Drake Starts Beef at ‘SNL’ and Proves He’s More Than Just a Meme

©2016/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC
Drizzy proved he’s just as funny as the jokes about him on the Internet this weekend by pulling double duty on Saturday Night Live. Joining Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande as this season’s third host-musical guest combo, Drake played well with the cast, had no problem making fun of himself (I honestly lost track of all the Canadian jokes) and seemed to breeze through the episode from musical monologue to crazytown 10-to-1 sketch.

Since he last hosted and performed in 2014, Drake has become a lot more famous (so much so that his shaving his beard for the show was a news story of its own) and he put that buzz to good use by letting the show have fun with his public beefs, embarrassing Internet memes, and even those Rihanna rumors. Even though the show already made thorough use of his “Hotline Bling” video, there was plenty more on the table, and the rapper/Canadian teen soap opera star was also adept at playing characters that weren’t based on himself (although let’s face it, Drake could have definitely been Dennis Walls in another life).

Overall it was a solid penultimate episode, with other highlights being the return of Black Jeopardy! and Beck Bennett’s “boss with the body of a baby” character, and some solid Weekend Update appearances from Kate McKinnon and Jay Pharoah. Next week is the season 41 finale (already?) with Fred Armisen with musical guest Courtney Barnett. But first, let’s take a look at this week’s Drake-isode.

Donald Trump/Chris Christie Cold Open

Kicking things off with a subtle joke about Donald Trump posing as his own PR man, Darrell Hammond once again led the cold open as Trump, now trying to decide on a running mate. It was good to see Bobby Moynihan’s Chris Christie back in the mix, pining for the Vice President job while simultaneously suggesting Bruce Springsteen because he was “born to run.” Out of all the former GOP candidates they zinged, Carly Fiorina probably got it the worst (“She’s also an outsider who ran a very unsuccessful business” and that dig about being “a B-cup, tops.” Oof). But then again Trump also gets George Zimmerman confused with “Little Marco” Rubio. Let’s just hope the campaign doesn’t actually turn into a rom-com where Trump has to choose the one who was right there, all along, or we might soon be saying Vice President Christie.

Drake Monologue

As even The NY Times has noted, Drake is kind of the master of owning the Internet’s obsession with him. But still, don’t you just hate it when you start hearing from the whole fam you got clowned on Instagram? With the help of some of the Internet’s best Drake memes (seriously, what IS he doing on top of the Seinfeld diner?) Drake used his monologue as an opportunity to self-parody in song, like a good host-musical guest should. “More Than A Meme” is kind of catchy, too (“How can I explain to my mama/When you got my beard on Obama?”). While the cover of “Views” and his Degrassi press photos are endlessly memeable, Drake also puts on a wig and briefly turns into Rihanna to address the ongoing rumors that they’re hooking up by changing the lyrics to “Work.” Great, now that’s stuck in my head, too.

Rental Car

The episode started strong with some solid character work from Drake right out the gate, not to mention Jay Pharoah, in this sketch taking on the powerful combination of incompetent customer service and even worse management. Vanessa Bayer and Beck Bennett play a newlywed couple who are basically living the “Pop Copy” sketch from Chappelle’s Show, but at a car rental place. Malcolm (Drake) is too busy airing his relationship problems and speculating about Bennett’s penis size to help out, and Pharaoh’s manager character gets huge laughs before he even opens his mouth to say “Unbeknernst to me” a million times. Seriously, though, that accent would be funny even if he wasn’t trying to pawn off his 1992 Ford Tempo.

American Ninja Warrior

If you thought seeing Drake without his beard was weird, try adjusting to him with a “Mr. Clean” haircut, like in this pre-taped sketch mocking the competition show American Ninja Warrior. Picking up on the fact that it’s always harder to watch contestants with a heart-wrenching backstory eat shit on the obstacle course, Bobby Moynihan does a great job playing “Captain Tornado,” the contestant who just wants to win one for his tornado-stricken town but mostly just falls into the pool repeatedly and loses his pants. Beck Bennett and Drake get in some hilarious lines as the host/announcers, some of which get a little buried (Bennett’s “Maybe naming yourself after the thing that destroyed your town wasn’t the best choice,” e.g.). The cut-away to the contestant’s friends and family watching from the sidelines was also funny, sort of like in that Simpsons episode where Bart shows Lisa the exact moment when she broke Ralph’s heart.

Dennis Walls & The Cookies

Keeping with the TV parodies, this next sketch starts with a funny exchange between Leslie Jones and Kyle Mooney setting up a PBS special about “‘70s R&B legend” Dennis Walls and his sultry back-up dancers of varying intelligence levels, The Cookies (Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong). While not much of a stretch for Drake character-wise, except for a massive, ‘70s porn stache, it was pretty funny to hear Drake talk with a chipmunk voice and see him play a tiny saxophone. An otherwise middling sketch picks up at the end, when the trio climbs onto a circular Austin Powers bed that starts spinning way too fast. At first I thought it was going to end like Will Ferrell’s vomit-inducing Mark Jensen Christmas Special, but it was really more of a PSA on the dangers of wearing silk on silk sheets.

Office Boss

We haven’t seen Beck Bennett’s “Mr. Patterson” character since Cameron Diaz hosted in 2014, but his baby-body work has only gotten stronger. This version was a little different, having a topical/political spin of Speaker Paul Ryan (Taran Killam) and his assistant (Drake) considering Mr. Patterson as substitution for Trump as the GOP nominee. While that aspect doesn’t really add much to the sketch, Bennett’s physical comedy keeps heightening as he gets down on the floor for some tummy time, takes off his pants, and tries to latch onto Drake’s face. Drizzy plays the straight man this time, mostly just listing Peterson’s good qualities in groups of three, but he does get in one joke about Trump having baby hands.

