Maya Rudolph SNL Sketches Ranked: Tina Fey, Martin Short and a Message Against Anti-Asian Hate

Maya Rudolph SNL Sketches Ranked: Tina Fey, Martin Short and a Message Against Anti-Asian Hate

March 28, 2021

Maya Rudolph takes a nostalgic trip down “SNL” memory lane, rips on Boomers getting the vaccine and takes Beyoncé past her limit during a trip to hot wing hell on “Hot Ones.”

It’s always a celebration when a former cast-member returns to the hallowed halls of “Saturday Night Live,” and that was definitely the case for Maya Rudolph.

The 2000s-era alum took the new cast-members under her wings, took a creepy trip down memory lane and even revived a few of her most famous impressions. You didn’t really think we’d have a Maya episode without an appearance by Beyoncé, did you?

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Well, this is a Beyoncé more rattled than perhaps anyone has ever seen her, and Maya played her to the hilt. In fact, she delivered in every role she had, from those new to those familiar and even brought back her Kamala Harris (surprisingly not in the cold open).

Maya brought along a few friends as well, including frequent comedy collaborator (and fellow “SNL” alum) Martin Short, as well as a few of her best lady friends from her time on the show, Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch. Even musical guest Jack Harlow got in on the guest star action, inviting Adam Levine to join him for “Same Guy.”

During the “Weekend Update” segment, the show got somewhat serious for a moment as Bowen Yang uncomfortably — and emotionally — addressed the growing problem of anti-Asian hate in this country. Couched in his comedic sensibilities, it felt very personal and powerful

As usual, we’re ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Monologue, Cold Open, “Weekend Update” and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. We’ll skip the musical guests, because they’re not usually funny — unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.

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Cold Open: Snatched! Vaxed! Or Waxed!

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The pacing on this sketch wasn’t quite working, as if it was a last-minute addition to the show they hadn’t property practiced to find its rhythm. On top of that, it just wasn’t that sharply written or clever. While we applaud skipping a cold open, it was certainly unexpected with Maya Rudolph (aka Kamala Harris) hosting. Nevertheless, they did manage to stay topical, making fun of Americans trying to start a fourth wave by ignoring safety protocols even as the vaccine is finally getting rolled out. In America’s defense, they’ve been handling this pandemic pretty terribly since the beginning, so did anyone expect any different?

Honestly, there was nothing that really worked in this, even though the pieces were there for some pointed commentary and over-the-top stupidity. Heidi Gardner probably came the closest to it with her whatever-the-hell-that-monologue-was. Overall, though, this sketch needed to marinate a little longer.

Monologue: Maya Rudolph

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Certainly a creative approach, Maya Rudolph brought out the cast newcomers to impart some oddly familiar wisdom upon them from her time on the show … only her details were a little hazy and it sounded like she was recalling a different pop culture phenomenon. Nevertheless, she was clearly having fun with it, and it was cute watching Punkie Johnson and Lauren Holt try to keep it together as she basically called them stupid for questioning her recolleciton. As for Andrew Dismukes, he was dismissed early on for having the audacity to answer a question!

Cryptocurrency

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An actual public service in the form of a rap parody, Pete Davidson, Chris Redd and even Jack Harlow stepped up to help explain NFTs and cryptocurrency. It’s nice that this was paired with the Boomers vax in the same episode, because that demo would certainly seem to be the one that would struggle the most to understand the tech-driven NFT space. Pete and Chris both do solid Em impressions, but it wasn’t until Jack dropped in that it all made sense. His verse explained NFTs about as clearly as we’ve ever heard. Is this ready to be added to the new economics curriculum?

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The Maya-ing

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Every once in a while, “SNL” finds a way to pay homage to its own history through a creative exploration, usually with a former cast-member. This week, the show wrapped with a Kubrick-esque “Shining”-inspired look at the studio featuring past members like Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch and Kristen Wiig, alongside some of the current cast. We got some glimpses of highlights from Maya Rudolph’s time on the show, some former hosts and musical guests (good and bad) and even a nod to the original Not Ready for Primetime Players (plus one). While not hilarious, there was a sweetness in the nostalgic look back at such a storied franchise.

Hot Ones w/ Beyoncé

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It took until the first sketch post-monologue for Maya to really settle into her groove and remind us all why she was such a superstar on this show. Her Queen Bey has always been incredible, but dropping her into the “Hot Ones” format only heightened everything as she tried to stay a little too cool and a little above it all while tackling extremely hot wings. We love how she started to fall apart, but her handlers were there to try and keep that image pristine. How did we ever even see this footage? Someone’s getting stomped!

