Winter Came to ‘SNL’ in the Form of Peter Dinklage

Peter Dinklage and Gwen Stefani Bumpers
It certainly felt like winter came to 30 Rock this weekend, in part due to some unseasonably chilly weather in NYC, but mostly because Game Of Thrones star Peter Dinklage hosted Saturday Night Live with musical guest Gwen Stefani. The episode leaned on Dinklage’s GOT fame with several nods to his role as Tyrion Lannister, and had several shining moments among some otherwise middling sketches.  

Okay, full disclosure: I have only watched one episode of Game Of Thrones (and it wasn’t even the first episode of the series). But it’s cool — I’ve seen both The Station Agent and Elf so I knew going in that Dinklage has both dramatic and comedic chops. Dinklage definitely delivered in terms of solid performances, but was perhaps his funniest while playing himself in a stand-out Naked & Afraid parody with Leslie Jones. He provided a somber, deadpan backbone to a number of sketches, and you have to give him props for being cool with the writers putting him in a Winnie the Pooh costume. Now that’s a sign of a confident man.

Other noteworthy moments included a sketch drop-in by Stefani, and another appearance by Darrell Hammond’s Donald Trump, which has become less of a surprise at this point and more of a necessary crutch for the cold open. This episode also left us with such exciting new catch phrases as “Space pants” and “Loose log,” so try working both of those into your vocabulary.

Next week, another celebrated dramatic actor, Russell Crowe takes the helm, followed by 1982-1985 cast member Julia Louis-Dreyfus (!!!) on April 16. Until then, let’s take a closer look at how Dinklage fared on live comedy television instead of a critically acclaimed HBO drama.

At This Hour Cold Open

Introducing SNL viewers to two blonde women in media that aren’t Elisabeth Hasselbeck or Megyn Kelly, this week’s cold open focused on female Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes (Cecily Strong) and her mind-boggling defense of Donald Trump’s (Darrell Hammond) sexist comments and behavior. CNN’s Kate Bolduan (Kate McKinnon) provides a voice of reason while Hughes’ argument quickly dissolves into a string of Missy Elliott lyrics (side note: the real-life Hughes seems to be a pretty good sport about being called “a full-blown nut job.”) Cuts to a Trump rally show the sight of Hammond doesn’t even get a “Woo!” from the audience anymore, but he does get a big laugh for punching Bobby Moynihan in the face repeatedly. It definitely wasn’t the strongest political cold open of the season, but I guess there are only so many ways to process Trump’s continuously outrageous behavior. Maybe it’s time for another Larry David drop-in?

Peter Dinklage Monologue

As I mentioned above, Dinklage did a fine job of portraying himself in the upcoming Naked & Afraid sketch, perhaps a better version of what was delivered in his monologue. He kept it brief and entirely GOT-focused, with help from Bobby Moynihan as George R.R. Martin in the audience, Leslie Jones as an adorable dragon, and a preview of Kate McKinnon as the Mother of (said) Dragons. The highlight was undoubtedly when Martin suggests cutting to backstage, where apparently there are a couple of showgirls hanging out with Abe Lincoln and a llama at all times. Oh, and Beck Bennett singing a song to his chips. Anyway, on to the sketches!

Winnie the Pooh

Part of me hopes that at least one kid stayed up past their bedtime, saw this sketch and realized just how bizarre Winnie The Pooh really is. Trooper Peter Dinklage kicks off his first sketch of the night in a Pooh costume that would look at lot more ridiculous if it weren’t for the equally silly looks of Tigger (Kenan Thompson), Piglet (Kate McKinnon), and Eeyore (Bobby Moynihan). As Pooh’s cousin Denny the Real (Jay Pharoah) points out, this crew is “raggedy and raunchy,” particularly Pooh’s lack of pants (“Looking like a black guy in a porno trying to hide his gut”), Piglet’s “old bathing suit” vibes and Christopher Robin (Taran Killam) wearing knee-high socks and Daisy Dukes. Pharoah’s roasting of the 100 Acre Wood residents is reminiscent of Eddie Murphy’s edgier versions of children’s classics, like Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood or the Gumby sketches. Denny has a point, too. Pooh should really be eating all those other animals.

