‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: The Best and Worst of Kim Kardashian West’s Hosting Debut

“Saturday Night Live” saw another hosting debut this weekend, this time in the form of a celebrity who could possibly even be called the complete opposite of last week’s host, Owen Wilson: Kim Kardashian West. The influencer/reality TV star/mogul took the stage at Studio 8H for the first time ever on Saturday night, poking fun at herself and her family in the process.

Host: Kim Kardashian West

In terms of the proverbial 2021 “bingo card,” surely no one had “Kim Kardashian kills it during her ‘SNL’ monologue” on theirs. But that is exactly what she did in her four-and-a-half-minute monologue, as she cracked jokes about her life and persona. She even told a pretty good O.J. Simpson joke in the process. (Of course there was at least one live audience member who needed to make their support of the host known as both the most and the loudest, awkwardly “woo”-ing at the obvious — to everyone but said audience member, clearly — joke set-up of Kardashian West saying she was following in her father’s footsteps.) In fact, the monologue version of the Simpson joke worked far better than when the episode physically manifested it in the “The People’s Kourt” sketch.

Right out of the gate, the “Jasmine and Aladdin” sketch seemed like a bad omen as to what to expect out of the episode, with reminders of how hot Kardashian West is and pretty much no substance. But thankfully, while the episode certainly played with expectations and perceptions of Kardashian West or a “Kardashian-type,” it didn’t just rely on that.

It’s also worth noting that, while Kardashian West was quite poised during her monologue — a speech, which is something she’s actually comfortable and familiar with — there was a clear set of nerves during this first sketch. However, those nerves definitely settled throughout the episode and Kardashian West was also helped by the surplus of pre-taped sketches this week.

Maybe the beauty of “The Dream Guy” was the fact that it was completely predictable throughout who wouldn’t be picked… and yet there was still the tiniest chance that it would zig and have Kardashian West’s character choose Kyle Mooney’s character. Maybe it was the fact that the sketch didn’t even confirm one way or another if Mooney was even playing a character until things reached the final two suitors — one of which was the married John Cena. A non-Kardashian/Jenner cameo-heavy sketch, “The Dream Guy” married the awkwardness of “The Bachelorette” with “SNL’s” love of big-time cameos. And also the pits of hell.

“Kim, who are you wearing?”
“Um, a bunch of clothes.”
“Are you ready to take the Bar Exam?”
“Wait, what?”

The second pre-tape of the episode, “The Switch” was essentially a warped sequel to “Aidy B & Cardi B” and “Aidy Bizzo & Lizzo” (a sketch that was actually cut for time); only, as Kardashian West is not a music superstar, a magic clock had to do the trick instead of Aidy going out of her way to try to be “empowered.” It’s hard to ever go wrong with body swap riffs, especially when they lean into things like bad impressions (Kardashian West’s deep voice to be Bryant) and gobbledygook rules.

While perhaps not spiritually a 10-to-1 sketch, as an episode-ending commercial sketch, “Skims Commercial” aired in the right spot for this episode. However, like most “SNL” sketches with live animals, it was difficult to actually pay attention to the sketch itself and not the adorable dogs. As soon as that dog licked Heidi Gardner’s face, it was over for the sketch in terms of actual attention to detail.

Best Sketches of the Night: “Ladies Night Song,” “Lotto Drawing,” and “Please Don’t Destroy — Hard Seltzer”

The first pre-tape of the episode, “Ladies Night Song” was one of those sketches where it was highly obvious where the premise would be taking these moms at the club, no longer in their 20s. However, that didn’t make the sight gags work any less, as Punkie Johnson (getting a major feature here, eventually questioning when Rihanna’s music got so fast and loud), Ego Nwodim, Cecily Strong, and Kim Kardashian West rapped their way through this song. Kardashian West’s Trish “power napping” around the club was a funny bit that also allowed the comedy pros to handle the heavy lifting.

“And I’m still Shonda.”

