Live from New York: ‘SNL’ busts out musical material for Nick Jonas

Photo of Nick Jonas on SNL
NBC/Courtesy

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Former Disney Channel star and current Priyanka Chopra husband Nick Jonas isn’t a natural comedy performer — his practiced brand of rigid geniality translated into some very stilted reading off of the cue cards on this week’s “Saturday Night Live.” But Jonas can sing, and “SNL” took advantage of this, supplying him with an above-average amount of musical sketches in addition to his double duty as host and musical guest (as for the latter role, this writer regrets to inform you that Jonas’ schlocky new single “Spaceman” is incredibly catchy.)

Jonas began by singing an ode to post-COVID life in his monologue, a short, forgettable “Les Misérables” riff that nonetheless featured a cute Kevin Jonas cameo. Both pre-taped segments this week were also music videos. “Bachelor Party” took aim at the odd pre-wedding tradition of men ordering strippers and getting boners together, allowing members of the show’s male ensemble some memorable individual solos. The musical high point of the night was “Murder Show,” which saw female cast members explain their obsession with true crime documentaries. The lyricism in this song was incredibly sharp — “Dig up some bodies and do an autopsy/ Boring! Wake me up when it’s Munchausen by proxy” — and the sketch as a whole riffed on the weirdly voyeuristic and callous culture of true crime fandom. 

On the politics front, current events-focused cold opens remain a tough spot for “SNL” this season. This week tackled the vaccine rollout in game show format: Kate McKinnon’s Dr. Fauci hosted “So You Think You Can Get the Vaccine?,” a program where high-profile governors let Americans know if they qualify for vaccination. “SNL” got some great jabs in about Americans trying to cut the vaccine line, the confusing bureaucracy that surrounds the vaccination effort and CVS (which apparently stands for “Chex Mix, Vodka, and So much Plan B”) — but the sketch ran noticeably long and Aidy Bryant’s Ted Cruz once again lacked focus. Simply having Bryant repeat something Cruz said this week — in this case, his cry of “FREEDOM!” at CPAC — is exactly the kind of lazy take on a public figure that made Alec Baldwin’s Trump so tiresome at the end of his run.

 

Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson had better luck with their impressions on “Weekend Update” this week, playing a deranged Marjorie Taylor Greene and an excitable LaVar Ball, respectively. Thompson in particular was hysterical, easily establishing a rapport with the audience. The rest of “Update” saw Colin Jost take some good shots at Cruz’s CPAC speech and GOP responses to President Joe Biden’s new stimulus bill; Michael Che’s insistence that Democrats keep losing because they can’t match the anger of conservatives didn’t quite work, but a later joke about the impact of coronavirus on Black Americans was much stronger.

The night’s remaining sketches were hit-or-miss. Jonas fittingly played the prince in “Cinderella’s Slipper,” a decently funny subversion of the traditional fairy tale, and a personal trainer in “Mirror Workout,” which was a fantastically absurd McKinnon showcase and a highlight of the show. McKinnon suffered more in “Post-COVID Dating,” which failed to fully embody the weird energy its writing set up, largely due to Jonas’ stiffness as a scene partner. 

Amusement Park” also fell flat, never building on its flimsy premise. Ego Nwodim brought back her hilarious Dionne Warwick impression for another installment of “The Dionne Warwick Talk Show,” a sketch that should definitely continue to recur; Nwodim always delivers her blunt questions for guests (this week, these included pondering about how big Jonas’ penis is) with kooky style.

Now, “SNL” is on a break until March 27, when alumnus Maya Rudolph will host and likely bring back her Kamala Harris impression. Until then, I’ll be listening to “Murder Show” on a loop.

Sketch of the week: “Murder Show”

“Update” joke of the week: “Tomorrow night, Donald Trump will give the keynote address at the Conversative Political Action Conference. For a preview of his speech, give your grandpa cocaine.”

Grace Orriss covers television. Contact her at [email protected]. Tweet her at @graceorriss.