Choreographers

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The ending didn’t quite work, but everything up to it was a lot of fun. It was clear that Kenan Thompson and Maya Rudolph are such seasoned performers at embodying ridiculous characters in no time flat, bringing to life two choreographers with a sordid love/hate relationship that was both disturbing and incredibly stupid. And it’s all in the name of helping to bring Broadway back stronger than ever. We support the arts, but can we support these two? There was a lot to enjoy in this sketch, but it definitely could have used a stronger finale.

Barfly Awards

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Honestly, we’re not sure why this was so entertaining. It was little more than an excuse for everyone in the cast to portray a drunk character. Maybe it’s because we can imagine how much fun that must be for them. It’s a challenging thing to pull off completely, with Cecily Strong probably the best at it of the ones we saw, though Aidy Bryant and Kyle Mooney were rock solid(ly drunk) as well. It was all very silly, but we found ourselves with a smile on our face from start to finish.

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Weekend Update

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Colin Jost laid into the NRA and 2nd Amendment supporters for only focusing on the gun parts and forgetting the rest, or people or really anything other than their precious guns. Even their ads, he said, look like campaign ads for the office of President of ISIS. The boys also got some jabs in at President Biden over his age and cheat sheets, but even that managed to turn into an attack on Trump for his even worse cheat sheets. Michael Che pointed out the obvious flaw in the concept behind an Instagram for Kids.

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It took until the final moments of Cecily Strong’s appearance as Sidney Powell for her whole bit to come full circle and really make sense. Powell is the woman who claimed she had definitive proof of Dominion voting machines being involved in rampant voter fraud and is now saying that “no reasonable person” would have believed her claims in the wake of a billion-dollar-plus lawsuit. The defense … rests?

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Michael Che got in a great bit of commentary about Black incarceration in relation to a story about a woman’s wallet being returned after she’d lost it 70 years ago in a school gymnasium. The boys also talked about walking/talking sex dolls and Colin Jost found himself wondering if the introduction of new Black muppets means that the rest of the cast of multi-colored characters are white.

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Things got a little more serious than usual as Bowen Yang came out to talk about the growing problem of Asian hate crimes in America. He had plenty of humor in there, but it was also clear that he was pained by the stories that have been emerging in recent weeks. At the same time, he’s touched by the Asian grandmother who fought off her attacker returning nearly a million dollars raised on her behalf to her community. But it’s important that everyone do more, stand up and say this is unacceptable. Like Black Lives Matter, MeToo, trans and LGBTQ movements, it’s time to stop marginalizing and dismissing any group that isn’t white men in this country. And stop catering to white fragility and be willing to stand up for what’s right and decent and human.

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Message from Vice President

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This sketch felt like the cold open we didn’t get, and probably wouldn’t have minded. Martin Short was having a blast as Kamala Harris’ husband, while we got our expected who’s who of political figures included Aidy Bryant’s Ted Cruz, Cecily Strong’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and even Alex Moffat’s “Jobiden.” It had some fun commentary on the state of politics and definitely painted Harris as the more competent of the two at the top of the executive branch. It was a fun sketch that didn’t belabor its political commentary, wringing a lot more laughs out of Martin fighting with a stuffed dog and manhandling Maya. It did suffer minor timing issues as well, but those can be chalked up to working with animals, which is never easy on a filmed set, much less live.

Boomers Got the Vax

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It may not be particularly well-received by the Baby Boomer generation, but this brutal rap look at the generation that created the state of the current nation we’re all living in still being first in line for the vaccine has plenty to say about entitlement and the disconnect many feel that Boomers have for the real world, the problems they helped create and have benefited from and the struggles of everyone that isn’t them. Sharply written and performed to hilarious perfection by pretty much the whole cast, this is a geriatrict blast with a ‘90s hip-hop throwback sound that makes it even more timeless.

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Kyle Mooney had one of his strongest weeks in quite a while, featuring throughout the night in a wide variety of roles. Chris Redd continues his strong rise into a leader on this cast, as well, while the veteran women all shined just as we might expect them to.

Fun fact, Maya Rudolph was still a part of the “SNL” cast when Kenan Thompson first joined as a Featured Player in 2003, as were Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch (who also appeared this week). Perhaps it was that callback to his wayward youth and the launch of his own “SNL” career, but Kenan was having so much fun this week, and almost every bit of it worked.

He channeled Notorious B.I.G. in the Boomer vaccine rap, was hilariously terrified opposite Maya’s Beyoncé, as well as several other smaller roles. But he absolutely stole our hearts as an inept (and rather dim) choreographer opposite Maya.

He seemed to have renewed energy, appearing in more sketches than anyone as if he just wanted to soak up as much of Maya being there as possible. And he also proved why he can just stay on this show as long as he wants, aging like fine wine, as sharp and funny as he was 18 years ago!

“Saturday Night Live” returns next week with host Daniel Kaluuya and musical guest St. Vincent.


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