Jason Momoa loves life and loves hosting ‘SNL’

While the show is still fumbling its Joe Biden portrayal, the ‘Aquaman’ star returns to steal wives and daydream about the Roman Empire.

Jason Momoa loves life and loves hosting ‘SNL’
Jason Momoa during Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Jason Momoa is now two-for-two when it comes to hosting Saturday Night Live. The Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom star returned to Studio 8H for the first time since December 2018 and delivered a great episode.

We’re now five episodes into the 49th season of SNL, and the show continues to (mostly) be operating at the higher gear it kicked into during the latter half of last season.

The Bad Bunny episode was a bit of a dip in quality, and Lorne Michaels started dabbling in celebrity cameos for a few episodes in a row (Mick Jagger and Fred Armisen in Bad Bunny’s episode and the baffling Alec Baldwin cameo last week), but there wasn’t a celebrity cameo in sight for Momoa’s episode.

Based on how this episode began, though, I was worried that we were in for a rough night. Mikey Day is one of the biggest reasons for SNL’s current run of success, both in front of and behind the camera, but his take on Joe Biden is awful. It extends beyond just his performance, as the show clearly has no idea how to write Biden. I feel like we’ve reverted back to the disastrous portrayal we got from Jim Carrey in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election.

SNL takes a break for Thanksgiving next weekend, but will return in December with Emma Stone hosting for the fifth time — hopefully keeping the show’s hot streak alive.

Programming note

Popculturology will be off next Friday for Thanksgiving. The Box Office Report will publish as normal this Monday. I hope you all have a great holiday this week.


OK, so the cold open … I don’t get what SNL is doing with Joe Biden. As I said earlier (and a few weeks ago when we first saw Mikey Day as the current president), this portrayal is reminiscent of what Jim Carrey was doing. It’s like the people writing for these sketches have never seen Biden.

  • “President Roman Numeral Eleven”: This line, for example, makes no sense for Biden — especially when Donald Trump is the guy who once called a book of New Testament “Two Corinthians.”
  • “I have a question: You’re old”: Part of me feels like the obsession with Biden’s age is supposed to be the joke here, but it never landed that way.

Beyond all of that, this is not the political cold open I expect in a week where we had members of Congress threatening to fight Teamster presidents and elbowing each other in the kidneys.

  • Update got it: It wasn’t until Weekend Update when this week’s SNL touched on what was going on at the Capitol, with Colin Jost remarking, “The two things I learned growing up in New York were never mess with the Teamsters and don’t drink that Snapple you found on the subway.”

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A few weeks ago, Nate Bargatze gave us one of the longest monologues in SNL history. This week, Jason Momoa gave us on the show’s quickest monologues. Seriously, Momoa’s opening bit didn’t even hit the three-minute mark.

  • “I love playing Aquaman”: I dunno, do you? Momoa barely mentioned the fact that he has a massive superhero tentpole movie coming out, instead focusing on his Hawaiian heritage and love of the ocean (and life).
  • (Big) guy in a little coat: What was up with the tiny coat Momoa wore for the monologue? Did he borrow it from Luke Skywalker with plans on accepting a medal from Princess Leia?


Going with two sketches from Momoa’s episode …

Cast Away

I’m not sure if this is a compliment to Andrew Dismukes, but I mean it as one: No one on SNL plays the boyfriend/husband who gets sucked into some kind of manhood contest better than him. Especially when the costume department slaps a mustache on him.

  • “Don’t say ew”: Poor guy. Loses a push-up contest for his wife and his house.
  • Supersized: I had to google how tall Momoa was, since he towers over the guys on SNL’s cast. He’s 6-six-foot-four-inches, in case you were wondering.


Rome Song

The whole “ask your boyfriend/husband how often he thinks about the Roman Empire” thing is a few weeks old at this point, but I’ll allow the delay because this pretaped sketch was great. Ego Nwodim was the MVP of the sketch, repeatedly snapping Momoa’s character out of his Roman Empire daydreaming.

  • “A goddam tyrannosaur”: I thought about dinosaurs all the time as a kid. When my sister broke her arm, my biggest concern was that our trip to hospital meant that I was going to miss the one day a year when they brought out the basket of 1980s dinosaur toys. (I don’t know why the dinosaur basket came out only once a year. We also said the pledge to a tiny American flag clipped to the side of a picture of White Jesus.)
  • What the Troast: After her breakout “Little Orphan Cassidy” sketch last week, I thought we’d see more of Chloe Troast going forward. “Rome Song” was her biggest role of the night.
  • For the record: I rarely, if ever, think about the Roman Empire.


