Saturday Night Live recap: Natasha Lyonne makes hosting debut on season 47 finale

·11 min read
Saturday Night Live recap: Natasha Lyonne makes hosting debut on season 47 finale

Greetings and salutations, fellow Coneheads (and perpetual hate-watchers.) It's the season finale of Saturday Night Live and things have come full circle. Tonight Russian Doll star Natasha Lyonne brings season 47 to port with musical guest Japanese Breakfast.

Season finales are always bittersweet, particularly with a show like this, which is made often in real-time, due to its nature. For what it's worth, there is a thriving stan community that obediently tracks every moment and minor development of this silly live sketch comedy show. People sleep outside 30 Rock like it's a journey to Mecca, with the hope they may get to watch a live episode. (Mostly civil) wars break out online discussing which cast member is the most beloved or which era is best. It cultivates loyalty and obsession in a way few multi-decade TV franchises do. By design, this is a show that ebbs and flows week-to-week — in terms of hosts, guests, subject matter, even quality — interluding sunrises and sunsets that cast light on pop culture, politics, and world events. And here we are, graduation day, befitting a syrupy, nostalgic, heartstring-tugging montage filled with the season's best moments from over the past nine months.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Natasha Lyonne, Japanese Breakfast Episode 1826 -- Pictured: Host Natasha Lyonne during the monologue on Saturday, May 14, 2022 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Natasha Lyonne, Japanese Breakfast Episode 1826 -- Pictured: Host Natasha Lyonne during the monologue on Saturday, May 14, 2022 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Natasha Lyonne made her hosting debut on the 'Saturday Night Live' season 47 finale

And if the rumors are true, tonight will punctuate this era of the show. It's a day many in the fan community have secretly, or not-so-secretly, been waiting for: multiple cast members are supposedly leaving after tonight: Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, and Kyle Mooney. I have written in this lowly column many times about the overstuffed skeleton crew that is the season 47 cast; how several veterans have overstayed their tenure, at the expense of offering new voices a chance to be heard. It's not just basic fairness, or overcoming the show's nagging, tiresome tropes — the long reign of the show's core stars prevented a natural handing off of the baton, generationally. A logjam in terms of sensibility and approach. Now, if we saw a mass exodus after tonight, a new style/vibe may finally get heralded. This is likely the biggest shift we have seen since Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis left after season 38.

So, let's see what our friends at Studio 8H have in store for us tonight. We will see which former cast members welcome Kate/Pete/Aidy/Kyle on their next journey. I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member Siobhan Fallon Hogan, who says this to the departing cast: "I wish them all the best. The world is their oyster!" All right, roll up your sleeves, folks: it's SNL in Review.

Final Encounter Cold Open

The Pentagon is the setting, and we are greeted with huge applause. The U.S. Government is looking into verified alien abductions. Host Natasha Lyonne joins sketch mainstays Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong. It's pretty funny hearing New Yorker Lyonne put on a southern accent. Mikey Day and Aidy Bryant are NSA agents leading the interview.

We first saw Colleen Rafferty and gang back in 2015, for the Ryan Gosling episode. So this is the seventh episode and the first since 2019. "What the hell, play the hits right?" McKinnon-as-Rafferty jokes, a wink to what many consider one of her best characters and sketches. As always, Rafferty has been abducted by aliens with two others (Strong and the host) but had a less-stellar experience than them. And I love the hook here — in an act of symbolism/meta-reference, McKinnon departs Earth: "I love ya, thanks for letting me stay awhile." The emotion in her voice is barely masked as she, solo, says the show's trademark opening line.

I will say — while I never loved this sketch — it is clearly a favorite for McKinnon and given her departure, totally game to have it be the cold open. And hell, folks, given the low bar for cold opens in this era, I love the energy and rhythms here. This is going to be a special episode — grab the tissues. :)


Natasha Lyonne wishes she was Harry Styles! She takes in the moment. "For a real New Yorker like me, that's big!" She jokes about being associated with Russia and Netflix.

She's been coming to SNL since she was a teenager. It combines a lot of things she loves: fighting unions, the '70s, New York. With that, she introduces former cast members Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph, who impersonate her: "Cock-a-roach." She dated Armisen for seven years, she recalls.

She shows a clip from when she was a child actor on Pee-wee's Playhouse. (Love seeing Pee-wee Herman, who hosted Saturday Night Live on November 23, 1985.) Lyonne talks about her ups and downs, namedropping American Pie and But I'm A Cheerleader. She's super charismatic and fun. (Her Pie costars Mena Suvari and Seann William Scott hosted in 2001.)

Siobhan Fallon Hogan worked with Lyonne in Krippendorf's Tribe back in 1998. She says Lyonne "was just a funny, easy-going teenager when I worked with her and was very fun to work with. We had a great cast with Lily Tomlin leading the way. I think she has evolved into an amazing actress."

Speaking of Lyonne's prior life as a child star, former SNLer Gary Kroeger recently shared this anecdote with me: "In 1990 I was making a low budget film in Israel and was introduced to a young actress named Natasha Lyonne. I was immediately impressed by the presence of this 12-year-old star of the future. One never knows where a career is going to go, but I could tell from the beginning that she had a quality that was beyond her years. I had the same feeling with a young Drew Barrymore, but when I worked with her on SNL she was already a big star from E.T. I made a mistake with Drew, though, and I learned a big lesson: Drew came up to me at the show wrap party and I gave her a big hug and picked her up. She was, after all, only 7. She said, 'Put me down! I'm not a little kid!' Suffice to say, I have never treated a child — other than my own — as a child again in that old-school paternal fashion."

