Aubrey Plaza’s mischief as an intern started lengthy earlier than she performed the sardonic April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation. Throughout faculty, she briefly served as a web page at NBC, the place she spent her time sharing faux info on the excursions she led and sneaking off to vomit away her hangovers. Unsurprisingly, Plaza lasted only some months earlier than being requested to depart, however in her quick stint on the community, she acquired the possibility to path SNL’s design division. “I used to be stalking, lurking within the shadows,” she informed Jimmy Fallon earlier this week.
When Plaza took the stage final evening to host SNL for the primary time, she wasn’t lurking anymore. Throughout her opening monologue, she gave a fabricated tour of SNL Studio 8H, then joined three of the set designers she’d interned with all these years in the past. “After I was exhibiting up an hour late and barely working, did you ever anticipate to see me internet hosting the present?” she requested considered one of them. “Bow to your queen!” she demanded.
And pay homage SNL did. Allison Jones, the casting director for Parks and Recreation, as soon as purportedly known as Plaza “the weirdest lady I ever met,” and Plaza’s delightfully offbeat vibe got here to outline the episode. The present leaned into it from the bounce, delivering a number of sketches about bizarre characters liable to weirder behaviors that gave Plaza a possibility to play along with her abilities. Throughout a premise about morning bulletins at a Catholic faculty, she performed a nun who’d been by accident electrocuted within the bathtub, died for 2 minutes, and found heaven may not exist. The expertise left her questioning all the pieces. “I’m going to have intercourse tonight!” she shouted, widening her eyes in shaky resolve.
In a sketch a few recreation evening, Sasha (Plaza) and her accomplice, Ian (Mikey Day), ended up horrifying their new neighbors by by accident revealing their darkish historical past whereas enjoying Taboo. Racing to get Ian to guess a secret phrase appropriately, Sasha prompted him by reminding him what she was “on” the evening they first met. His guesses—on ketamine, on parole—lastly led to the best one: on fireplace. The impact felt like a throwback to SNL’s halcyon days a little bit greater than a decade in the past, when Kristen Wiig and Will Forte usually pushed the present’s sketches in absurd and grotesque instructions.
Nonetheless, though the present tiptoed as much as Plaza’s vibe, it stopped wanting going too far. SNL has, in spite of everything, lengthy aimed to succeed in and please center America—one thing Sarah Sherman has needed to navigate since becoming a member of the forged final yr. Identified for body-horror comedy beneath the identify Sarah Squirm, Sherman has discovered methods to tone down the extra excessive facet of her humor with out forgoing the explanations SNL employed her within the first place. In each Sherman’s and Plaza’s instances, the compromise works, however one has to marvel what is likely to be potential if the present didn’t so fervently pursue middle-of-the-road comedy.
Because it nears its fiftieth anniversary—and as even longtime forged members query its longevity after that milestone—SNL appears to be at an inflection level. On condition that so most of the present’s most recognizable forged members have not too long ago departed, newer members have the potential to reinvigorate it. With youth usually comes experimentation, and it’s led to large payoffs up to now, specifically the viral energy of Digital Shorts.
However this season has performed it protected as a rule, tapping big-name hosts and visitor stars so as to add pizzazz as an alternative of giving its newer forged ample room to attempt novel issues. Final evening mined nostalgia in a number of predictable methods, together with by having Plaza seem as her famed Parks and Recreation character throughout a “Weekend Replace” bit. She was ultimately joined by her boss, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), for a second that sweetly linked the 2 reveals. Poehler took the chance to sit down in her former anchor chair and ship a joke. It was a delight, in fact, but additionally a reminder of the previous fairly than a sign of the long run.
Every period of SNL has to seek out its personal voice. In a season bursting with change, the present has struggled with relevancy and originality; it hasn’t but discovered a solution to stand out from earlier eras. However as a lot as Plaza’s activate the present nodded to the previous (her time as a web page, beloved outdated characters), it additionally hinted at new prospects.