Wait, remind me again, who hosted Saturday Night Live this week?
No, I’m not trying to say that Ronda Rousey isn’t necessarily famous or funny enough to be the emcee of NBC’s sketch-comedy staple, but merely pointing out that with a few fleeting exceptions, the mixed martial-arts champ was as significant to the success or failure of the episode’s sketches as a beach umbrella in the middle of a blizzard.
Who knows? Maybe Rousey turned out to be less adept with a punchline than SNL boss Lorne Michaels had originally anticipated. But it seems like she should’ve at least had the opportunity to be the comedic anchor of one or two skits — and live or die based on her own talents.
Then again, in a week where the show made its second attempt in less than a year to mine the subject of statutory rape for laughs, where all post-“Weekend Update” fare seemed to be plucked from the “rejected sketches of 2015” compost heap, and where musical guest Selena Gomez made us wonder if batteries in a blender could top the Billboard charts (with a little Auto-Tune help), Rousey’s relegation to background prop was the least of the show’s problems.
Below, my picks for best and worst sketches — bearing in mind that competition for the latter category was incredibly contentious:
BEST: HIGH-SCHOOL BULLIES
Rousey used her ass-kicking skills to very funny effect playing the new girl in high-school, tricked into a date with Beck Bennett’s popular jock for the amusement of his alpha-beast girlfriend (Vanessa Bayer). Rousey didn’t have to do much more than slap her handprint into Bayer’s cheek, then throat-punch Bennett, but I heartily LOL’d nonetheless.
BEST: SARAH PALIN ENDORSES DONALD TRUMP
Tina Fey returned to put an exclamation point on the next-level idiocy of Palin’s stump speech in Iowa. Darrell Hammond’s asides as the erstwhile Celebrity Apprentice host — “She sounds like a greeting card from a Chinese dollar store” — were amusing, but Fey’s spot-on impersonation and vicious word-salad made this one an instant classic. (Grade Fey’s Palin here.)
HONORABLE MENTION: BLAND MAN
SNL poked fun at The Bachelor back when Blake Shelton hosted last January — redubbing it Farm Hunk — and while there was once again a deliberate avoidance of referring to ABC’s reality-dating franchise by name (this time, it was Bland Man), Rousey and the ladies of SNL scored a number of solid laughs by (barely) exaggerating the show’s tropes. Bayer’s “I loved going to your old high school and watching you cry” was deadly accurate, but Cecily Strong’s “I’m a virgin, but I’m very quick to do the stuff I do” was the wickedly wrong cherry atop the sundae.
WORST: STATUTORY RAPE TRIAL ON HLN
Last April, SNL‘s face connected with the pavement with a sketch starring Pete Davidson as a high-school student making the point that statutory rape is totally kosher as long as the victim is male and the perpetrator is a lady. Unfortunately, the show doubled-down on that grotesque idea — once again without any meta commentary or smart twist at the end — by bringing in Rousey as a second defendant in the case. Imagine the sketch with male teachers raping Davidson’s character, or male teachers raping a female teen, and tell me Lorne Michaels would have ever let it see the light of day. Mark this one for an eventual slot on SNL‘s “Worst of 2016” list.
WORST: SUPER CREW
This dubious bit about a band of mostly lame superheroes arriving to save a city from alien robots — then delaying their work with length introductions to a pair of civilians — was notable only for giving the often underutilized Sasheer Zamata, Bobby Moynihan and Jon Rudnitsky a few seconds of screen time. The bad news? Not one of ’em scored a real laugh. The good news? Neither did Rousey the multitude of other SNL players involved in the tepid spoof.
WORST: BREAK-ROOM PARTY INVITE
Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney played social misfits attempting to navigate co-worker Rousey’s invite to a Sunday NFL viewing party. I genuinely hope you’d already gone to bed as this catastrophic sketch aired, and on a similar note, I implore you not to waste your time watching video of it on TVLine when we post it Sunday morning. Seriously, play Legos with your kids, go read a book, shovel some snow, rearrange your spice cabinet! Even the most mundane task is a better use of your time than watching this deeply unfunny mess!