“Saturday Night Live ”recap: Adam Driver returns to play the piano — and a grotesque baby

The "Ferrari" star was joined by Olivia Rodrigo as musical guest.

Hi there, it’s SNL in Review — and tonight’s recap centers around Adam Driver’s fourth time as host. He previously hosted at the start of 2020. This time around, the former Girls star is not peddling a Star Wars installment; instead, it’s a different kind of cinematic universe — Ferrari, the latest movie from Michael Mann.

Driver has become a rabbit’s foot to many of movies’ best classic auteurs, including Spike Lee, the Coen Brothers, Ridley Scott, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Jim Jarmusch, Noah Baumbach, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Soderbergh. And like his collaboration with Terry Gilliam — which completed the infamously prolonged The Man Who Killed Don Quixote — Ferrari scratches a different kind of cineaste itch, giving Mann another crack at his career-long theme: The solitude and psychology of men at work.

Anyway, pardon the interruption — that is what he’s here to promote! That fact, considering Gen Z avatar Olivia Rodrigo is back as the musical guest, makes me laugh.

<p>Saturday Night Live/YouTube</p> Adam Driver hosts 'SNL'

Saturday Night Live/YouTube

Adam Driver hosts 'SNL'

I recently spoke with former cast member Taran Killam, who just returned to Broadway in Spamalot at the St. James Theatre, where he is playing the role of Lancelot. (A former SNLer wading into Monty Python territory, never a bad thing!) Killam was in the cast during Driver’s first stint as host and describes his comedic instincts as “perfect, got the joke right away, particularly with Undercover Boss, [He] understood the premise and playfulness of it.”

It is true. Despite his serious, awards-worthy reputation, Driver has generated multiple viral sketches and memes over his previous three Saturday Night Live episodes. Live from [wherever you are watching], let’s get into it!

Cold Open

C-SPAN brings us to the recent Congressional hearing with elite college presidents — Claudine Gay (Ego Nwodim), Sally Kornbluth (Heidi Gardner), Liz Magill (Chloe Fineman) — being challenged on their academic, out-of-touch views regarding anti-Semitism on campus. Chloe Troast is absolutely blistering as the histrionic and unfair Elise Stefanik.

The only one willing to say yes to anything is Kenan Thompson, president of the University of Phoenix. His campus is the internet, but their model likes to say yes to anything. The crowd appears unsure of how to react to this cold open, but loves Kenan’s appearance. (Killam told me he remains a major fan of Kenan as a cast member and person: “On writing night, his office was always one you could go to and check in. He’d always have time to listen to your ideas. He would never poo-poo, but always give constructive advice on how to make it work. Always good laughs.”)

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Driver loves being back at SNL — especially at this time of year. He takes the opportunity to speak directly to Santa, who he knows watches the show. (He hasn’t liked it since Chris Kattan left.) The actor serenades Old Saint Nick over the piano, namechecking his movie and requesting people stop accusing him on the street of killing Han Solo. Wokeness did that, not him.

Driver’s confidence carries this — otherwise, it’s fairly basic. Well, piano playing aside. He lands a funny joke about Santa killing those couples on TikTok that prank one another.

"We're Trying"

It’s an adults-only ski trip at a cozy cabin. Heidi Gardner and Michael Longfellow announce they are trying for their next baby. So don’t come a-knockin’! Then we settle into the premise. Bowen Yang and Driver share that they are also trying. The other couples question them, since the two men cannot give birth. “For us… for now… for us… for now,” they babble. Surely they must mean surrogacy or adoption, but no. 

The resentment over being questioned sets in. “People think they can ask gay people anything,” fumes Yang. “Things in the science community change so fast!” I get what this is going for, but it doesn’t really evolve beyond its hook. Solid though.

Did anyone else think we would get an Andy Milonakis reference tonight?!

"Old Friends"

Jake (Mikey Day) is back home for the holidays and begins thinking about Keith (Driver), an old friend from childhood. Keith is open to reconnecting — then the weird texts about the bar they are going to. Seems he is a full-blown psycho now, complete with a Netflix documentary about his crimes. Pretty good! Classic Mikey Day performance here — increasingly alarmed.

Devon Walker is great as Big Filthy — and there's a funny reveal about Facebook.

"Beep Beep"

“Beep beep!” Andrew Dismukes and Driver square off over the placement of food on the holiday table. Since Driver is the host, he thinks he has the right of way. Lots of holiday clichés and rules are evoked as neither one of them backs down. A face-off to the death is proposed.

Love Driver and textbook blustery Dismukes here — the writing is perfect, too. Just the right level of relatable tension and escalating absurdity.

