The Saturday Night Live monologue is the weakest element during a lot of shows. Standing on stage by yourself and talking is not traditionally something many people are comfortable with, and it’s a particularly difficult proposition if you’re more used to drama or basketball or music or anything else that’s not comedy. A small minority of hosts, however, look comfortable almost immediately. Add Daniel Kaluuya to that list. The two-time Oscar nominee absolutely rocked his monologue and in a blistering three and a half minutes or so, took aim at a number of targets including The Royal Family, racism and even his own Golden Globes acceptance speech or lack thereof. He also found time to pay tribute to cast member Kenan Thompson and his Nickelodeon show Kenan & Kel.
The problem is traditionally one of pace. If you’re not used to talking by yourself and connecting with a live crowd, it’s tough to generate any kind of momentum, but Daniel Kaluuya was really able to do that during his speech last night. He told some good jokes about timely topics he’s uniquely fit to speak on (British vs American racism, the Royal Family being scared the baby would look like him) and did so with confidence. He didn’t linger too long on any particular subject, incorporated references relevant to himself (Get Out’s Sunken Place) and got the right level of honest and sentimental at the end. It’s a real crisp and well-performed monologue. You can check it out below...
It’s also nice to see Kenan Thompson get a little love for his influence in the sketch comedy game. He’s obviously very well-respected as the longest tenured SNL cast member in history, but his influence goes all the way back to his work as a teenager on Nickelodeon’s All That and later, Kenan & Kel. I’m sure he influenced a ton of people to get into comedy. It feels right that SNL should call that out every now and again.
Beyond his monologue, Daniel Kaluuya was also great in the rest of the Saturday Night Live episode. He took a key role in a number of sketches and in a tribute to his range and willingness to go with it, played a wide variety of different characters including a sexually adventurous upright bass player and a guy at a dog park who gets into an argument over what dogs sound like. Throughout the night, he maximized the humor in a majority of his lines, as his delivery was mostly excellent. You can see that in particular in this sketch where he plays an angry dad who just found out his son changed his major from pre-med to creative writing.
I have no idea how much this episode will spread outside SNL fans into the larger popular culture since there wasn’t a ton of buzzy political sketches or topical material (apart from Pete Davidson doing a Matt Gaetz impression), but I’d love to see Kaluuya back again as SNL host in the near future. He’s confident, capable of doing a lot of different things and clearly has a willingness to get weird.