Saturday Night Live: Ariana DeBose & Bleachers

January 15, 2022

BY Vish KhannaPublished Jan 16, 2022

Breakout singing and acting star Ariana DeBose was a vivacious and spirited host, while last-minute musical guest Bleachers took Bruce Springsteen worship to a surprising cosplay level on an uneven episode of SNL. Here's everything that happened this week.

The cold open

James Austin Johnson's President Joe Biden held a press conference to address the spread of Omicron in the United States. As it happened, the president blamed COVID-19 and really all of the country's ills on the new Spider-Man film. Or, more accurately, Spider-Man himself, who was caught in the president's crosshairs, much to the confusion of the assembled press who questioned his theory that we're living in a multiverse. With some good performances from all involved and an amusing twist, this worked well.

The monologue

Host Arian DeBose strutted and danced onto centre stage, amping up the audience with her energy. After stating that "2020" had already been a good year for her, after winning a Golden Globe for her role in West Side Story, DeBose suggested that she might well sing a song, and was soon joined by WSS superfan, Kate McKinnon. The two sat on stools, side-by-side, and hammed their way through singing some of the musical's signature songs. It was something to see McKinnon more than hold her own with DeBose, and this had a certain organic charm.


Alex Moffat's Ernie Johnson introduced a refreshed NBA on TNT panel due to COVID issues. In lieu of an ailing Shaq, Kenan Thompson's Charles Barkley was beside Bowen Yang's comically huge and downcast Yao Ming and the crew analyzed the first half of a bizarre game, in which the Sacramento Kings' entire franchise was sidelined with COVID, leading to a statistical trouncing by the Brooklyn Nets, who faced off against a ragtag team of fans, arena staff and small children. For a one-note premise, this actually had a surprisingly deep well of jokes.


Riffing on the new sombre take on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, this remote conjured a gritty re-imagining of another light-hearted 1990s sitcom. Chris Redd played a very edgy Steve Urkel, taking all the corny fun out of Family Matters and its familiar characters, leaving them brooding and depressed, which was fairly amusing.

Formal Emporium

Pete Davidson and Sarah Sherman played the owners and live commercial spokespeople for a formal emporium who promised your daughter would not have sexual relations on her prom night thanks to their son, Donovan. This grotesque, loud and wild thing had 12:55 AM throwaway written all over it so, not sure why it showed up before midnight.

Eric Adams is from New York City

DeBose played a spokesperson for New York's new mayor, Eric Adams (Chris Redd), who took to a press conference podium with swagger. Redd seemed to relish playing this tough-guy former NYPD officer, who berated the press and again, and extolled the virtues of swag like he was dropping verses instead of making policy statements. DeBose also dug into this with strong energy, addressing the the beleaguered media — including a journalist played by Heidi Gardner who requested a clarification about the real-life Adams' recent controversial comments about "low-skilled workers." A nice showcase for Redd, this was another one-dimensional thing that beat the odds to maintain interest and pay off as a bit.


Resembling the instrumental configuration and copping the sound, sartorial look and mannerisms of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Jack Antonoff's Bleachers (filling in for the COVID-exposed Roddy Ricch) joyfully and shamelessly microdosed SNL viewers with whiffs of an E Street throwdown (good lord, there was even a guitar/sax call and response). The idea of writing compelling lyrics and singing well seemed to be a distant third on the list of performative goods to steal on "How Dare You Want More."

When Bleachers returned with "Chinatown," they'd traded in the Boss's jubilant party-starting 1970s vibe for his brooding 1980s pop mode — but again, Antonoff himself was something of an awkward presence, singing unintelligibly and hoping the emotive pretence would put the song's power across. Aside from a familiar kind of chart-pandering arrangement, there was nothing notable or memorable about this tune.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost began with a rip into President Joe Biden's hard January and inability to get his mandate going, which Michael Che informed with a lame "he's old" joke. Che followed that up with a bunch of pirate jokes about the Oath Keeper's eyepatch-wearing leader, while Jost scanned the headlines and ripped into Spirit Airlines and highlighted the death of Robert Durst with a good punchline. Che made a dumb but effective joke about COVID tests occurring at a lesbian bar, which set Jost up to humiliate himself by tentatively rapping. Chloe Fineman turned up at the desk as Elmo to address his viral feud with Rocco. Based on some remarkable funny tweets about this strange friction, Fineman was good in this but, with SNL playing catch-up, it all paled in comparison to the succinct and sharp takes from tweeters over the past couple of weeks.

The Sound of Music 2.0

Kate McKinnon played The Sound of Music's Maria, meeting a neighbouring family whose children need her special touch. Instead, Maria brought in a new governess to help them and, as played by DeBose, she taught them a very contemporary version of the film's relatively nonsensical "Do Re Mi" song. Kenan Thompson's patriarch brought it home with even more ridiculousness, all of which was rather funny (if not temporally impossible).

Sappho Lecture

At a Cornell University event, guest lecturers played by Kate McKinnon and DeBose presented their findings about the Greek poetry of Sappho. In a similar premise to the earlier Sound of Music bit, the lecturers mix classic texts with modern ideas and language so, if one accepted that this was how this was all going to play out, it was a somewhat amusing if not strikingly repetitive sketch.

Longhorn Steakhouse

In a steakhouse kitchen, some staff members complained about a weird turn of phrase their manager used. Heidi Gardner played the boss, who inexplicably said "Lurr" at the end of yelling orders. Various staff members, notably a chef played by DeBose, found it puzzling and annoying. But, it seemed they too spoke oddly and, at the end of the day, all of this was kind of annoying and beautifully designed for a 12:55 AM sketch (which, again, this episode had two of for some reason).

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