Saturday Night Live with host Issa Rae: What to watch for

Issa Rae (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
Issa Rae (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for ESSENCE) /

Saturday Night Live returns with a brand new episode hosted by Issa Rae with musical guest Justin Bieber

Two episodes into season 46, Saturday Night Live has made a splash while improving week to week. The show will look to keep the momentum going this week when Issa Rae hosts for the first time and is joined by musical guest Justin Bieber.

SNL earned its highest ratings for a season premiere in four years when it debuted on Oct. 3 with host Chris Rock. It’s no coincidence that the show received a boost during an election year, with even more viewers tuning in to see how the sketch show handled President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Jim Carrey’s debut as Vice President Biden and the return of Maya Rudolph as Senator Kamala Harris helped the cold open become the most talked-about sketch from the opener. The pair of comedians returned the next week to take things to an even more absurd level.

The show made even more headlines in episode two with host Bill Burr. The stand-up comedian rubbed some people the wrong way with his monologue that touched on topics related to the “woke” movement and gay pride celebrations. But at the end of the day, SNL is excited anytime people are talking about the show.

And this week, it has all the ingredients to make sure it happens again. Actress Issa Rae will host for the first time and Justin Bieber returns as the musical guest for the third time. Here is what to watch for this week.

Saturday Night Live has options for this week’s cold open

The expectation is that the biggest political story of the week becomes the inspiration for Saturday Night Live‘s cold open. Luckily for the show, there is no shortage of options this week.

The show could decide to parody President Trump’s rallies that have been held in multiple states this week. Social distancing and mask wearing has been minimal at these events despite President Trump’s past diagnosis and the outbreak among his administration.

There have also been the Supreme Court hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. SNL fans will recall that the spoof of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing was one of the show’s best cold opens in years. However, this time around doesn’t have quite the same cast of characters so SNL may really need to stretch to make it worthwhile for a sketch.

The most likely option is that SNL takes on both President Trump’s and Vice President Biden’s town hall events. It gives the show a chance to utilize Jim Carrey once again while also taking another shot at President Trump.

Issa Rae will combine the best of comedy and commentary for Saturday Night Live

The one knock on Chris Rock as host of the season 46 premiere was the lack of characters he portrayed in the sketches. He was mainly the straight man and was not asked to do more than introduce other characters.

The strength was in his monologue as Rock delivered a powerful message to a captive audience. The millions who tuned in to see the cold open were then treated to Rock weighing in on the pandemic and the election, offering a commentary that many people agreed with.

In episode two, Bill Burr moved things a bit more in the other direction. His monologue touched on social issues such as the pandemic and social justice. But it was much more of a stand-up set than a commentary. And when it came to the sketches, he did a bit more in terms of playing characters.

This week, Issa Rae should do both and excel at both. The actress has been vocal on issues related to representation, police brutality, and violence against Black Americans. Her monologue could be just as inspiring and thought-provoking as Rock’s.

And anyone familiar with her work in The Misadventures of an Awkward Black GirlInsecure, and The Lovebirds know she’s a talented comedic actress. Rock and Burr are comedians who are more comfortable on stage as themselves compared to playing a role. But Rae has the acting experience to raise the bar for hosts coming after her.

Will Melissa Villaseñor make her Saturday Night Live season 46 debut?

Melissa Villaseñor is the one cast member who has yet to appear in a sketch this season. It’s a bit hard to understand given how well her talents align with what Saturday Night Live needs this season given the restrictions in place due to the pandemic.

As a fan-favorite, Villaseñor has a lot of people hoping that this week is the week she gets on the air. Fewer sketches and fewer performers in each sketch are definitely factors but Villaseñor has proven that she can elevate sketches and bring something different to the table.

Villaseñor was one of several cast members who did not appear last week. Cecily Strong was notably absent but for good reason: she’s filming a television show for Apple TV. Others who were missing last week were Aidy Bryant, Chris Redd, Bowen Yang, and Andrew Dismukes.

This will probably be a pattern that repeats itself throughout season 46. There isn’t room to fit everyone in under the circumstances created by the pandemic. But as the season progresses, we may see less of some cast members and see more from Strong, Bryant, and Kate McKinnon. The three are likely approaching the end of their SNL careers and may go out with a bang in season 46.

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What are your expectations for this week’s Saturday Night Live? How do you think host Issa Rae will do? Share your thoughts in the comment section and be sure to check back with Last Night On for all the highlights.