The weirdest sketch of the night and, surprisingly, not the 10-to-1 sketch, “Lotto Drawing” was just surreal and absurd enough for the audience to both not understand a single thing that was happening and understand perfectly everything that was happening. From the boiling-beneath-the-surface interpersonal issues between Kenan Thompson and Aidy Bryant’s local news anchor characters to the varying levels of chilling dead-eyed behavior from lotto girls Shonda (Kardashian West) and Ronda (Cecily Strong) and Chris Redd’s sports anchor, “Lotto Drawing” had absolutely no point. And that’s why it was great. Just straight-up weird.

Now, this was actually the most out of left field sketch, as it featured none of the cast — and no Kardashian West. Instead, this was two minutes of this season’s new writers, Ben Marshall, John Higgins, and Martin Herlihy — collectively known as Please Don’t Destroy. It says a lot that the crowd went wild over this sketch, despite having zero familiarity with any of the three writers in it. Because what’s more familiar than some JCPenney hard seltzer? (Desk. The answer is “Desk” hard seltzer.)

Worst Sketch of the Night: “The People’s Kourt”

While plenty of the sketches in this episode played to the entire Kardashian-Jenner persona and brand — both in terms of character type and in Kardashian West simply just playing either herself or a family member — “The People’s Kourt” is the only one that truly didn’t work on any level. Part of that is that Kourtney Kardashian being the one who doesn’t care — as opposed to Khloe and Kris Jenner, who are both in this episode and this sketch — isn’t enough of a premise to actually sustain a sketch. Nor is it enough of a personality trait for Kim to actually have something to work with. Also, while Kris Jenner’s acting was passable in the pre-tape, where there were surely plenty of takes for her to get her lines right and natural, that was not the case for live sketch comedy.

Best Male Performer: Chris Redd

This was very much an episode for the ladies of “SNL,” but Chris Redd’s Kanye West remained an absolute treat in the otherwise underwhelming “The People’s Kourt,” and his (again) dead-eyed performance in “Lotto Drawing” truly added to all the beautiful chaos of that sketch.

Best Female Performer: Aidy Bryant

The combination of Ted Cruz, her body swap with Kim Kardashian West, and the slogan her anchor came up with (“News: It’s what happened recently.”) was a very solid combination.

Final Thoughts

“Now, what about ‘Squid Game’? What is that?”
“Oh, America’s in a lot of debt right now. Should we do a ‘Squid Game’?”

“SNL” cold opens tend to be far more miss than hit these days, but this week’s “Facebook Hearing Cold Open” was a refreshing hit and a great way to kick off the episode. (Strangely, the camera kept missing cast members’ cues during this sketch, but that wasn’t the case for the rest of the episode.) With Heidi Gardner in the straight man seat, this cold open allowed everyone else to go wild as they descended into Boomer stereotypes about technology. As mentioned, Bryant was the MVP as she returned to her role as Ted Cruz, going on about cyberbullying and asking if the “dark web” and “Black Twitter” were the same thing. (They are not.)

There was also something special about witnessing SNL newbie James Austin Johnson as Senator Lindsey Graham, as you could basically hear and feel the audience be wowed by his work as the character in real-time.

A little-known comedy secret: As long as you can play Icona Pop’s “I Love It” on command, you don’t actually need a premise for your joke. Icona Pop and Charli XCX will do all the heavy lifting for you. Gardner’s life coach character was honestly very flimsy — as entertaining as her interactions with Michael Che were — but the bit still worked for the very fact that nothing is funnier than repetition and getting Icona Pop’d. Alex Moffat’s returning (high out of his mind) film critic Terry Fink is a far more thought-out character and premise — and his interactions with Colin Jost were also great — and it was that structure needed in that segment that allowed Gardner to have absolutely no structure whatsoever. Seriously, both bits worked, for the fact that they were wholly different approaches to getting a laugh.

One of the things that makes a host work overall in “SNL” — even if they’re not necessarily the most comically minded — is for the writers to find what works for the host and highlight that. In terms of playing to a host’s strengths, this episode was honestly one of the better ones solely on that. Kardashian West hit her cues, never fumbled a line, and was able to deliver in pre-tapes. The only true missteps in this episode were “Jasmine and Aladdin” — which had a fun bit from Strong and Thompson but thankfully didn’t set the tone for the episode — and “The People’s Kourt,” for the aforementioned reasons.

Grade: B-

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