Jack White's Electrifying 'SNL' Performance Couldn't Quite Save an Off-Kilter Episode

February 25, 2023

Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews / NBC

BY Vish KhannaPublished Feb 26, 2023

Utilizing very few members of its sizeable cast this week, Saturday Night Live welcomed both Woody Harrelson and Jack White to its Five-Timers Club, with an off-kilter episode and, as usual with White, two memorable musical performances. Here's everything that happened on the show this week.

The Cold Open 

James Austin Johnson was blessed to have Donald Trump back in the news this past week, offering him a good reason to bust out his airtight satire of the disgraceful ex-president. Trump was blathering on at a press conference in East Palestine, OH, before he introduced Emily Kohrs, the strange foreperson of the jury overseeing the current grand jury case that Trump is embroiled in. Chloe Fineman played Kohrs so precisely, the in-studio audience was more horrified than amused, and then this fine open concluded. 

The Monologue

Woody Harrelson took to the stage and, after not receiving a traditional Five-Timers Club jacket and ceremony, and a stilted run of jokes about how fractured America was, Harrelson told stories about how high he likes to get and a mysterious script he read in Central Park right after Thanksgiving in 2019. By the time he concluded this discombobulated monologue with its intermittent allegory, Harrelson, a noted conspiracy theorist, overtly criticized the COVID-19 vaccine program in the year 2023. This was all very odd but mostly, and despite Harrelson's considerable charm, it wasn't very funny. 

Prison Visit

Harrelson played a prisoner visited by his wife (Chloe Fineman), but his and her commentary about their life plans (in this economy?!) were overheard and questioned by prison guards played by Ego Nwodim and Kenan Thompson. Fairly random and incoherent, this wasn't good. 

please don't destroy: The Stakeout

the pdd boys took a field trip from their office, when Ben was abandoned by John and Martin, and Harrelson decided that he and Ben should spy on them. Turned out John and Martin had a secret family and aimed to replace Ben, all of which was pretty funny. 

Mission Slingshot 

Harrelson and Kenan Thompson played friends who took an amusement park ride called the Mission Slingshot, which Thompson's character did not enjoy. Joined by his wife and a friend after Harrelson gave up his seat, he passed out repeatedly and endured three rough trips, which me meant we too had to endure a prolonged comedy sketch that, despite Thompson's physical comedy, made us retch. 

Mr. Dingleberry's Goochballoon ASDFJKL; 6969

Harrelson played a Navy captain introducing a new submarine ship, whose unusual name was chosen via an online poll, in which people were clearly trolling the Navy. All things considered, this was a well-constructed bit. 


In this remote commercial, a home colon cancer screening kit box made a character played by Harrelson very uncomfortable by repeatedly asking him to evacuate his bowels inside of them. Or did they? This was pretty good. 

Jack White 

As is his custom, Jack White brought a sound and look to SNL that was utterly distinctive and memorable. After Harrelson comically introduced him by wondering if White too wasn't going to get his Five-Timers Club due, White, drummer Daru Jones, bassist Dominic Davis, and keyboardist Quincy McCrary absolutely tore into a medley of "Taking Me Back" and "Fear of the Dawn," with the floor of stage itself seemingly ripping apart beneath them.

Returning with the gentler "A Tip from You to Me," the Zeppelin-esque tune was no less sophisticated, with McCrary complementing White's vocal with an impassioned harmony and the band adopting unplugged instrumentation. Again, this was eye-catching and stirring.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost began Update by covering President Biden's trip to Ukraine, which Michael Che followed up on with his own bits about Biden's week. Jost riffed on Tucker Carlson obtaining unreleased January 6 insurrection footage, while Che made a good joke about Marjorie Taylor Greene.

James Austin Johnson appeared as NBA veteran/hippie/colourful colour commentator Bill Walton, and provided a strange and surreal desk segment, clearly for the ball heads in the audience. Who else would even get Walton's nuances here?

Jost discussed the Ronald Dahl rewrite controversies of late, while Che made two amazing jokes about the WNBA and the recent alligator found in Brooklyn. Man, Che also made a very clever polar bear joke and highlighted Jost's whiteness. Heidi Gardner appeared as Gina Bianchi, a woman with four daughters and one son. The mother, repressing her feelings, was clearly damaged by her son's mistreatment of her, but also darkly attracted to the boy, which made for a disturbing tour de force performance by Gardner. 

The Hippo 

Riffing on The Whale, actors are informed that all of the work they put into their roles was for nothing, because the production was being shut down. While some complained about growing beards and dying their hair, Harrelson's Keith was perplexed to discover that he didn't really need to gain 450 pounds to take on the role of The Hippo. This was fairly amusing. 

Two Men Speak in the Most Beautiful Gym in the World

Harrelson and Bowen Yang were gussied up in suits/tuxedos, lifting dumbbells and kettle bells, and flirting with each other in a surreally nonsensical manner. This was both elaborate and a time-killer, which at least made it interesting.  

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