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Saturday Night Live recap: Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis returns to Studio 8H

·8 min read

Attention Conehead nation! Though not quite on the level as Eddie Murphy or Adam Sandler, the lack of Jason Sudeikis returning to host since his departure from the show in 2013 has been a lingering question over the past several seasons. When would he formally come back? Out of his class (a kind of modern golden age) Kristen Wiig had hosted - same with Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, and Seth Meyers. Until tonight, and despite several cameos over the years, Sudeikis was the glaring omission.

But with Ted Lasso becoming streaming's latest meteoric sensation, it was only a matter of time until the bell tolled for Jason at his old stomping grounds.

I am joined tonight by former Saturday Night Live cast member, Dan Vitale, who — like many of us — has binge watched the first two seasons of Ted Lasso. He says, "It is a revelation considering that I had no intention of even watching the pilot, but I figured any show that sweeps the Emmys has got to have something special going for it." While the show's premise, an American football coach being hired to lead a British soccer team, seems far-fetched, Vitale adds, "The minute Jason' s Ted Lasso character is introduced on the plane you get the guy, he's lovable, irresistible, you're rooting for him and ready to go on the ride."

"He possesses, and I know I'm dating myself here, an Andy Griffith-like persona — the hayseed, the hick, who everyone dismisses, yet inevitably almost always turns out to be the smartest guy in the room."

To be sure, tonight's SNL will capitalize around the immense hype of Ted Lasso. But the return of Jason also presents another welcome opportunity: a new What's Up With That sketch. Though it's ostensibly Kenan Thompson's showcase, Jason's running man Vance was an integral part. They won't deny us, right? (Note: The Saturday Night Live at Home show in April 2020 — during the pandemic — featured an altered version of the sketch; otherwise, this will be the first proper reunion since 2012.) And will we see a dueling Bidens cold open or no?!

Fresh out the box. Stop, look, and watch. Ready yet, get set. It's live from New York!

Cold open

Chloe Fineman debriefs the president as Jen Psaki. It's all bad news. Biden (James Austin Johnson) laments his decline in popularity and wonders about when the press used to like him. Welp, sure enough — boom — it's the ghost from Biden past (Sudeikis)! Dan Vitale calls the famous "Dueling Brandos" sketch "iconic" — glad they revisited a similar premise here.

It is so fun seeing Sudeikis back then, oddly, Biden from March 2021 (Alex Moffat) appears. He seems to step on one of Jason's lines. Funny in-joke there. This is pretty simple and well-executed, honestly. Probably one of my favorite cold opens in recent memory! Predictable, yes — but JAJ kills it, Sudeikis has that huge everyman energy. It actually has a specific arc and point-of-view about Biden. Hats off.

Vitale says: "this new kid [James Austin Johnson] has jumped right into the audience's consciousness with" the season premiere Joe Biden cold opening. Vitale already knew him from his viral Trump videos on YouTube. "He was spot on. Nothing but admiration for Alec Baldwin and Jim Carrey, but their respective Trump and Biden turns were a little too cartoonish, over-the-top caricatures for me. This young new guy seems to capture their nuances."

Monologue

Sudeikis updates us on what his life has been like since leaving the show. I really enjoy his summary of what drove the show throughout various eras. People go insane when he name-drops his Apple show. "It's built around two things Americans hate, soccer and kindness!"

His advice to current cast members to be noticed by Lorne Michaels? "Win an Emmy."

He reminds us — all of us — about all the iconic sketches and famous people who have been here, at 8H. And all the music, from Elvis Costello to Kanye. It's earnest and incredible. He calls out the young kid at home, and the importance of this show to them. I love it.

"The Science Room"

Jason Sudeikis is studying the periodic table "periodically." He is joined by two junior volunteers (Cecily Strong, Mikey Day.) We have seen this before, with Adam Driver and with Sam Rockwell. Not sure we needed this again — I need a moratorium on cast members pushing 40 trying to pull off 12-year-olds.

