‘SNL’ Recap Season 47, Episode 17: Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal stops by Saturday Night Live to host alongside Camila Cabello. This is Gyllenhaal’s second time hosting, as his 2007 appearance gave us all-time classic ”Bronx Beat.” Even though he has classic leading-man looks, movies like Nightcrawler and The Guilty have proven he can get really weird when he needs to. A range like that is a huge asset to any SNL host. Gyllenhaal should be at ease here: He’s hosted before and has been in the industry his entire life. His mother wrote Running on Empty, his father directed episodes of Twin Peaks and The Mentalist, and Paul Newman was his godfather. An actor who once had to turn down The Mighty Ducks because his parents wouldn’t let him away from the house for two months won’t be unmoored by the bright lights of Studio 8H.

SNL opens with James Austin Johnson’s Biden congratulating Ego’s Ketanji Brown Jackson on getting confirmed to the Supreme Court. (Ego: “I bet you can’t say that three times fast.” James: “I’m shocked I could say it one time slow.”) Biden is soon rushed off to a reception, and he tells Ketanji to take her time in the Oval Office. Kate immediately visits her as the Ghost of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Big ol’ YIKES to that one. Ginsburg then drops a Ginsburn on Ted Cruz, who Ketanji says read a book to her. (Kate: “I bet the book was called Goodnight Cancun.”)

Kenan then enters as Thurgood Marshall. (Kenan: “I was the first Black Supreme Court Justice, so you must be what? The tenth? The 20th?” Ego: “Nope, just the third.” Keenan: “No further questions, Your Honor.”) We hit a little gold when Punkie comes on as Harriet Tubman. (“What are we doing in the White House? Did we get in trouble?”) Harriet then lets Ketanji know that if she needs help escaping, light two candles. I wish SNL had played that more, but instead, the entire sketch was aimless, and they didn’t give Ketanji a point of view other than “happy to be there.” I’m as happy as anybody that she was confirmed, but this was SNL’s weakest cold open of the season.

Gyllenhaal comes out for his monologue and shows us a picture from the last time he hosted: him singing a song from Dreamgirls in full drag. For those who don’t remember, in that monologue, Jake says he told SNL no Brokeback Mountain jokes, only to immediately see Will and Jason dressed as cowboys in the front row. To thank his “new fans,” Jake tears off his suit and sings, “I Am Telling You I Am Not Going.” In a reprise of that monologue, Jake dips into a parody of Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me.” (“There were sketches I would never do again, but then they always seemed right.”) Gyllenhaal once again displays a great voice, but unfortunately it won’t be the last time he sings tonight.

SNL parodies the little-remembered HGTV Kitchen Cousins with Jake and Mikey redesigning a house for Heidi and her milquetoast husband, James. Unfortunately for Heidi, the cousins have to include plans for James’s mother and her 27-year-old-cat, Charles-David. (“You wanted this space to be ‘an oasis of relaxation,’ but Bea wanted this space to be ‘where we put my cat’s medical equipment.’”)

This sketch has some amazing visuals, from the cat sitting in the motorized stair-chair to the 90 Wise Quackers (large ceramic statues of ducks in 1930s gangster outfits) filling the yoga studio. Kate’s old woman gets so fed up with Heidi that she tells her son to hit her. (“Are you thinking about it?”) Everybody is really good here. Mikey, who can occasionally play too big, is hilarious as a toned-down straight man. The Mikey Day hive can check him out on Netflix’s Is It Cake? — a show where Mikey turns a premise that should have run out after three minutes into the streamer’s number-one show.

This has been a mixed season for newer cast members. James became an instant star. Andrew and Sarah are coming on strong. Ben, Martin, and John typically get a sketch a week. But Punkie and Aristotle seemed to have all but disappeared. So it was a nice surprise to see Punkie star in the very funny “Couples Counselor” sketch, where Jake and Melissa’s session with Punkie gets interrupted by her unhinged phone calls. (“Anger is never the answer. YEAH HO, WHERE YOU AT?”) Punkie realizes this is the perfect opportunity to practice expressing their emotions and asks Jake to read her texts to her partner and say how he’d respond. (Jake: “Girrrr …” Punkie: “No! Don’t do that voice.”) Ego enters with a Super Soaker (which confuses the audience), but Punkie asks Jake to read conciliatory texts. (Jake: “Girrrl, why we count fish when our love the whole damn ocean?” Melissa: “Oh, Ted, is that really how you feel?”) This sketch is a lot of fun, and Punkie once again shows she can be one of the show’s biggest stars with more opportunities.

Doing his best Will Forte impression, Jake is a Junior Dean and Cecily plays his wife. They host a young couple played by Andrew and Chloe. But Cecily soon discloses the dark reason why she and Jake haven’t had a baby: his obsession with drawing quirky paintings of dogs, such as a dog sitting on a toilet reading the newspaper or a pug as Yoda. (Jake: “It’s not finished.” Andrew: “What more would you do to it?”) The juxtaposition of the Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf play and the kitsch pictures of dogs hit every time. On a weak night, this should have definitely been on the 11:30 live show. Not sure how “Tombstone” made it over this.

The MVP tonight was host Jake Gyllenhaal. He once again showed he could do anything. In “Couples Counselor” he perfectly played a straight man. But in “Dinner with the Dean” and “Spring Flowers” he displayed how much he commits. His willingness to play really weird characters in different types of movies is a real asset when it comes to comedy. In another life, he could have been an all-time best cast member.

Tonight was, unfortunately, a miss for SNL. When they break out the musical numbers, you know they don’t have it. That is a shame because they just had a great episode last week after a monthlong break. The size of the cast just continues to plague the show. Cast members barely have room to create and develop reliable characters and archetypes that the writers can revisit. You don’t need that for a sketch show, but you really feel it on an uninspired episode like this one. The last time Jake was on SNL, budget cuts forced the show to cut down to 11 cast members. Obviously, we don’t want budget cuts, but it’s unsurprising that some incredible sketches, such as the Emmy-winning “Dick in a Box” came out of that season.

2022-04-10 18:53:48