The pop idol has performed on Saturday Night Live before, but this was her first hosting gig. How did she fare?
For those who don’t know (I’d totally forgotten), Ariana Grande isn’t just a pop star. Her career began on Nickelodeon, much like SNL cast member Kenan Thompson’s. So she’s certainly equipped for not just singing, but acting too. And if you like her music — she’s here to promote her latest album — then you’ll be doubly pleased.
Carson Endorsement Cold Open
Like I said last week, this is the time when political openers are perfectly acceptable — I just wish they’d do something, anything different with them. Yes, Darrell Hammond’s Donald Trump, Jay Pharoah’s Ben Carson, and Larry David’s Bernie Sanders are great, but a good impression doesn’t hold up without material.
The monologue is always the first sign of how the host is going to do, and Ariana did great in her line delivery and singing — though I’m a little disappointed they went to the cliche musical monologue so quickly. At least she has a great voice.
Hillary Campaign Ad
The cold opens need to take cues from these shorter pre-taped bits. The idea of Hillary Clinton slowly morphing into Bernie Sanders to pander to voters is hilarious, and Kate McKinnon’s impressions-of-Clinton-doing-an-impression-of-Sanders took it to the next level.
Kids’ Choice Awards
I wasn’t sure where this sketch was going, but stalling for time was a good choice. That said, the orange carpet “hosts” totally nailed the Nickelodeon vibe (and the meltdown) here. And as usual, Bobby Moynihan’s brief bit was perfect.
This Is Not a Feminist Song
A fantastic satire of feel-good songs in general. Not the best song the SNL ladies have done, but still a decent outing. The idea that they might “do the song wrong” is pretty funny too.
First of all, quality prosthetic work in this one. But I don’t grade for that. What I do grade for is comedy, and this sketch was gold. Kate McKinnon was the perfect foil to both Ariana and Cecily Strong. A great, yet mild gross-out gag.
The anchors had some great lines this week, though Michael Che’s share was better than Colin Jost’s. As for guests, Cecily Strong served up another borderline-creepy-but-still-hilarious character with The Drunkest Contestant on the Bachelor (apparently based on some real bimbo named Lace). We also get to see Bobby Moynihan’s Riblet again, and the bit hasn’t changed much — the magic might wear off for that character soon. On the flip side, Bobby’s synching up between himself at the desk and on the street was brilliant. A good Update overall.
This was just an excuse for Ariana to do her musical impressions — which she nailed. The ending twist with Jay Pharoah’s Jay-Z was great too.
Celebrity Family Feud
Not sure why they put this in the back half of the episode; it’s been great every time. And we get to see Ariana do another fantastic impression, this time of Jennifer Lawrence. The “actors” were definitely better than the “directors,” but this one was still full of great lines.
Sound of Music
I don’t know if I’ve ever wondered what Maria thought about the nuns’ song in Sound of Music, but now I know the answer. The back-and-forth between Ariana and the “proper” sisters her is great. Some real snappiness here.
It’s easy to label some of SNL’s hosts, but Ariana Grande is far more than “just a pop star.” Clearly her childhood acting talent is still around, because she had a magic in her hosting that not many others achieve. I walk away from this episode as a bigger fan of hers than I was before — and that’s about the biggest compliment I can give.
Tony is Laser Time’s SNL scorekeeper. Hit him up on Twitter if you like the scores!