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Review: Kim Kardashian-West’s SNL Episode Wasn’t the Worst Thing We’ve Ever Seen

SNL's latest episode felt more tailored to Kim Faithful than something for comedy fans

Kim Kardashian SNL
Kim Kardashian on SNL (NBC)
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    The second episode of Saturday Night Live’s 47th season featured arguably their most famous host of the initial four episodes: Kim Kardashian-West, who really feels like she should have been a novelty host circa 2009, rather than a first-timer in 2021. Hopefully she’s just this season’s token billionaire—and hopefully that slot is retired from the host lineup hereafter. Wearing a lot of gloves for October, Kardashian-West didn’t project the same disdain for the world as fellow socialite Paris Hilton did in her infamous hosting gig, or the same discomfiting cutesiness as Elon Musk. At the same time, her version of being a good sport mostly involved getting off some shots at her family (and ex-husband Kanye West), and jokingly promoting her SKIMS shapewear line (the commercial for shapewear for dogs wasn’t real, but the brand itself is). On the other hand, giving the show over to a vapid but popular guest and trying to make them look good is practically an SNL institution—and odds are, there will be a worse episode than this one sometime later in the season. It wasn’t an awful outing so much as a tedious one that slowed some of last week’s momentum. But there were still some high points!

    Highlights

    Like last week’s View-spoofing talk show sketch, this sketch about a local news broadcast going haywire takes a familiar format—SNL makes its cast members play local news anchors so often, it should be a formal part of the audition process—and packs it with weird jokes. It’s centered on a series of lottery numbers coming up with unworkable winners like “blank” and “cell phone,” but there’s plenty of funny stuff circling around the central game, especially involving Chris Redd’s hapless sportscaster.

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    SNL music videos are such a reliable highlight of the show that even one featuring Kim Kardashian-West gingerly performing the rap equivalent of speak-singing (did she somehow just invent speak-rapping?) turned out to be a winner. This ode to feeling old in the club is anchored by Cecily Strong and Ego Nwodim, with Kardashian-West given her most inspired gag of the night: Before she can finish a verse, she takes repeated cat naps. I don’t want to be all “girl, same,” but, well, yeah.

    Lowlights

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    What is it with awkward hosts crammed into courtroom sketches? Last season saw an already-notorious bit with Elon Musk playing Wario; here, The People’s Court is reconfigured as The People’s Kourt for a squabbling Kardashian family. Maybe this is very funny to ardent viewers of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and admittedly if this was a dumb, cameo-filled sketch about some show I love, I probably wouldn’t fret much about the moment where sketch comedy becomes a combination of advertorial and fan service. But that’s what it felt like, even if having Kim playing her sister instead of herself is kind of a fun gag. As the usually-excellent Chloe Fineman proves with her nondescript Megan Fox, there are only so many ways to do low-affect, soft-voiced California accents and call it an impression. If we must indulge Kim’s family cameos, go with this filmed piece, guided more by Aidy Bryant’s delightful floundering:

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    It’s an SNL tradition to stick a host who may be less, ah, accustomed to live performing (or just acting in general) in an off-brand spoof of The Bachelor, with the athlete/singer/really, it’s usually an athlete in question non-reacting to a parade of ridiculous single gals, played by nearly every lady in the cast. This sketch offered a Bachelorette variation on that, but instead of showing faith in the show’s guys, it brought in ringer after ringer to receive token after token from Kim, given more to do than the usual anonymous-hunk role as she recites a series of mildly amusing but overlong jokes about whatever guy has lined up to play himself. It’s all in service of a showdown between John Cena and Kyle Mooney (surprisingly not playing either himself or failed stand-up comic Bruce Chandling)—not absolutely dire, but it takes an awful long time (and plenty of tedious applause breaks for all the famous faces) to get there. Again: 21 people are in the cast! Why fill a sketch up with Amy Schumer or Chris Rock walk-ons, let alone guys who aren’t even professional comedians?

    This isn’t necessarily bottom of the barrel, but it violates a simple principle of comedy: If you already have an Aladdin sketch with Cecily Strong and Adam Driver on a magic carpet, there’s no need to make a second Aladdin sketch, also set on a magic carpet. Justice for this very silly but well-performed sketch from five years ago!

    Toss-Up

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    This filmed sketch is pretty funny, and confirms that sketch group Please Don’t Destroy, rumored to be hired in some kind of writing-plus-performing capacity similar to the Lonely Island before they all joined as writers only, will actually be doing the occasional on-camera bit. Their SNL debut was slight but promising, with some of that Lonely Island absurdity condensed down to an even tighter format, like pop-punk to the Lonely Island’s rock and roll. So why isn’t it an unambiguous highlight? Purely conceptually: There’s something unwieldy and off-putting about taking a swollen 21-person cast and then de facto adding three more guys to jockey for screen time.

    The Standbys

    Monologue: No one expects Kim Kardashian-West to come out and deliver a non-stilted comic monologue—and at first, it was sort of charming that she opted for a joke-joke-joke late-night-host approach, with one-liner and two-liner bits about various celebrities who happen to be connected to her very privileged life. But the rhythm of the jokes became deadening enough to make the whole thing sound a bit like the head of HR at a corporate retreat, showing off what she just learned in the workshop about how to use humor in your day-to-day life.

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    Weekend Update: Jost and Che continue to alternate good jokes, a few envelope-pushers, and substantial groaners into their coasting routine, and their guests this week were not ideal. Alex Moffat revived his microdosing-movie-critic routine, and it’s amusing enough (and here provided a fairly accurate description of the PAW Patrol movie) but, like his other Update characters, generally feels a few steps behind the zeitgeist for some hard-to-define reason. Heidi Gardner, meanwhile, is generally a master of the Update Desk Character form, but I can’t say I understand what she was going for with her life coach character who keeps throwing to her favorite Icona Pop song. Well, actually, it’s easy to describe in terms of past SNL players: This was straight up Molly Shannon plus Kristen Wiig, and Gardner usually excels in a less exuberant register.

    Music: Halsey’s voice has an indistinct softness around the edges; I find listening to her sort of like trying to read a street sign in the distance without my glasses. So I’m not the best judge of how she did on the show last night, though I will say, that sketch she did as host, where she played one of a group of sorority sisters on a scavenger hunt, was very funny and I wish it was online. (It involved singing a 4 Non-Blondes Song, so it’s probably a rights issue.)

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    Cut for Time: Another decent sketch washed out this week; this bit about a pop group enthusing about the “vibe” at Costco is easily better than half of the sketches that made it to air.

    Overall

    Given that the days of shunting a non-acting host off-screen for most of the episode are long gone, this probably could have gone worse. But there was an air of Kardashian World insularity that hung over the episode; this felt like an episode for the Kim Faithful (and/or her friends and family) more than something for comedy fans.

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