"ShopTV Christmas"

Holiday Squeal Deal time with a couple of infomercial hosts (Day and Gardner). The Delaney Chocolates Santa is introduced by Dean (Driver) and it looks exactly like a giant penis. Yeah, it's that kind of sketch — groan humor. That may be up your alley, so if that appeals to you, feel free to check it out. Think of this as a visual Southern version of Schweddy Balls. Day considers how to take a bite of it without becoming a meme, after a pervy Kenan calls in and requests he taste it on air.

James Austin Johnson is pretty funny in his brief role. And apropos of nothing, more people should've watched I Love That for You.

Olivia Rodrigo performs "Vampire"

This pop-rock jam is the lead single from Rodrigo’s latest album, Guts, which just received six Grammy nominations.

When I spoke with Taran Killam, he spoke about his family’s deep appreciation of Olivia Rodrigo, noting: “We know Sour very well. We know the whole Sour album and that was one where Cobie [Smulders] and I were listening to it so much we sort of took ownership of it a little bit. It’s a near-perfect album. It really is. The way it’s kind of been compared to Jagged Little Pill, very different sound, slightly different impact, but that sort of young woman, hardship, scorned lover thing — it’s a good listen! I called out the Paramore “Good 4 U” [influence] — I could hear that right away. My daughters are like, ‘Who cares? It’s a good song."

On the new project, he says: “‘Vampire’ is good as well. We’re still kind of learning it. The new album has some really wonderful music. We just haven’t lived with it as long in our bones… she is a superstar. The Killam-Smulders household are Rodrigoheads.”

Pretty effective performance here — just a piano, stage smoke, and Rodrigo.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost and Michael Che kick things off with news on the latest Hunter Biden indictment. Other topics include: Eric Adams, Jeffrey Epstein’s jet, and Shohei Ohtani signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rocky Day! Alaska Airlines! Flat asses!

The rate of depression among American men is at an all-time high. Marcello Hernandez comes on to comment — he grew up in a household with four women and knows they support one another in a way men do not. It's a stretch, but a nice way to incorporate his stand-up. The crowd is eating it up. Pretty kinetic performance.

Chloe Fineman also makes an appearance — in front of the desk! She has a sexy gift idea for the holidays: Perform the street ballet finale from the end of Save the Last Dance. This opens things up for the Update anchors to discuss the silly plot of the movie, while Devon Walker channels Sean Patrick Thomas’ Derek. Cameo alert! No spoilers but Julia Stiles shows up and dances alongside Fineman. Pretty nostalgic if you went to school when this movie was popular! (Like me.) Teen movies were better back then!

"Airplane Baby"

Sarah Sherman apologizes for bringing her 11-month-old on a plane. The other passengers are not just put out, but disturbed. She was pregnant with him for two whole years, that's why he looks like a grown man. It doesn’t help that Driver channels Stewie from Family Guy — half the jokes are seeing Driver provide funny commentary on being a baby, the other half is on how grotesque he is. Pretty good, even if it’s a bit of a crutch. Payoff works too.

One thought: They keep casting Sherman in traditional mom and girlfriend roles, no? She is actually spunky and warm as an on-air presence, so it works… but I’d love to see more truly bizarre Sarah Squirm opportunities.

Does anyone ever think about how Baby K is doing these days?

Olivia Rodrigo performs "All-American Bitch"

Now we have some true pop-punk cosplay. This is the opening track off Guts. Here, we have an Alice in Wonderland kind of set-up, with Rodrigo withering on a fancy dinner display, licking berry juice off her arms.

Previously, she made her musical guest debut on the penultimate episode of season 46, which was hosted by Keegan-Michael Key, performing her songs "Drivers License" and "Good 4 U".

"Elder PSA"

Thousands of seniors fall victim to obnoxious TikTok pranks every day. They give testimony and we see their pain and annoyance, with cutaways to the pranks themselves.

Driver is funny as a cranky decorated veteran (especially considering he is a former military man himself!). "I don't deserve being dunked on by children at Walmart," he says. "I'm trying to buy a picture frame for my wife!"

Poor James Austin Johnson wets himself because Marcello Hernanez challenges him to name a woman. Meanwhile, elderly Molly Kearney is setting a dinner plate for Jesus' return. Sad!

"Tiny Ass Bag"

Another infomercial sketch! Ego Nwodim and Marcello Hernandez are selling unusable silly bags. “Now available in medium!” Think the small cell phone sketch.

Former Disney Channel star Olivia Rodrigo also pops up — her bag is small enough to only contain secrets.

Final Thoughts

—What did you think?! Adam Driver always brings it, doesn’t he? Vote here!

—Go see Spamalot on Broadway ASAP!

—Adam thanks SANTA in the Goodnights.

—Nice callout to former host Norman Lear, who died this week at the age of 101.

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