Naked & Afraid: Celebrity Edition

If Naked & Afraid isn’t already working on a celebrity edition, they should be after this. As soon as Peter Dinklage (and the audience) sees Leslie Jones step out of her Uber fully naked, you know it’s going to be good. Jones is at her best when playing her heightened self, and she definitely stays #onbrand as the show’s domineering flirt by simultaneously hitting on Dinklage, bossing him around, and trying to eat him. The dynamic between Jones and Dinklage is hilarious; him with his sensible fire-starter and her with hot sauce in her bag; him desperately trying to build shelter while she licks her lips, it not being clear whether she’s after him for sex or sustenance. It’s the kind of comedic chemistry that normally takes longer than a week to build up between two performers. It’s also going to be a while before I get the image of the two of them spooning naked in the dark out of my head, but I would watch so much more of Dinklage and Jones as an odd couple. Also, big props to wardrobe on that comically large bush at the end.

Mafia Meeting

At first I thought this was a set-up for a Sopranos-inspired sketch (which, judging by Pete Davidson’s Instagram would be a dream come true for him) but instead, it quickly took a sharp left turn into Crazytown. And it actually works, thanks to some serious committing by Dinklage and a Gwen Stefani cameo to boot. What starts as a meeting between a couple of mobsters (Bobby Moynihan and Beck Bennett) and lesser mobsters (Jon Rudnitsky and Pete Davidson) over twinkling piano music turns into Dinklage putting on a serious new wave performance that might remind you of a certain Jimmy Fallon bit. There appeared to be a couple of cue mix-ups in this one, first with Jon Rudnitsky seeming to show up late to the table, and then Stefani jumping in too early for her verse in the “Space Pants” song. The sketch was a little rough around the edges but definitely memorable, mostly because space pants. Space pants. SPACE PANTS!

Trendy Restaurant

Every New Yorker knows at least one self-hating gentrifier who would comment on how much the neighborhood has changed while simultaneously getting behind something like a restaurant that used to be a sex parlor. Peter Dinklage does a great job of portraying this obnoxious hipster personality alongside Aidy Bryant, whose characters are offset by a polite tourist couple (Vanessa Bayer and Beck Bennett) in matching salmon sweaters who simply aren’t ready for their waiter (Kyle Mooney) to serve an extra-long pumpernickel baguette out of a glory hole adjacent to their table. When Mooney has to share the “hole” with training waiter Jay Pharoah’s mouth, I almost spit out my drink. You’ve also gotta love any sketch that can justify having this sentence in it: “Stop being a prude, Diane, and eat the corn out of the glory hole!”

Game of Thrones Sneak Peek

The second pre-taped sketch of the night was the requisite GOT-focused sketch that we were expecting, but with an unexpected focus. A behind-the-scenes promo for the new season of the popular HBO show opens with Peter Dinklage dressed as Tyrion Lannister and Kate McKinnon as Emilia Clarke in her Daenerys Targaryen costume from the cold open, but it’s Bobby Moynihan in his mocap dragon suit who steals every scene. Instead of just putting Bobby back in the George R.R. Martin costume, the sketch focuses on how ridiculous it must feel to be a classically trained actor having to essentially act opposite a tennis ball (the last season of Bojack Horseman also touched on this). It’s not as funny as the Naked & Afraid remote, but Moynihan has a couple stand-out moments, like whispering “…of Thrones” behind Taran Killam, or not-so-conspicuously having his pee-stained crotch dried with a hair dryer behind a flawless Mother of Dragons.

Weekend Update

After being on hiatus, Colin Jost and Michael Che had a couple weeks of bad Donald Trump behavior to catch up on, and they made good use of the first half of Weekend Update to do so. Similar to the cold open, Trump’s recent abortion comments took focus, with Jost putting together that his backpedaling makes him “pro-choice,” while Che reminds Trump that the phrase “women should be punished” should never really be said during a live debate. Or ever.

Che’s material on Trump being like a spurned ex-girlfriend was hilarious, especially the mental image of Trump as a “tacky orange ho” and President Obama rolling his neck and saying, “And you’re gonna replace me with that bitch?” Also on the political slate were Justin Trudeau’s yoga abilities, a joke about guns at the GOP convention and imagining if Hillary Clinton’s rally at the Apollo ended like a Redd Foxx punchline.

