor Swift now dating Marco Rubio?” A fun throwaway line during the C-SPAN intro for this sketch.
We’ve now gotten a piano-based sketch in two episodes in a row. Unlike Bowen Yang’s George Santos last week, Adam Driver was actually playing the piano during his monologue this week. (And he wanted to make sure we all knew that with a few close-ups of his hands.)
During his monologue, Driver brought the audience in on his “very deep and personal relationship with Santa” through a song to Santa. Once again, the intensity that Driver brings to his acting roles works so well in a sketch like this. Sure, he’s singing a song to Santa, but you know there’s going to be something darker about it.
- “One of those giant metal Tesla trucks”: The Cybertruck is the perfect gift to go with a “teeny, tiny micropenis.”
- Christmastime at Studio 8H: I like that SNL doesn’t just restrict Christmas to the final episode before the holiday. Last year we got Christmas-y episodes from the duo of Steve Martin and Martin Short and then Austin Butler.
SKETCHES OF THE WEEK
An absolute embarrassment of riches to choose from this week. It feels like cheating, but I’m going to highlight three sketches from Driver’s episode …
Here’s where Adam Driver’s ability to play naive and goofy pays off. Unlike Alec Baldwin pitching Schweddy Balls, Driver’s Dean Delaney never once hints at any recognition that his Deluxe Chocolate Santa looks like, well, you know.
While Driver plays the straight man in this sketch, Heidi Gardner and Mikey Day get to play the ShopTV hosts who are doing their best to get through the segment without becoming memes. After kind of disappearing last week, Day had a few big sketches this week, with this being one of them.
- “I’m stuffed from lunch … and I’m a mother”: Both fair excuses for when Gardner’s character couldn’t eat the Deluxe Chocolate Santa on camera.
- The patriotic nativity set: James Austin Johnson didn’t have a ton to do this episode, he did appear as Tim Tucker Neeb (a fantastic SNL name), a guy selling Americanized versions of the Christmas nativity.
Baby monster! This sketch has no business being as great as it was. An adult playing a baby isn’t original — but when that adult is Adam Driver and he pours his Juilliard skills into playing that baby, it’s definitely a sketch of the week.
Driver going through a range of emotions as 11-month-old Eddie on his first plane trip pulled together a great SNL performance with some amazing writing.
- Remember Weinerville? The “human head/baby body and arms” gimmick has obviously been around for a long time. I had to google the name of the show I remember it from as a kid, which turns out to have been Nickelodeon’s Weinerville. (Happy Endings also pulled this bit off with its own spin during a Halloween episode.)
This sketch is fueled by pure Adam Driver menace. Andrew Dismukes does an equally impressive job throwing the simmering rage of a man who says “beep beep” to navigate through the world, but for me, Driver won this face off the moment he asked, “So you wanna die tonight?”
- I mustache you a question: Why is putting a mustache on Adam Driver so funny?
I couldn’t include every sketch from this episode among my picks for best of the week, but “We’re Trying” could’ve easily made the cut. Driver and Yang play a couple who are trying to get pregnant (“just gonna try,” they insist), but they seem to not understand the science behind getting pregnant …
- Speaking of that science … Driver and Yang’s couple have some interesting theories about how getting pregnant and giving birth work, with Driver noting that he “Had a dream where my son came out of my ass” and Yang revealing that they’ve “tried three out of seven holes.” (The pits are apparently options, in case you were wondering.)
- Pregnancy cravings: Forget pickles and/or ice cream. Feed Yang’s character ham and cocaine.
I was wondering where this sketch was going to go, and while I had a hunch Driver’s Keith would have a dark secret or two, I didn’t guess that this would be an ad to remind people to use Facebook to see which of their old friends had gone crazy. (Honestly could’ve done without this bit, but SNL has to find ways to button up these sketches.)
- Big Filthy: Who is Devon Walker’s character and why does he want to know if Mikey Day’s character is allergic to latex?
Weekend Update: Marcello Hernandez on Depression in Men
As someone who has long been a proponent of letting the actual SNL cast take the spotlight (over, you know, celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Jim Carrey), I love seeing sketches like this, ones that remind you SNL quietly has the strongest cast its had in years. It helps that Lorne Michaels brought the entire cast back from last year, with Chloe Troast as the one new addition.
- “A proud Latina woman”: Marcello Hernandez, like fellow SNL sophomore Michael Longfellow, continues to nail his Weekend Update appearances.
Weekend Update: Chloe Fineman’s Save the Last Dance Holiday Gift
Full confession: I’ve never seen Save the Last Dance. I still appreciated this sketch, though, thanks to Chloe Fineman’s absolute commitment to the dance. Is it the actual dance from Save the Last Dance? I dunno. Do I believe that it is because she never once broke from the “street ballet” performance? Yup.
- Hey, it’s Julia Stiles: This Update sketch wrapped up with Julia Stiles herself appearing alongside Fineman. How did this happen? What inspired this sketch into existence? How did the pitch to Stiles go?
People just trying to live their lives getting pranked for TikTok videos is one of the worst trends in modern life. (They even have a chance of ending in violence.) Maybe just leave people alone instead of making them the butt of your jokes?
- “I don’t deserve being dunked on by children at Walmart”: No one does.
Tiny Ass Bag
Everything about this sketch screams “we’re attempting to land a new recurring sketch.” But not in a bad way. “Tiny Ass Bag” made me laugh thanks to Hernandez and Nwodim’s characters — and how they juxtaposed against Driver’s.
- Rodrigo cameos: Musical guest Olivia Rodrigo made her solo in-sketch cameo of the episode here. (Unrelated, but I saw an Instagram comment that suggested SNL should’ve had a sketch about Rodrigo being at the DMV and getting her driver’s license. Comedy is hard. Not to mention SNL already did an iconic “Driver’s License” sketch when Regé-Jean Page hosted.)
CUT FOR TIME
SNL also posted two cut-for-time sketches online on Sunday.
The build up in this sketch is something else. As Adam Driver’s defendant character walks the jury through his childhood memories of playing football with his father, the question of where this sketch is going looms larger and larger.
The reveal? Driver’s character isn’t on trial for misusing the phrase “Thursday night football.” He’s on trial because he staged his own Puppy Bowl — an event where he “took a bunch of French bulldogs to a high school football field and then kicked them through the field goal posts like little footballs.”
I would say that this should’ve aired during the episode, but I don’t know which sketch I would’ve cut in its place.
- Where are the cue cards? Seriously, did Driver memorize his lines?
Should’ve made Adam Driver’s episode a supersized episode to fit all of these sketches in.
- Poor Christine: Sorry, Chris-TINE.
GUEST STAR WATCH
- Julia Stiles (“Chloe Fineman’s Save the Last Dance Holiday Gift”)
WHO’S HOSTING NEXT?
Kate McKinnon hosts SNL on Dec. 16 with Billie Eilish as the musical guest.