SNL Ranked: Ronda Rousey Gets Unfairly Sidelined
Like Dwayne Johnson and Gina Carano before her, Ronda Rousey is graduating from the ring to the stage, though her turn as SNL host this weekend is the first time she’s really had an opportunity to flex her acting muscles. Unfortunately, the MMA pro is sidelined for much of the episode, her talents underestimated and misused from the moment she walks into Studio 8H. Beck Bennett is seemingly the only cast member who really knows how to take advantage of her skill set, delivering the best sketches of the night. The lack of actual effort to give her something to do does little to disprove the idea that SNL invited Rousey to host based almost entirely on brand recognition. And that’s really too bad. Read on for our ranking of this week’s sketches from best to worst.
Screen Guild Awards (Strong, Rousey, Ensemble)
SNL drops a timely satire of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, with an awards ceremony in which the only acting nominees are white supporting actors in films with prominently black casts. Perhaps most damning of all is Bobby Moynihan’s nomination as “white man with camera” in a riff on Beasts of No Nation. This sketch rejects any and all pretense with its depiction of a shameless ceremony that willfully refuses to acknowledge black actors, and as such, rightfully calls out the Oscars for their own transparently shameless practices. Preach, SNL, preach (but hey, maybe give Ronda Rousey something to do?).
At the Club (Rousey, Bryant, Pharoah, Killam, Bennett, McKinnon)
Killam is terrible for this otherwise funny music video in which three guys try to hit on women by rapping about their huge penises — except for Bennett’s totally uncomfortable white bread dude, who has to compensate for his smaller package by boasting his great job, decent car and his willingness to perform oral. As usual, Bennett nails a very specific and all-too-familiar character, rescuing this rap from the miscasting of Killam. At least Rousey gets a few more lines, and she’s not bad, so I have no idea why she’s being sidelined so much in the rest of the episode.
Palin Endorsement Cold Open (Hammond, Fey)
“It’s like her mouth starts driving before her brain gets in the car.” SNL has chosen wisely in continuing to stick with Darrell Hammond’s Donald Trump over Taran Killam’s not-quite-there take on the odious GOP candidate. And could you really expect anything less than another Tina Fey appearance after Sarah Palin’s totally bonkers endorsement speech this week? This is the best Trump cold open of the season, hands down.
Football Party (Bennett, Mooney, Rousey, Thompson)
Oh man, Bennett and Mooney are so good (as always) as a pair of weird, vaguely unsettling and socially awkward work friends who are way too eager to attend their co-worker’s party. Rousey handles more naturalistic characters far better than over-the-top caricatures, and she’s actually quite charming here.
Love Struck (Bennett, Rousey, Bayer, Zamata, McKinnon, Rudnitsky)
Capitalizing not only on Rousey’s fighting prowess, but on her greener acting skills, this sketch offers a cute, simple and rather funny satire of ’90s teen rom-coms. Though it’s nowhere near as good as Mike O’Brien’s “Prom” short from last year, you can’t really disappoint me with a sketch that references films like She’s All That and Never Been Kissed. And Rousey is so perfect as the awkward teen with an unexpected badass side.
Weekend Update (Che, Jost, Jones, Moynihan, Thompson)
Oh good, Colin Jost is speaking in his “talking slowly so the children can understand” rhythm again. And thank goodness, Leslie Jones is here with her thoughts on The Revenant, waking this entire segment up with her hilarious public proposal to Leonardo DiCaprio. Moynihan’s cameo is delightful, and we get an appearance from Kenan Thompson’s bafflingly optimistic Willie. Jost’s snoozy joke delivery aside, a pretty solid Update.
City Council (Moynihan, Strong, Jones, Bryant, McKinnon, Mooney, Thompson, Rousey, Davidson)
Leslie Jones always has the best early sketch exits. That said, Aidy Bryant’s Jan Krang and Kyle Mooney’s Dutch DJ are back along with more wacky citizens at the town hall meeting from hell. These could use a little more sharpening before they become as good as, say, the high school theatre sketches, but they’ve been consistently entertaining thus far. Rousey gets more to do here, though she performs far better in the pre-recorded sketches.
Monologue (Rousey, Killam, Bennett, Thompson, McKinnon)
As Rowdy Ronda points out, SNL is literally the only live show in New York this week since the city is buried in 800 feet of snow or something. She smartly takes the self-deprecating approach, while Killam, Bennett and Thompson provide a monologue assist with UFC-style commentary, which immediately sets a vaguely skeptical tone — especially when McKinnon’s Justin Bieber pops in apropos of nothing.
Bland Man (Killam, Bayer, McKinnon, Strong, Rousey, Bryant, Zamata)
SNL’s spoofs of reality dating shows are, I think, a bit underrated, and while this one performs the ambitious yet admirable task of calling out the racism in another televised event, this is probably the least impressive Bachelor-style satire they’ve ever done. It’s almost as bland as Bland Man himself.
Teacher Trial (Rousey, Strong, Bryant, Davidson, McKinnon, Bennett, Killam, Thompson)
I’m honestly surprised that SNL attempted to do this sketch again, especially since it was so poorly received last April. It’s essentially the exact same setup with the same actors, only this time Ronda Rousey plays a second teacher who engages in an inappropriate relationship with her male teen student much to the delight of grown men and the (justified) horror of the kid’s mom. Rousey gets absolutely nothing to do, making this sketch twice as pointless — it was humorous as a piece of condemning satire the first time, and now it just feels lazy.
Super Crew (Rousey, Mooney, Bayer, Jones, Strong, Killam, Pharoah, Davidson, Thompson, Bryant, Zamata, Rudnitsky)
Oof, this is so bad. Everyone is doing their best in this entry-level improv superhero movie riff in which each hero insists on properly introducing themselves in the midst of a major crisis. I get it; it’s silly when superhero movies pause world destruction to give characters a full, 10-minute introduction. But recognition does not equal humor, and — surprise — Rousey gets one line.