This week’s Saturday Night Live featured confident writing and a committed Jenna Ortega!
|Aired (NBC)||March 11, 2023|
|Creator/Executive Producer||Lorne Michaels|
|Head Writer(s)||Kent Sublette
|Host/Musical Guest||Jenna Ortega/1975|
James Austin Johnson
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Writer’s Note: Wherever I Look has offered me the chance to review Saturday Night Live, a sketch show I’ve been watching since I was 6. While I’m thankful for the opportunity, covering a sketch show requires a different format than the scripted shows usually covered. I’ll cover overall thoughts in the recap with a rundown of the show’s standard structure and discuss sketch highlights, low lights, and performances.
Saturday Night Live has been a comedy institution for nearly 50 years, showcasing multiple comedy stars like Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, and Pete Davidson, who have all recently left the show. As creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels has said, this season marks a “year of change.” There are new writers, new performers, and a chance for new voices to become comedy icons. It’s important to be patient with people new to anything.
This week’s host was Scream/Wednesday/It Girl Jenna Ortega. This past year, Ortega has become a star on screens of every size, whether it’s her viral Wednesday dance on TikTok and Netflix or her performance in horror films like Scream and X. Because of these roles, Ortega has developed a reputation for embracing the weird, and her acting in SNL’s sketches showcased precisely that. She championed various characters throughout the night, mostly poking fun at stereotypical teen roles (Parent Trap, X-Men parody, Waffle House sketch) but always with a subversive streak. Ortega is a star, and while she’s known for being a new scream queen, her commitment to any role is also ripe for comedy.
This week’s cold open focused on the Academy Awards beige (no longer red) carpet, with a showcase for celebrity impressions. Cold Opens are usually looooong sketches that focus on the political event of the week, so while parodying the Oscars was a welcome change, there was no actual structure to this sketch and it felt more like a bunch of funny ideas thrown into a pot. Sarah Sherman’s Jewish acting coach was still a delight.
The monologue is where Ortega seemed most nervous, and understandably so. The Monologue is often only the host speaking to the audience on live television, anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes. But Ortega did a stable job laughing at her current horror fame and displaying her already long history in showbiz; she also got some assistance from SNL alumni Fred Armisen.
Michael Che and Colin Jost have anchored Weekend Update together for almost nine years- longer than most cast members stick around. Based on last night’s banter, they’re still having fun and getting loose with the format. The most cutting jokes tonight came from Che, clearly enjoying the audience’s discomfort with his great-great-great grandma/slavery joke.
Molly Kearney as Tennessee Lt. Governor Randy McNally and James Austin Johnson’s quick-second impressions also did a great job showcasing these featured players’ maximum silliness.
10 to 1 Sketch: Jingle Pitch
The night’s last sketch is known for either its weird brilliance or laziness. SNL understands people no longer stay up til 1 AM to finish the show. Still, the last sketch spot is reserved for the strange- and this week’s “Jingle Pitch” was no exception, with James Austin Johnson and Andrew Dismukes performing as sultry singers trying to create a catchy jingle for an unmemorable phone number. The premise is sweaty, but every actor is fully committed, and it’s the kind of foolishness you make with friends late at night. This sketch felt like a good time with old friends.
Notable Performances or Moments
Jenna Ortega shined as a true team player throughout the night. Other terrific performances came from Mikey Day, featured heavily in the first few sketches, displaying his versatility as a Professor X knockoff, Rob Dyrdek, and an erratic Waffle House customer. Ego Nwodim also confidently continues to convey full-fledged characters out of one-joke premises like Exorcism.
Sketch Highlights: Jingle Pitch
All the sketches seemed mainly on the same wavelength of funny strength. My favorite of the week goes to Jingle Pitch for its sheer absurdity in costumes, premise, and performance. Ortega flexed her own acting muscles within the X-Men parody School vs. School and the Ridiculousness sketches.
No lowlights this week!
On The Fence: Parent Trap
While the Parent Trap sketch is funny with a nice twist at the end, I wish Fred Armisen’s character was played by a current cast member instead. Give someone new a chance.
Saturday Night Live: Season 48 / Episode 15 “Jenna Ortega/1975” – Recap/ Review
Saturday Night Live, “Jenna Ortega/1975,” directed by Liz Patrick, 2023, (NBC, Peacock)
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