Weekend Update

The beginning of Update has understandably now become “Trump Watch 2016,” and Jost and Che couldn’t help but start with the story of Trump possibly (or definitely) posing as his own hype man, and even played the audio for those who weren’t already convinced. “Come on, that’s Trump,” Jost assured, noting that only he would use the word “tremendously” so gratuitously. Che got a big applause break for asking for publicist “John Miller’s” birth certificate. Oh yeah, remember that whole thing?

Kate McKinnon’s old Russian lady character, Olya Povlatsky, returned to the desk and kept the Trump conversation going by comparing him to Vladimir Putin and revealing that he comes to her village every 10 years to pick out a new wife. The Trump jokes were fine, but Olya’s best line was her aside to Colin after he said “God bless you” (“He never has and he never will”) and her reasons for being jealous of Melania (“I see in her eyes that she is truly dead.”). She’s like a walking “Meanwhile, In Russia” joke.

Rounding out the news jokes included a story about a man claiming to be Prince’s son, a brief and subtle dig at Hillary Clinton’s email security, a Hitler joke that was really a Trump joke, and a longer bit about transgender bathroom laws. Jost brings a little clarity to the the genuinely confusing bathroom bill, and he’s right about that sounding just like a bathroom pervert’s nickname. I could totally see the words “BATHROOM BILL STRIKES AGAIN” on the cover of a NY Post.

Human inspiration Leslie Jones also stopped by the desk to comment on the idea that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. At 48 years old, she had been doing comedy for decades before she got on SNL, and she’s right: sometimes you really do have to fail to succeed. It also helps to have the kind of relationship with Lorne Michaels where you can make fun of his career on his own show. I almost thought she was going to get through this entire bit without hitting on Jost, but in the end she gives him a good groping and even invents a new yoga-sex position in his name.

After a killer joke about the guy who was saved by his Domino’s pizza delivery team (“You die when we say you die”) and a deer abortion pun (okay), Jay Pharoah took the desk to do another carousel of characters. This time, instead of recapping a secret black comedians meeting, he shared what happened when Jay-Z held a secret rappers’ meeting to get marital advice post-Lemonade. As usual, the accents are spot-on, from 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, and Nicki Minaj, to T.I.’s extensive vocabulary, DMX’s barking, and even a little Will Smith for Jost. Of course, Pharoah’s Drake impression has to be interrupted by the real Drake. He doesn’t get any breaks this episode.

Black Jeopardy!

The third installment of Black Jeopardy!, last seen in November, picks right up where host Darnell Hayes (Kenan Thompson), and contestants Amir (Jay Pharoah) and Keeley (Sasheer Zamata) left off, except this time the third player is a black Canadian guy named Jared (Drake) who says stuff like “Obviously dog!” and completely perplexes Darnell Hayes. The prize and category jokes were a little weaker this time around (I was really hoping they were going to get into Bye, Felicia!) and the focus was on Drake’s self-mocking character, who gets Eddie Murphy confused with Rick Moranis, loves hockey, and knows rappers who have won Juno Awards. The meta point gets driven home hard in the end when Hayes says, “Look, no good rap comes from Canada, OK?” and says he’s never heard of Drake. It even got an audible “Ohhh!” from the audience, which is a good segue to the Drake vs. SNL beef to come next.

Drake’s Beef

This music video took me back to the Lonely Island days of SNL, and was ironically much funnier than the actual Digital Short Drake did in 2011 when he was just a musical guest. The rapper’s list of public beefs gets a little bit longer as he adds Pete Davidson, Leslie Jones, Aidy Bryant, Lorne Michaels and even the 30 Rock cleaning staff to the number of people who have wronged him for stuff like not saying hi and taking his water bottle before he was done with it. Cutaways to Drake rapping in a gritty parking garage and on the roof sell it, and we learn that Drake (or someone) is a really big fan of Josh Gad. It’s all worth it to hear Lorne Michaels call him “Drizzy,” and Drake follow it up by calling the most powerful man in comedy a little bitch.

Chaperone

If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like if Drake and Hulk Hogan had a baby, and that baby was a grown man working as a “Professional chaperone” at a high school dance, look no further than this 10-to-1 sketch. The chaperone has an interesting way with students played by Kyle Mooney, Jon Rudnitsky, Pete Davidson, Cecily Strong, Sasheer Zamata, Aidy Bryant, and Bobby Moynihan, mostly in that he offers strangely inappropriate advice and shares his wistful dreams of going back in time to stop 9/11, get drunk with Osama bin Laden, and have the terrorist tell him he’s “good people.” It quickly goes to Crazytown when Taran Killam comes in as the chaperone 15 years in the future, but it’s just in time for the episode to end (and for Killam to do the goodbyes looking like he’s about to play Hulk Hogan in a porn parody).

So Shoot, What Else?

  • This was a really strong Jay Pharoah episode, and I’m surprised to say I actually kind of missed seeing Ben Carson again.
  • Aidy Bryant in a chicken suit, even for just five seconds, is always welcome.
  • Where can I get one of those T-shirts with Bobby Moynihan’s face on it?
  • “Jamie Lee Curtis keeps us regular” — health care in 2016.
  • The new Black Jeopardy! sketch reminded me how funny it is that Louis C.K. is going to be on actual Jeopardy! now.
  • Spotted: the requisite Abe Lincoln, Llamma, and Showgirls in the Studio 8H hallway during the “Drake Beef” sketch.
  • Did anyone else see Bobby Moynihan enter the Chaperone sketch and think we were being set up for a Degrassi joke?

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