Old-Timey Movies

A major part of what made Jason Momoa’s episode fun is his size (remember, he’s six-foot-four-inches tall) with a willingness to be silly (remember, he loves life). Watching Momoa and Day goof around in front of an early 1900s camera is the entirety of this sketch, but it works.


Nightclub Line

Momoa also has great timing, effortlessly building up to the punchlines in this sketch. He may keep calling club goers played by Sarah Sherman and Michael Longfellow ugly, but the buildup to that moment is perfectly timed.

  • “It’s not easy to be Spider-Man”: Maybe more like the Hulk based on how easily Momoa picked up Longfellow and moved him to the side.


Thanksgiving Week Airport Parade

This one felt like a sketch that SNL will often put in the cold open. (Like the “First Warm Day of the Year Red Carpet” sketch from last season.) The Hudson News Thanksgiving Week Parade came a few sketches into the episode, but it played out just about as this setup always does. Sketches like these are a great opportunity to get the entire cast involved, whether they’re hosting like Bowen Yang and Ego Nwodim or a “gentle parenting” dad dealing with his evil daughter like James Austin Johnson.


Please Don’t Destroy: Ramen Order

After a week outside the office during Timothée Chalamet’s episode, the Please Don’t Destroy trio was back inside this week, helping John Higgins get over the trauma of being dumped by his girlfriend, Sophia Vergara, while trying to put in an order at Ramen Fever.

  • One-liners: My favorite two lines from this sketch were:

    • “I’ve got a prescription, and the only ramen is more fever.”

    • “Maybe medium spicy. With buns. With extra buns.”


Weekend Update: Colin Jost Interviews George Santos Again

Bowen Yang’s George Santos returned to SNL during Weekend Update, defiantly pushing back against the latest allegations against him. “Well then, girl, expul me,” he told Colin Jost.

  • Josting around: I love when Jost “reluctantly” goes along with his lines on the cue cards. We all know what’s coming, but it’s still funny.
  • A full house: After weeks of having just one guest during Weekend Update, Yang’s Santos was the first of three to visit the Update desk this week.


Weekend Update: Draymond Green on His NBA Suspension

Gotta be honest with you, I don’t follow the NBA much, so beyond knowing that there was a fight between the Warriors and Timberwolves, this one wasn’t really in my wheelhouse. It was nice to see Devon Walker during Update.


Remember Lizards on Being a Backup Musical Guest

When you think of “uplifting, kid-friendly, hip-hop-slash-arena-rock with a pump-up edge” bands, who’s the first band you think of?

No, not Imagine Dragons. We’re talking about Remember Lizards here.

  • Unwanted, alive and dead: Remember Lizards need to go on tour with Jon Bovi.


UNTOLD: Battle of the Sexes

I loved this sketch too and really considered bestowing sketch-of-the-week honors on it, but I felt like including three sketches in that second in back-to-back weeks would dilute the legitimacy of that category.

When Momoa’s Ronnie Dunster — “largest men’s tennis player” — prepared to serve to Sarah Sherman’s Charna Lee Diamond, my money was on Diamond instantly exploded when she got hit by the tennis ball. Nope. Just a hole through her torso, an injury that didn’t keep Diamond from playing on.

  • “Did I ruin it for women?” Well, Charna Lee Diamond, according to Chloe Fineman’s Gloria Steinem, you’re “the reason there hasn’t been a woman president.”


Cab Driver

During both times he’s hosted the show, SNL doesn’t hesitate to play off Momoa’s size. But they’ve also wisely taken advantage of the fact that he knows how to be funny and knows how to deliver a line. A huge part of this sketch is the ridiculous diagnoses (like Hepatitis Gold) being listed over the phone by Nwodim’s doctor character, but all the effort would be wasted if Momoa didn’t have the cadence to respond with lines like “going back to the wiener stuff.”

  • Was that supposed to come off? There’s a moment in this sketch when Kenan Thompson’s backseat passenger attempts to close the plastic slider separating him from the front of the car. The slider falls off in Thompson’s hand. Because Thompson has been doing this for over two decades, I have no idea if that slider was supposed to fall off or if Thompson quickly improvised a smooth response to it doing so.


  • No guest stars


Emma Stone hosts SNL on Dec. 2 with Noah Kahan as the musical guest.

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