Aubrey Plaza brings her ‘I’m a freak’ vibe to a disjointed episode

Bowen Yang’s George Santos steals the show, we visit ‘The Black Lotus,’ and there’s a mini ‘Parks and Rec’ reunion.

Aubrey Plaza brings her ‘I’m a freak’ vibe to a disjointed episode
Kenan Thompson, Aubrey Plaza and Chloe Fineman during this week’s episode of Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Aubrey Plaza has often brought up how she was once an NBC page at Saturday Night Live and how it was a dream to someday host the show. Plaza made good on that dream this weekend, hosting SNL’s first episode of 2023.

I wish I could say that this one of SNL’s stronger episodes this season, but it was kind of sloppy. Sketches like “Miss Universe” didn’t seem in sync, with characters saying lines off camera. None of this was Plaza’s fault, though. She jumped into her hosting gig with total enthusiasm, declaring “I’m a freak” during her monologue and bringing that vibe to sketches like “Taboo.”

Cold Open

NFL on Fox

SNL wasted no time in turning this week’s episode into the George Santos Show. With Bowen Yang playing the congressman who can’t stop lying, SNL merged sports and politics for the cold open.

“I’ve written the Fox football anthem, which I’m allowed to do because my mother died twice on 9/11,” Yang’s Santos declares at the end of the sketch.

I continue to love Molly Kearney. They have an energy that no one else on the cast currently brings to the show. (It’s very Chris Farley-esque.) Kearney as Terry Bradshaw was a fun portrayal.

I’m worried that they installed ChatGPT in Cleatus …

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The Monologue

Plaza’s monologue revealed SNL’s first guest star of the night: Amy Poehler. The former SNL castmember returned for a cameo as Plaza donned her old page jacket and gave us a tour of SNL. (There are few things SNL loves more than doing a tour during a monologue.)

I honestly wasn’t sure if the Joe Biden video was real or a deepfake at first, but it appeared to be confirmed as real during Weekend Update later in the show.

Sketch of the Week

Colin Jost Interviews Rep. George Santos

A rare double dip from SNL when it comes to a portrayal. Yang returned as Santos during Weekend Update, allowing Colin Jost to dig into the lies Santos has been telling.

Did you know that his great grand uncle was Rasputin? Or that his mother actually died on 7/11?

“I’m a team player and the sport is lies” might be one of the most poetic things SNL has ever written.

The Rest

Miss Universe

So I saw this France video going around earlier in the week, but I don’t think I had the sound on when I watched it. I guess that was a key part of what people were laughing at.

Plaza plays Miss France in this sketch. She’s a woman of few words, unless those words are loud or “don’t take the vaccine!”

“Miss Universe” notched three more celebrity cameos for this episode, with the Property Brothers (the show doesn’t bother to identify which one is which, so neither will I) and Tony Hawk playing themselves as Miss Universe judges.

As I mentioned above, this one was kind of sloppy. I’m not sure if the women yelling off camera was supposed to be part of the joke or if the cameras were out of sync.

The Black Lotus

SNL loves using Chloe Fineman as Jennifer Coolidge. The show gave us a Christmas-themed Fineman/Coolidge sketch at the end of 2022, and that impression was back for “The Black Lotus.”

Once again, fantastic work by the SNL sets, props and costumes departments, nailing the look and feel of The White Lotus for this sketch.


This might have been the most Aubrey Plaza-y of all the sketches during her episode. The premise is simple: A few couples playing Taboo. The couple played by Plaza and Mikey Day, though, are freaks.

I feel sorry for this couple’s daughter. And their dog.

Morning Announcements

Hmmm, or maybe this was the most Aubrey Plaza-y of the night’s sketches? Plaza as Sister Cecilia, a nun who died for two minutes and is now questioning everything — “When I was dead, I didn’t see Heaven” — seems right up her alley.

This sketch also seemed a bit off. The timing of Sarah Sherman’s character never appeared fully correct.

M3GAN 2.0

Great production value again in this episode, with SNL’s costume and makeup teams nailing the look of the M3GAN dolls. Fineman and Plaza easily slipped into the roles of, um, murder dolls. Hopefully we’ll get another behind-the-scenes video on this one.

M3GAN actress Allison Williams pops up in the end of this one too.

April Ludgate and Leslie Knope on Working for the Government

With Poehler popping in during the monologue, it’s no surprise that SNL paired her and Plaza up at some point as Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope and April Ludgate.

Plaza easily transformed back into her Parks and Rec character, which I’d argue is the persona that has come to define how people picture her in real life.

I need to dig into the Parks and Rec wiki to check the dates, but is it canon that Leslie would still be working for the Parks Service in 2023?


I haven’t seen Avatar: The Way of Water yet, so I’m not aware of how closely this sketch mirrors any part of that movie’s plot. Not the spies wearing gym shorts and trying to play basketball part, that is, but the Neytiri part. Does Zoe Saldaña spent the entire movie crying and yelling? Is Sam Worthington’s Jake Sulley this oblivious to what’s happening around him?

HIV Commercial

“What if my guy got HIV from basketball like Magic Johnson?” sold this sketch.

It’s also absolutely believable that Day would get fired for his crappy dancing.

Film Noir

SNL squeezed this final sketch in before goodbyes, allowing Plaza to draw on her Janet Snakehole accent for a bit about a detective looking into a woman whose older husbands keep dying.

James Austin Johnson is also perfect for this kind of sketch, bringing a noir vibrato to his delivery.

Sharon Stone capped off the night’s slew of cameos, appearing in this sketch after being a part of one of Sam Smith’s performances. Promoting Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania?

  • Tony Hawk (“Miss Universe”)
  • Amy Poehler (“Cold Open,” “April Ludgate and Leslie Knope on Working for the Government”
  • Drew Scott (“Miss Universe”)
  • Jonathan Scott (“Miss Universe”)
  • Sharon Stone (“Film Noir”)
  • Allison Williams (“M3GAN 2.0”)

Who's Next?

Michael B. Jordan hosts SNL on Jan. 28 with Lil Baby the musical guest.

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