SNL’s resident little brother Pete Davidson came by to comment on Gawker having to pay Hulk Hogan $140 million for running his sex tape, and how that makes him the world’s highest paid porn star. He makes a strong case for the whole thing being ridiculous in an argument that legitimately asks, “Why are we slut-shaming Hulk Hogan?”, plus some choice observations about the origin of professional wrestling. Davidson also got an “Aww” from the audience when talking about his own penis, then had an awkward exchange with Che and Jost about size that probably made everyone think about what’s under the Update desk a little too long.

The second half of Update took aim at Elton John, Coca-Cola, blackout tattoos, face-swapping (again, somehow a penis joke got an “Aww” from the audience), one more joke about Trump, and a new joke for the eventual supercut of Che making fun of Jost (p.s., would totally buy a copy of “Surge of Vanilla”).

Rounding out the night, Kenan Thompson brought back his seriously funny David Ortiz impression, last seen back in November, to talk about opening day. But really, Big Papi only has one thing on his mind: lunch. Specifically, a big Dominican lunch. I could listen to him read off a Spanish restaurant menu all day, but he also has time to crack up “Yost” while launching into his slew of fake businesses like “Welp” and “BeeWorld.”

Undersea Hotel

I’m just gonna start this off with a slow clap for Taran Killam’s excellent (dead) bodywork in this sketch. It’s not easy to be the focal point of the sketch while pretending to be floating lifeless underwater at the same time. Cecily Strong and Beck Bennett play a newlywed couple being shown their honeymoon suite by undersea hotel manager with an impossible name played by Peter Dinklage, when they see what’s clearly the body of one of his employees floating outside the room. From there it could have just been about getting Devin the parasailing instructor’s body out of the water (which they attempt to do with a pool skimmer) but the sketch has other funny details, like Bennett’s persistence not to waste his Cialis, or Dinklage’s character (Ray-ourke?) offering some sweet Eagle Eye Cherry tickets as a consolation. Jay Pharoah’s caribbean accent and a B-movie quality moire eel also add to the sketch. I’m surprised this one wasn’t earlier in the show.

Vacation Nightmares

All you need to know about this sketch is that Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant’s Danish accents are not to be rivaled. Peter Dinklage moves things along as the host of Vacation Nightmares, one of those true crime reenactment shows that makes everything look like a bad soap opera. As Meredith and Steve Tisher (Cecily Strong and Taran Killam) have their vacation nightmare reenacted by Vanessa Bayer and Beck Bennett, the show becomes about how bad the portrayal is, particularly the part where two big, sary Danish muggers are played by Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon who mime guns and say things like, “So Horny. So Danish” I always love an Aidy/Kate combo (Dyke & Fats 4E) and their commitment to the badly-acted characters is what makes this one almost work. Did anyone else notice that Aidy’s character looked a lot like Guy Fieri?

Corporate Magic Show

You know this sketch was inspired by someone on the cast (or in the writer’s room) having suffered through a corporate comedy gig in the past. The cheesiness is all too real when the magician (Taran Killam) thanks “Petersen Realty’s company retreat” for witnessing his act. The challenge of having to poke fun at the boss (Peter Dinklage) in front of his employees is an old trope, but Dinklage’s seriousness and commitment to playing the no-nonsense audience participant makes it stronger. The intensity at which he dissects Killam’s stinky underwear joke, and the fact that he never cracks a smile while saying things like, “There’s a loose log floating in my pants,” are impressive. Here’s to scatalogical humor at 10-to-1:00 in the morning!

So Shoot, What Else?

  • It’s kind of sad that “Yo Mama” jokes would actually be a step up from some of Trump’s more inflammatory rhetoric.
  • Someone turn this line into a GIF immediately: “And then I was like, ‘What am I afraid of? I’m Leslie Jones.’”
  • Where can I buy some SPACE PANTS?
  • Pete Davidson’s revelation on Update: “We’ve got to stop making girls feel bad about having sex with random guys, or they’ll stop having sex with random guys.”
  • I wonder how the President of the DR feels about being called “a manatee drinking a pina colada.”  
  • Interesting that SNL would joke about “Anything Asian [being] tricky” at the end of the Vacation nightmares sketch, considering the 40-year show has been notoriously absent of Asian cast members.
  • She’s been playing a lot of straight parts this season, but Vanessa Bayer’s smile is somehow hilarious all on its own.
  • This episode felt a little sloppy in terms of props, lines and cues. Is Mercury in retrograde or something?

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