Saturday Night Live: Keegan-Michael Key shines as host

Keegan-Michael Key (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
Keegan-Michael Key (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images) /

Keegan-Michael Key starred in two of the most popular sketch comedy shows of the century: MadTV  in the 2000s and Key and Peele in the 2010s. Now, in 2021, he can finally add Saturday Night Live to his resume.

Key is such a sketch comedy icon that this episode almost felt like an old cast member was coming back to host, even though Key has never actually appeared on SNL before. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t going to get to see any of his famous characters make a comeback.

Nevertheless, this was still a great episode of SNL, and Keegan-Michael Key absolutely knocked it out of the park as host. He was so captivating that I found myself disappointed every time he wasn’t on screen. Here were the best sketches from the show.

Saturday Night Live with Keegan-Michael Key review: No More Masks Cold Open

This was a really great structure for a cold open. The SNL cast was perfectly suited to perform the little vignettes, and they were clearly enjoying themselves. The whole thing was very silly, and the writers found a good way to combine multiple senses of humor into one sketch.

The best part was Kyle Mooney playing a doctor who takes improv classes. That’s a character I want to see again.

Saturday Night Live with Keegan-Michael Key review: Prom Show

This sketch was far from brilliant, but it was solid ensemble piece like the cold open. The writers and the cast did a great job coming up with and portraying the types of people we all remember from high school dances, and it was another one where everyone just seemed like they were having fun.

The costumes were one of the strongest elements of this sketch, especially for Aidy Bryant and Mikey Day’s characters.

Saturday Night Live with Keegan-Michael Key review: The Muppet Show

This one felt like a classic Keegan-Michael Key sketch from his MadTV days. It was a very on-the-nose pop culture parody, which SNL doesn’t do all that often. It was also a very strong character piece, which is Key’s bread and butter. He and Kenan Thompson made an excellent duo as two out-of-control security guards.

The puppets themselves were rather uncanny, since they looked so similar to the real muppets and yet something was clearly off. Melissa Villaseñor’s impression of Lily Tomlin, however, was absolutely spot-on.

Saturday Night Live with Keegan-Michael Key review: The Last Dance: Extended Scene

I have to admit, I liked this sketch more before I googled it and realized that the security guard who beats Michael Jordan at a game of quarters is a real scene from The Last Dance and not just a character Heidi Gardner came up with. On the other hand, it’s a testament to Gardner’s strong performance that she convinced me this was an entirely original character. I also loved Kenan Thompson as Charles Barkley and Chris Redd as Dennis Rodman. They do good impressions, but they also bring so much of themselves to the characters and it’s great.

And perhaps my favorite part of the entire sketch was how they edited Keegan-Michael Key’s face onto Michael Jordan’s body during the theme music. Incredible.

Other takeaways from Saturday Night Live with Keegan-Michael Key

  • I won’t spoil it for you, but the costume change during the monologue was really funny.
  • Andrew Dismukes did a segment as himself on “Weekend Update,” and it was really good. It wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny necessarily, but Dismukes was really charming and I would happily watch many more segments like this one.
  • Not to pat myself on the back, but I was certainly right that this was going to be a very musical episode. Keegan-Michael Key showed off his pipes in four different sketches, and he sang with his future Schmigadoon! co-star Cecily Strong on three separate occasions.
  • For any fans of the SNL writing staff, this was a fun episode. I noticed both Gary Richardson and Steven Castillo making brief appearances on the show.
  • During the goodnights, it sounded like Keegan-Michael Key thought this was the season finale of SNL. I hope he wasn’t offended when he found out that Anya Taylor-Joy is hosting the season finale next week, with musical guest Lil Nas X.

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What did you think of Keegan-Michael Key’s performance on Saturday Night Live? Where does this episode rank among season 46’s episodes? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.