Jason Momoa and Tate McRae Carried a Strong 'SNL' with Gusto

November 18, 2023

Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews / NBC

BY Vish KhannaPublished Nov 19, 2023

Jason Momoa was pure positivity as a spirited return host, while Calgary's Tate McRae made her Saturday Night Live debut, doing what she does best as a rising dance-pop star, but also surprising the uninitiated by focusing a second performance mostly on her voice. Here's everything that happened on SNL this week.

The Cold Open

Mikey Day appeared as President Joe Biden making public remarks after meeting with Chinese President Xi and faced a rude press corps who focused more on his shortcomings than his accomplishments. Soon, Bowen Yang appeared as Tian Tian the panda bear and fielded questions of his own, which, despite Yang's funny performance, was a bit of a time suck with occasionally sharp political jabs.

The Monologue

Excitable actor Jason Momoa welcomed his mother to the taping and celebrated his role as Aquaman. He recalled his early stint working on Baywatch, plugged his company that aims to eliminate single-use water bottles, and showcased his Hawaiian heritage (and Iowan heritage) before wrapping up a particularly short but enthusiastic monologue.

Masters of the Pen

The Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum was celebrated on a PBS show about famous scribes. It was hosted by a character played by Heidi Gardner and featured Bowen Yang's Baum expert, who unveiled ancient footage of Baum that was full of people photo bombing and mugging before the camera. This was not a great example of comedy.

The Roman Empire

In this remote starring Momoa, a recent run of Twitter jokes about how men are often obsessed with Ancient Rome was turned into a sketch about other stereotypical things that men, children and women might let their minds wander over. What we learned here was that people on Twitter can be pretty funny and occasionally provide fodder for SNL, who use their ideas a few weeks later.

Spanish Doormen

Marcello Hernandez and Momoa played Spanish bouncers who try not to be cruel to the people they don't want to permit into a club. Hernandez was the mentor who tried to impart wisdom via metaphors, but Momoa's meathead couldn't quite figure out how to break rejection to patrons gently. Though it played well in the room, this was only okay.

The Hudson News Thanksgiving Week Airport Parade

Bowen Yang played Umberto and Ego Nwodim was Chartreuse Hamilton, the bubbly, singing hosts of an impromptu parade of hardship. This featured angry couples, an eccentric woman with three emotional support animals, Momoa as Captain Gary chiming in from a Chili's, a repetitive TSA agent, a woman on Ambien, a calm dad and his obnoxious daughter, a pervert, a woman who refused to check any bags, the woman who went viral for claiming someone on a plane wasn't real, and many gay flight attendants, all of whom were worth a chuckle or two.

please don't destroy: ramen fever

The boys were hungry and wanted to order ramen when John Higgins got dumped over the phone. While he needed emotional support, his pals were too obsessed with their impending food order to take him seriously, which was amusing.

Tate McRae

Calgary's Tate McRae is an emerging dancing pop queen, whose television appearances and videos are highly energetic and thoughtfully choreographed affairs. For her SNL debut, she made a big impression with "greedy," a propulsive blast that culminated with her doing a solo dance routine that was explosive. An impactful performance.

Dialling things down for the ballad "grave," McRae let her voice take centre stage (mostly; her confusing wardrobe was a mix of lingerie and sheer negligee), barely moving at all, as a drummer and a guitarist exhibited more physicality than the trained dancer did. But McRae's voice held up well during this tender tune.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost and Michael Che each began Update with easy jokes about President Biden's age, with the latter scoring the best by comparing it to Israel's. Jost highlighted a recent skirmish between a congressman and a teamster, while Che predicted another Trump presidency.

Bowen Yang appeared as the bothered and bitchy Rep. George Santos to address a list of allegations from Jost. This was very good.

Che made a solid student loans joke before Jost zinged the Murdoch family. People clapped at a Che premise that men are dying sooner than women, which he worked to his advantage. Devon Walker appeared as an angry, vengeful and recently suspended NBA player, Draymond Green, and very hilariously reflected the athlete's violent compulsions and history. Good stuff here.

Che made a good sight gag about a $2,000 cocktail and later a gross but funny constipation joke. Jost introduced the night's backup musical guest, Remember Lizards, who were played with gusto by James Austin Johnson and Andrew Dismukes, who sent up Imagine Dragons rather expertly. This was very entertaining, and a nice end to an unusually stuffed Update.

Lonely Island

In a deliberate send-up of the end of Cast Away, Momoa played Laird, who just returned from being stranded on an island for a spell. Chloe Fineman played Laird's ex-fiancée who was in a relationship with Dennis, played by Andrew Dismukes. Mostly an excuse for Momoa to take his shirt off, this worked well, thanks in particular to Dismukes who played an incredulous and doomed partner really hilariously.

Dunster vs. Diamond

In this gory remote, Sarah Sherman played Charna Lee Diamond, a female tennis player celebrated for fostering the first "battle of the sexes" match with Momoa's Ronnie Dunster, who was much stronger than Diamond. In fact, things ended very poorly for Diamond in this bloody sports horror piece, which worked well.

Taxicab Test Results

Momoa played a cabbie driving a fare from the airport while fielding a speakerphone call from his doctor's office, which is full of bad and weird news about his health. The fare, played by Kenan Thompson, was increasingly horrified by each new medical revelation, while the cab driver didn't seem to understand any of the information that was presented. This was a "put Kenan in it and it will work" sketch that, guess what, worked.

Tour Dates

Latest Coverage