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On ‘SNL,’ Peyton Manning Dons Red Beret, Would Rather Watch ‘Emily in Paris’ Than Football


“Sir Willem Dafoe!” He’s not even British, man. And he wasn’t in Full Metal Jacket. Or Passion of the Christ. The Wisconsin-born Oscar nominee with the golf ball cheekbones and pop-eyed grimace, an artist raised in experimental theater but born to play the Joker, might have seemed an unlikely choice for this week’s Saturday Night Live host, but he kept it weird and loose. “I can’t help that I have an expressive face,” said Dafoe of his plasticine mug during his monologue. “I can’t control it. I’m not one of those subtle actors like Nicolas Cage or Al Pacino.”

His best moments were also his oddest, when he wasn’t the star of the sketch but a carnivalesque supporting player. One of the great highlights of the night was Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd’s bop “Now I’m Up,” an earworm of an ode to sleepless nights. Whether your partner rolls over and scratches you with her toenail or the cat sits on your face, or you feel a lump on your neck and convince yourself it’s cancerous, or you’re worried about melting glaciers or if that tickle in your throat is omicron, or you picture Trump running in 2024, or you’re sad that Cecily Strong was off the night SNL had a sketch with cute dogs, and you know how much she would’ve loved that, now you’re up in the middle of the night and your next day is doomed. Cut to a late-night infomercial of Dafoe with a soul patch, shilling air fryers and shouting about buffalo wings. When you’re up, up, up, up, up, trust that Willem Dafoe probably is too.

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Our esteemed actor must have told the writers not to be intimidated by his resume. Let it rip and keep it genital-focused. In the Nugenix sketch, in which Mikey Day couldn’t convince anyone of his ability to maintain an erection, Dafoe extolled the virtues of the supplement before one whiff of Melissa Villasenor’s perfume brought him to his knees, screaming in agony alongside crunching robotic music. The Nugenix erection — it burns so good!

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Later, he played a best-selling author of a book called Blowing Yourself and simulated his patented self-pleasuring technique. And how do we rid ourselves of the image of Dafoe as Princess Belle’s father, Maurice, alone at last in his cabin while his daughter falls in love with Pete Davidson’s hairy Beast. Dafoe turned down all the pictures of his daughter, turned up a little French pop music, and began spanking himself with a riding crop. Back at the castle, Kyle Mooney’s poor little chipped teacup looked ill-prepared for his first accidental brush with porn. Cover his eyes, Pete!

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Aidy Bryant and Bowen Yang were chic and nasty during Weekend Update as arbitrary trend forecasters. With severe black and white ensembles pulled straight from Moira Rose’s closet, they declared shiny shoes yesterday’s news. “If I see you on the street, I’ll stab you in the face,” Yang warned patent leather heels. Dry, callused feet on men were having a moment; movie posters masquerading as décor were dead to them. “Grow up Pulp Fiction poster and be a damn painting!” warned Bryant. Also out: Cat-eye glasses, fidget spinners, and Michael Che.

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In the most unexpected bit of the evening, Peyton Manning was brought out to the Weekend Update desk to Saturday Night quarterback last weekend’s excellent games. But what the man only had attention for was the Season 2 exploits of Emily in Paris. By the end of his spirited recap, Manning had donned a red beret and was urging Tom Brady to retire already so he could decide whether he was Team Alfie or Team Gabriel.

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Other bits of deliciousness from the episode: Katy Perry’s acoustic performance of “Never Really Over” and her backup dancers dressed as mushrooms, their plump thigh stools encased in adorable latex, waving fans that read EAT ME. Ten-year-old Conner in the Please Don’t Destroy writer’s room video. McKinnon getting nuzzled by a sweet miniature beagle named Pigeon, who is most definitely not a sexual predator. Davidson as American ball toss player Aaron Rodgers, adrift in Ukraine. “Like a good neighbor, Russia is there.”

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In: any scene of Dafoe dancing. Out: poor James Austin Johnson as Donald Trump or Joe Biden in a cold open. Let the man loose elsewhere. How do you solve the problem of the broken cold open? In this, SNL is like America, unsure how to recover or move on from the ugly and chaotic bombast of Trump. 

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