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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: “Drake”

Saturday Night Live Drake SNL Promos January 18
NBC

SNL‘ finally returns from its long winter nap tonight with an all-new episode and a very special guest. Hip-hop artist Drake drops in to act as both host and musical guest, and just in case you were worried he might not hack it in the acting department, we’ll remind you that once upon a time he starred on a little Canadian teen show called ‘Degrassi.’ We’re keeping our fingers crossed for that ‘Degrassi’ sketch, ‘SNL.’ Don’t let us down! New cast member Sasheer Zamata also makes her debut tonight, so we’re pretty excited about that, too. So how did Drake and the new recruit do? Read on for our review of tonight’s all-new ‘SNL’!

Piers Morgan Live

Taran Killam’s Piers Morgan hosts the cold open, interviewing Bobby Moynihan’s Governor Chris Christie over the ongoing New Jersey bridge scandal. Even with a quick flub and easy jabs, Moynihan’s Christie delights. Next is Drake as New York Yankee star Alex Rodriguez, and already he’s impressing — sure, part of it is the writing, but you can’t deny he’s got some talent and charisma. The bit with the emojis and texts is particularly hilarious. And finally, Kate McKinnondoes her best Justin Bieber to address the egg-tossing scandal, and man, she’s got his moves and expressions down. More McKinnon as Bieber, please!

Opening Monologue

Already, Drake is addressing his Canadian origins, his real name (Aubrey Graham), and his former starring role on ‘Degrassi’! I am too excited about the ‘Degrassi’ shout-out. Also, he’s Jewish. Who knew? And, in a quirky move, we get an opening monologue flashback to little Aubrey’s Bar Mitzvah, with his parents played by Vanessa Bayer and Jay Pharaoh. The jokes in this bit are pretty great: he announces that as a man, he will now be called Drake, but his mom corrects it to “Drakob.” Kenan Thompson, Sasheer Zamata, and Kyle Mooney show up as relatives, and we get a quick Jewish hip-hop number, which is pretty darn funny. If he keeps it up like this, might ‘SNL’ have the next Justin Timberlake on its hands?

Hip Hop Classics: Before They Were Stars

Thompson plays Sway on BET’s ‘Hip Hop Classics,’ which looks back at hip-hop stars who were actors before they were musicians, like Taran Killam as Eminem on ‘Felicity.’ Judging by that first bit alone, they should just make this a recurring sketch. Up next: Drake as Lil Wayne, who was the first iteration of Steve Urkel on ‘Family Matters.’ And there’s also Sasheer Zamata as Rihanna on the Barbados version of ‘Blossom,’ called ‘B’lossom,’ with Kyle Mooney as her Joey-like brother, and Pharaoh again as rapper 2 Chainz, slinging profanities on the Disney show ‘That’s So 2 Chainz.’ Drake also does a pretty solid impression of a young Jay-Z on an episode of ‘Mr. Wizard.’ And then also there is a cat in Sway’s hat? I would watch an entire half hour of this show.

Nancy Grace

Noel Wells is Nancy Grace, addressing the recent legalization of marijuana of Colorado. She’s interviewing the baker (McKinnon) at a pro-pot bakery, doing her typical brassy business. Next up is Drake as Katt Williams, marijuana advocate, and he’s doing pretty solid work with the impression, though it partially comes off like Ezra Miller in ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower.’ I’m not sure Wells’ Grace is that great — it’s a bit too cartoonish, but at least the sketch is brief.

Resolution Revolution

Killam, Zamata, Drake, and Pharaoh team up for a super catchy music video about how easy it is to break your New Year’s resolutions. You start off so committed and determined, but as soon as you see a tasty snack or alcoholic beverage … or sex toy … or opportunity to dork it up with cosplay … all bets are off. Great work, guys. This one is an earworm.

Sleepover

Drake is the embarrassing father of Zamata’s tween girl, who’s having a slumber party with her friends. But Aidy Bryant is totally turned on by the dorky, mustachioed old man in his stuffy sweater, and starts talking like a wise, worldly woman far beyond her young years. Every time he enters the room, she gets massively inappropriate. And whoa! Hats off to ‘SNL’ writers for the line, “I need to lay face down on my hands on a bean bag right now.” This sketch has balls, guys. Just a few minutes ago we saw Pharaoh giving it to a sex doll in that “Resolution Revolution” video, and now we’re watching Bryant mock-masturbate on a bean bag. I am so into this sleepover sketch, even if Bryant’s character doesn’t entirely click.

Weekend Update

The first guest tonight is Vanessa Bayer, playing Jacqueline Bisset from this week’s Golden Globes, but she’s stuck way back in the back of the ‘SNL’ audience, and is struggling to get down to the stage.

So anyway, Nasim Pedrad is next as Ariana Huffington, here to comment on whether Hilary Clinton will run for president. I personally dislike Huffington, but I adore Pedrad’s wacky impression. And there just hasn’t been enough Pedrad on the show this season, which bums me out.

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

Drake plays the host of an Indiana Jones stunt show at Disney World in Orlando. Brooks Wheelan is his co-host, and the lucky audience member brought up to play the hero of the show is Rahat, played by Pedrad. She’s your typical foreign tourist with a fanny pack and an official Disney parks sweater, but she’s holding onto a tub of rice and refuses to let it go, and Drake is trying his best to stay perky and professional while trying to deal with someone who can’t quite understand what the hell is going on. Pedrad is really great at vague ethnic parts without making them offensive, and I love how she becomes attached to the evil villain tribesman.

Detention

Vanessa Bayer is Miss Meadows, a poetry teacher speaking to a classroom full of bad kids in detention, there to hopefully enlighten them and turn them around. Bayer does this awesome hippy, airhead cadence, and invites the students to read their own poems about where they’d rather be. Aidy Bryant recites a pretty hilarious poem about how dope she is at a party with lots of Doritos, Thompson wants to be with an Xbox and Raven Symone before she was gay, and Drake gets all pervy with a poem about how he wants to bang an older lady, which sends Bayer into a fit of weird seal noises. While Bryant’s poem is pretty funny, this sketch is hardly memorable — but still better than the Nancy Grace bit.

Mornin’ Miami Promos

The Mornin’ Miami team is back! Moynihan and McKinnon are joined by Drake as the morning talk show hosts who are exhausted and annoyed with their jobs, but astonishingly turn on the charm in the blink of an eye to say the most cheesy and ridiculous hooks for their daily promos. I love how these just feel so true to what I imagine is the morning talk show experience when the cameras aren’t rolling. “And I’m Burt Fingerblast!”

I Know

Kyle Mooney is back with another digital short, in which he plays that annoying friend we all have who always says “I know.” No matter what news or bit of info his buddy (Beck Bennett) tells him, he has to be a know-it-all. But knowing it all to impress his friend puts too much stress on his brain and he almost dies! Spoiler: he doesn’t learn a lesson. I know.

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