‘Saturday Night Live’ Goes to the Oscars

There was a time — say, just before a certain incident near the end of last year’s Academy Awards show — when the ceremony itself was a dignified proceeding and the embarrassment was largely confined to the preshow red carpet program.

That’s the spirit that “Saturday Night Live” tried to return to this weekend with an opening sketch that imagined the celebrity arrival for Sunday’s Oscars, complete with vacuous hosts and overly excited nominees.

“S.N.L.”, which was hosted by Jenna Ortega and featured the musical guest the 1975, began with an “Access Hollywood” Oscars preview emceed by Marcello Hernández (as Mario Lopez) and Heidi Gardner (as “either Maria Menounos or Kit Hoover, they haven’t told me which yet,” she said.)

Following a plug for their sponsor, Ozempic (“I guess everyone in Hollywood has diabetes”), they welcomed Kenan Thompson, who was playing Mike Tyson, now overseeing Oscars security for the purposes of this sketch.

“I am ready to handle the proceedings judiciously and expeditiously,” Thompson said. “But I should warn you, the following things will set me off: clapping, statues of gold people and shows that last more than two hours. And also hearing the phrase ‘the magic of movies.’”

He added that a few changes had been made since the previous Oscars show: “This year all the nominees have been given Tasers,” Thompson said. “All the seat fillers have been given guns. And Jimmy Kimmel has been given a flame thrower.”

For safety purposes Thompson said that Will Smith had been surreptitiously given an Apple AirTag to track his location. “We know exactly where he’ll be at all times,” he said. “Unless of course he changes pants and then he could be anywhere.”

The hosts then welcomed Chloe Fineman, playing the Oscar nominee Jamie Lee Curtis of “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Fineman, however, wanted to sing the praises of “Tár,” which she said was “iconic, vivacious, carnivorous, queer, vague, confusing, long, partially in German, and it was hands down the funniest movie of the year.”

Playing bookmakers from the online betting site DraftKings, Andrew Dismukes and Devon Walker gave odds on possible Oscars events: a young actor bringing out an old actor in a wheelchair and regretting it immediately (3-1); an actress who made $20 million last year saying the phrase “we are all Ukraine” (2-1); and someone from the in memoriam segment still being alive (10-1).

They also predicted various celebrities who could make surprise appearances at the Oscars, a list that included Chris Rock, Jared from Subway, Armie Hammer, the judges that overturned Roe v. Wade and George Santos pretending to be Tom Cruise.

Sure enough, the hosts were soon joined by Bowen Yang, playing Santos (but claiming to be Cruise).

“No, no,” Yang insisted. “I’m definitely Thomas Q. Cruise, star of this year’s blockbuster film ‘Top Gun 2: Top Bottom.’”

He added, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go be everyone, everywhere, all at once.”

‘S.N.L.’ Alumnus of the Week

After Ortega used a portion of her monologue to shout out Fred Armisen, the former “S.N.L.” cast member who plays Uncle Fester in her Netflix series, “Wednesday,” it was a given that Armisen would later show up in a sketch on the show.

But who could have foreseen it would be in this sketch, about the filming of a remake of “The Parent Trap,” where Ortega’s character is cast as a pair of reunited twin sisters and Armisen is the 56-year-old crew member who reads opposite her when her body double calls out sick for the day. We give the sketch extra credit for observing that if “The Parent Trap” were remade today, the parents in question probably would be played by Ed Helms and Leslie Mann.

Filmed Segment of the Week

It was reported earlier this week that the postproduction editors at “S.N.L.” have set a deadline of April 1 for a potential strike as they seek equitable pay, health benefits and other provisions from the show. If an agreement isn’t reached before the next live broadcast, “S.N.L.” could lose out on segments like this one: a filmed sketch that presents itself as a sendup of a teenage soap opera, where a young couple played by Ortega and Hernández are on the verge of breaking up in the parking lot of a Waffle House.

Of course all the real action is taking place inside the Waffle House, just beyond the windows and slightly out of focus, where various cast members play the employees and dissolute customers feuding with each other. “S.N.L.” may be a fundamentally live show, but film — and the sight of a bare-chested Mikey Day with cornrows and pierced nipples — is crucial to the program too.

Weekend Update Jokes of the Week

Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on the Oscars and President Biden’s proposed budget.

As his screen showed images of former President Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Jost began:

This weekend, bitter rivals who have been desperately pandering for votes and trying to force their politics on America will finally face off in person. I’m of course talking about tomorrow’s Oscars. The Motion Picture Academy has rejected a request from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to make an appearance during the Oscars. But they promised that “Volodymyr Zelensky” will be how John Travolta pronounces “Viola Davis.” Organizers of the Oscars said they changed the color of the arrival carpet from red to Champagne so the mood would be more mellow. But I don’t know, switching from red to Champagne usually turns me into a full-on bitch.

Che continued:

President Biden proposed his budget that would help fund Medicare with a 25 percent tax on billionaires. Ha, take that, Rihanna. President Biden’s proposed budget included $400 million to counter Chinese disinformation. It will target the No. 1 source of Chinese disinformation: fortune cookies.

Weekend Update Guest of the Week

An awkward television interview with Lt. Gov. Randy McNally of Tennessee, in which he tried to explain why he’d published approving comments on racy Instagram photos posted by a 20-year-old gay man, yielded a bounty of material for Molly Kearney, who impersonated McNally in a desk-side segment on Weekend Update.

While the real-life McNally (who also serves as speaker of the Tennessee senate) has backed new laws in the state designed to restrict drag performances in public spaces and ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors, Kearney said, “I believe a woman should be in the home and a man should be 143 pounds of dancing to Dua Lipa.” Told by Jost that these online interactions did not appear to be innocent, Kearney replied, “I’m just looking out for the little guy — every Tom, Dick and hairless.”