Saturday Night Live’s 41st season premiered this past Saturday. Complaining about the declining quality of the the sketch comedy show is as much of a pasttime as watching the show, and we have to note that it did not start out strong. Featuring host and musical Miley Cyrus in all of her cynically-appropriative and fake-controversial glory, the show received tremendous attention for an appearance by Hilary Clinton in a conspiculously softballing sketch opposite Kate McKinnon as the Democratic presidential candidate. Segments featuring Taran Killam as Donald Trump and a fake pharmaceutical for Republican presidential candidates in denial of their true abilities were relevant, but only so funny.
Truthfully, the episode featured only three real moments of laugh-out-loud comedy the way we like it—subversive, edgy, and altogether real. Perhaps uncoincidentally, they all featured stand-out cast member and comedian/actress Leslie Jones, and we’ve got them below:
3) “Weekend Update” Texting Bit
Jones is always a standout on “Weekend Update,” especially when she talks in no uncertain terms about the realities of contemporary relationships. Interpsersing relatable jabs on texting etiquette with the strait-laced “Update” co-host Colin Jost, Jones sends up the emotional manipulation and emptiness that comes with modern-day sexting.
2) “Katz’s Deli”
In this sketch, Jones plays a woman among a group of colleagues (Vanessa Bayer, Cecily Strong, and Miley Cyrus—all white) eating lunch at New York City’s famous Katz’s Delicatessen. Cajoled into impersonating Meg Ryan’s infamous orgasm scene from “When Harry Met Sally,” Jones launches into a full-throated imitation climax that brings up panic about broken condoms more than once. Her colleagues look on, miffed and horrified in equal measure.
1) “American Voices”
The season premiere’s funniest sketch featured a historical retrospective bit with Jones as a pioneering comedienne and late night show host who, in juxtaposition to the present run of predominantly white and male late-night figureheads, had to contend with rampant sexism and racism in her midst. Relevant despite its setting in the age of black-and-white TV, the bit finds Jones’s character becoming incensed by the era’s obvious use of toxic black stereotypes before being cut off by the censors.
This bit ultimately reveals every part of why some of us love Leslie Jones so much: At the end of the day, on a show that has legendarily prevented its castmates of color from reaching their potential while turning them into hackneyed caricatures, she delivers an A-game that transcends any barriers put on her by writers. For that reason, and so many more, she remains a cast member to watch this season.
Did we miss anything especially good featuring one of the show’s extremely-talented and totally-underutilized cast members of color? Let us know in the comments!