Anyways, Sudeikis is increasingly frustrated by the student's stupidity. "You're OK, emotionally?" he ponders, barely masking his contempt. "Go to hell, Josh." He calls out the parents (Kyle Mooney, Melissa Villasenor) to shame them. "Move dummy!"

"Mellen"

The male Ellen — with a hard masculine edge! He doesn't just high wave the audience, he nut taps them. ABC executives want to capture an at-home male audience, who are watching more TV.

"You just got vaxxed — Mellen-style!" he says to Kyrie Irving (Chris Redd). Fun satire of toxic masculinity and bro culture.

Lots of great jokes about Joe Rogan and Barstool Sports. Nailed it. And this is a great example of the show incorporating impressions in a way that flows and makes sense.

"Annie"

Villasenor is the little orphan Annie. Cecily Strong sings, introducing the staff (Aidy Bryant, Ego Nwodim, Moffat, etc.). Sudeikis is Ricky, they aren't sure what he does. He's worried about being perceived as being a creep. Turns out he provides a service for a club that Daddy Warbucks and his friends enjoy. Very curious! Strong and the rest of the staff are rightly disturbed. Mikey Day shows up as Warbucks, to ask about the feast. And it turns into an Eyes Wide Shut-style party.

"Cook Elementary School Parents Night"

Mooney and Nwodim are parents meeting with the teacher (Sudeikis) of their kid, Skylar. Leaning into the idle chatter and parent cliches, as Sudeikis and Nwodim begin to hit it off. Some good ole fashioned cuckold humor! "You don't know me very well, do you… Miss Thang?" I love the weird, twisted energy here. Nwodim accused him of being mad at her. Excellent one-off. Simple, but really effectively done.

"I'm not used to chalk this big," she trembles. He's in command. "I'm going to count to 30!" whines Mooney as his wife and Sudeikis make love. Bravo.

"Jake's Non Stick Underwear Prescription"

Another hilarious pre-tape slap at male culture. This time it is an underwear commercial. This tackles an important issue, surprising depths and absurdities built in. Really funny, and an excellent showcase for Redd and JAJ.

Brandi Carlile's first performance

"Broken Horses" is off her new album, In These Silent Days. Also the name of her memoir.

Another home run tonight — great suit, high energy performance.

"Weekend Update"

Colin Jost acknowledges it is the Halloween episode, and jumps in by comparing the new Ye mask to Steve Bannon. And Michael Che goes after Senator Kyrsten Sinema's defense of billionaires and Donald Trump's new social media site. Jost hits Biden's approval rating, and a curious Politico story about his use of the F-word.

Vitale comments: "It's obvious that the Biden administration is not off to the greatest of starts, (though) he'll never be the buffoon that his predecessor Trump was. But hey, it's SNL, no one should be off limits of being satirized, even harshly. Got to keep the playing field even, comedy should take no prisoners."

And just like that, Sudeikis is back as the Devil! Great to have him back. Topics include the Astros making it to the World Series again and Tom Brady.

"What's Up With That!"

What can you even say? This is so fun. One note about the longevity of this sketch: Robin Williams and Ernest Borgnine (RIP) both appeared on it.

Nice to see Fred Armisen pop up, as always. And Chris Redd, wow. Hader, where art thou? I like they continued the Lindsay Buckingham joke without him though. And it was wise to call out everyone has aged. (Guests also included Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Braun, and Emily Ratajkowski.)

"Declaration"

The ending is a little much here. But I am a fan! Go for it. Great to see Andrew Dismukes (new guard) getting airtime with someone like Jason.

Brandi Carlile's second performance

"Right on Time" is about loneliness and seeking reconciliation following an argument.

"Casino Proposal"

"Y'all got Venmo?"

Final thoughts

—Really fun episode! What did you think?

—One complaint from me: Another "Please Don't Destroy" digital video was cut. Air it, you cowards.

—Thank you to Dan Vitale! Want to see him live? He will soon be performing at the legendary House of Brews on 46th Street, heart of New York City, on Monday, November 8, 2021 at 8 p.m.

—Also shout out Julia Sweeney for contributing this fun Cameo video to my Twitter feed. (She also recognizes these EW recaps!)

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