I loved this.


Stupid people poignantly admit their dense approach to life. It's like an update to the classic Extremely Stupid sketch from the original era, crossed with the spirit of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's pleas to not vote. Very funny hook. SNL in Review verdict: watch this.

"I want a candidate who smiles at me," admits Cecily Strong. Stupid people vote too, after all.

'50s Baseball Broadcast

Mikey Day and Lyonne are broadcasting the Yankees game back in the '50s. Lyonne's character has just been prescribed new cold medicine — a.k.a methamphetamines — by his doctor. So, queue a lot of inappropriate remarks! (Naturally, Day is shocked and embarrassed, which is par for the course.) "I have observations on different races!"

Sorry to be a nerd: the Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio talk is a bit anachronistic, friends!

Love James Austin Johnson as Walt. Smackman's department store is the sponsor of this broadcast.

The Treece Henderson Trio

Treece (Kenan Thompson) needs Nasonex! Someone help him out. Brad Dates is on keyboards — he's played by Kyle Mooney. Helen (Cecily Strong) and Casey Marie (Lyonne) also help out. Lyonne plays the harmonica. She's hiding something from Treece. A psychic in the audience, played by Chloe Fineman, keeps blowing up her spot. This one is losing me folks. It was starved for some Diondre Cole-adjacent content. Goofy.

After High School

Andrew Dismukes is reflecting on his high school prom. It's been 20 years, and it all circles back to Rachel Finster (Lyonne). She's evil! SNL in Review verdict: watch it!

I love sketches like this at the end of the season. "Have a great summer! —SNL." This reminds me of the National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody.

Japanese Breakfast — "Be Sweet" (first performance)

"Be Sweet" is a happy, subversive bop. Japanese Breakfast, the alternative pop band headed by Michelle Zauner, put out Jubilee last summer — it was one of the best albums of 2021.

This song was written with Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing. It's a fun, '80s synth dance track.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost describes the bleakness of our world. Michael Che calls out former host Elon Musk — why did they let that guy host again? Sad. (Jost also jokes about another former host, Steven Seagal!) This Update feels a little flat, no?

"Arby's, we have the pee-pee shakes!"

With COVID restrictions relaxed, Jost welcomes a Guy Who Just Bought A Boat (Alex Moffat). He's here to discuss European vacations this summer. We last saw him in January during the Will Forte episode. "Why would any woman want to be with you?" questions Jost.

Che welcomes two trend forecasters: Aidy Bryant and Bowen Yang. "In: HEY; Out: this is your Captain speaking… go to bed bitch!" I love the classic energy here, as the camera zooms in on Bryant and Yang. We are going to miss Bryant for a variety of reasons, and this recent hit is one of them. She gets a nice send-off here, as Che and Yang kiss her.

Last but not least: our man Pete Davidson. The same Pete who grew up on SNL, who became a tabloid sensation, who started the show as a 20-year-old and blew up. "I never imagined this would be my life!" He comments on a lot here: Kanye, Dan Crenshaw, Chris Rock. Kind of an understated final appearance — but it makes sense given how clearly checked out he's been this season. Pete's a movie star now! SNL in Review verdict: watch it!

9:15 to 5:10 — Turner Classic Movies

It's 9:15 to 5:10 (as opposed to 9 to 5). Cecily Strong, Heidi Gardner, and Ego Nwodim confront their terrible sexist boss, Mr. Dooley, played by Natasha Lyonne. Gardner panics and shoots him. They tickle the corpse. The shareholders — played by Mooney and Armisen — appear and this turns into Weekend at Bernie's. So a spoof on lame, dated comedies, sure.

The women's ironic, dimwitted excuses are funny, as much as it's an exercise on not making Lyonne laugh. They drop Dooley. Tehe.

Japanese Breakfast — "Paprika" (second performance)

Another bop. This song was the first track off their 2021 album somewhat inspired by a mushroom trip in the Poconos. The song title comes from the Satoshi Kon movie, Paprika.

Japanese Breakfast also put out the soundtrack for the video game Sable last year.

Grey Adult Pigtails

Ah, the last Aidy and Kate love-fest. Of course, it would end this way. Anti-aging creams are not eco-friendly. So embrace "grey, adult pigtails!"

"You wish you could look this whimsical!" says Heidi Gardner.

Love Kyle Mooney as Richard here — they're all dating him. This ends with Michelle Zauner leading them in song. Farewell, Kate & Aidy. Miss you both! Onward!

Final Thoughts

—A huge thank you to everyone who stuck by my recaps this season. It was quite a journey, wasn't it folks? I feel like we mutually grew, and learned a lot. I also want to call out all the wonderful former cast members who provided commentary throughout my season 47 reviews: Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Gary Kroeger, Jeff Richards, Ellen Cleghorne, Paul Shaffer, Matthew Laurance, Patrick Weathers, Denny Dillon, and, of course, Dan Vitale (RIP).

—Thank you to the wonderful Siobhan Fallon Hogan. Her movie Rushed is opening in Ireland, England, Australia, and New Zealand on June 22. Her latest movie Shelter In Solitude will be out in 2023.

—They finished strong, didn't they? I look forward to what the show looks like now that the Kate/Aidy/Pete era is officially over. It's cocoon metamorphosis time, y'all.

—Going to be weird without Kate and Aidy for sure! What did you think of the season 47 finale? Weigh in below or vote here!

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