Everything you need to know about Jennifer Lopez hosting Saturday Night Live can be found in the monologue. It’s not included below, but that’s because it’s a statement of purpose rather than a comedic statement. There are maybe two jokes tops in the monologue, which eschews comedy in favor of “I’m awesome, you know I’m awesome, so let’s spend five minutes celebrating this awesome.” An exercise in ego stroking? Maybe! But it’s Jennifer Lopez, and if anyone’s earned the right to use the monologue segment to take a victory lap for her 2019, it’s her.
This monologue sets the tone for the episode because it never pretends that Lopez isn’t one of the biggest stars in the world. Many hosts excel because they can blend in with the cast. Lopez is one of a handful of people that can successfully exist as the focal point for every single sketch and not feel like she’s trying to take the spotlight. Rather, SNL rightfully recognizes that taking the spotlight off her for even a millisecond defeats the purpose of having her host in the first place. The best sketches this week celebrated her star power while still letting the Not Ready For Primetime Players have their moments as well.
Here are the three sketches people will be talking about until Scarlett Johansson returns to host next week.
Surprise Home Makeover
SNL dipped into the same well it tried back when Margot Robbie hosted, but took the strong idea there and honed it into a laser-sharp this time around. There’s literally nothing more to this sketch than “man marries way, way, way up,” but the writing is so sharp and the performances so earnest that the audience can’t help but be swept up in the insanity.
As with the next sketch in this list, Lopez is treated as if she’s another, altogether superior specimen dropped in from another planet to demonstrate our collective shortcomings. Kenan Thompson has a lot of great gears in his comedic arsenal, but “outsized outrage” might be his best. That gear is on full display as he deals with the reality of Jacqueline and Matt Schatt’s marriage. Beck Bennett and Bowen Yang do their part to bring unique flavors of disbelief to the proceedings, but this sketch simply doesn’t work as well without Thompson anchoring the sketch.
Unrelated but not unimportant: if HGTV actually launched a show called “Open Concept, Shiplap, Same Stuff We Always Do,” it would still somehow earn six seasons, three spin-offs, and a dozen calls from my mother asking if I’d seen the latest episode yet.
It’s still less than halfway through Season 45, but my solid lock for MVP of the year is “anytime Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon are onscreen together.” (That’s probably cheating, but let’s face it, nothing matters and an asteroid will one day claim us all, so just let me have this.) They’ve always had great chemistry, but this season has seen the show deploy it with greater frequency and to greater effect. McKinnon herself gets a tremendous amount of starring roles on the show, but never seems to be enjoying herself more than when paired with Bryant.
Here, the two play sisters that treat their third sister (Lopez) as a greater threat to humanity than a zombie invasion. The sheer panic that Lopez’s presence induces takes up the first half of the sketch, which leaves a lot of room for the pair to plot increasingly ridiculous plans to off the other in order to successfully marry the titular Corporal. Maybe that chemistry wouldn’t translate to a series of low-budget, high comedy films…but it couldn’t hurt to try, right?
It’s when Lopez gets to stay onstage for a prolonged amount of time that the proceedings go from good to great. Lopez manages to pull off some Marilyn Monroe-esque physical comedy, unaware of her own sexual power. When she grunts like a “toad,” the ensuing orgasmic wails launched a thousand GIFs as well as the best line of the night, uttered by Bryant: “No, men hate that…and even I hate that a little bit.” If this episode was about celebrating “The Year of JLo,” then this sketch put an exclamation point on one hellaciously successfully 2019.
NATO Cafeteria Cold Open
At this point, if an SNL cast member actually gets to be in a political sketch, it’s something of a miracle at this point. There’s absolutely no reason you need Jimmy Fallon, Paul Rudd, and James Corden to portray international political figures, except that it gets people talking about how those three showed up unannounced on the show. And lo, here we are talking about it! So mission accomplished, show.
Having the fallout from the NATO hot mic incident played out as a stereotypical high school cafeteria Hunger Games-esque power struggle is smart on a couple of levels. Firstly, it wisely sidesteps trying to accurately restage the incident itself, which would have missed the point. Secondly, this premise reinforces the idea that those in charge of…well, EVERYTHING have the same disposition as the bullies we all knew and hated growing up. Gossip, name-calling, shifting allegiances…it applies to the song “Where Do You Belong” in the musical version of Mean Girls, and it applies to geopolitical machinations as well. We all intuitively know this as 2020 approaches, and this sketch just stages that fact.