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There are few Saturday Night Live recurring sketches I have enjoyed more than Kenan Thompson’s What Up With That? The talk show/ musical/ explosion of weirdness has only been done 11 times since it debuted to positive responses back in 2009. Each time, it’s a welcome surprise, and last night was no exception. SNL gave us a special quarantine edition, and it featured all of the classics including Jason Sudeikis in the jump suit, Fred Armisen playing the saxophone, SNL favorite Charles Barkley getting irritated and DJ Khaled looking like he’s been in quarantine for 10 years.
Since Saturday Night Live returned for special quarantine episodes, you can see the cast members wrestling with how to be funny with the new constraints. They’re not in the same location. They don’t have access to the same sets or levels or production value. In a weird way, though, What Up With That? is such a bizarre almost stream-of-consciousness type production that I think it might benefit from the Zoom aspect. Check out what I mean…
There is a lot of great work from the supporting players here, but as always, What Up With That? stops and starts with Kenan Thompson’s individual greatness. It is outrageous that not even understands how good he is at sketch comedy. He consistently elevates other people’s sketches with his reaction faces and his willingness to set other players up, and when he gets the random sketch where he’s asked to do heavy lifting, he’s always up to the challenge. I’m not saying he’s the greatest SNL cast member ever, but if you’re doing a top 25 list and Kenan isn’t on there, you should throw it out and start over. If you don’t believe me, just ask other SNL cast members.
I also need to give a quick shoutout to Jason Sudeikis here. He started trending on Twitter almost immediately after this sketch aired. Watching him dance without any self-awareness in that stupid track suit will never get old. Like Kenan, he just commits so hard (no matter what he's doing). It’s wonderful to watch. And obviously, additional shoutouts to Fred Armisen and Bill Hader, the latter of whom kinda sort makes an appearance as the perpetually passed over Lindsey Buckingham from Fleetwood Mac.
In addition, yesterday’s Saturday Night Live featured appearances by Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler and many more. If response on Twitter was any indication, most of it went over very well. It’s great to see Saturday Night Live finding a way to stay relevant, even as other shows have stopped production. We need a comedic voice commenting on what’s happening right now as much of the world flies around in a holding pattern.
Here’s to hoping Saturday Night Live keeps surprising us with the occasional What Up With That? every year or two for the next decade. I can guarantee I’ll be excited every time.