Who's hosting Saturday Night Live tonight, January 27? 3 things to watch for

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Pictured: "Saturday Night Live" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Pictured: "Saturday Night Live" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal) /

Saturday Night Live returns tonight with a brand-new episode. And following last week's misstep, SNL needs a host to get them back on track.

Saturday Night Live season 49 had its weakest episode last week, failing to bring much variety to the night's sketches. Tonight offers the opportunity to restart the momentum for the second half. To do it, SNL will turn to some familiar faces.

Actress Dakota Johnson hosts Saturday Night Live tonight. It marks her second time as host, having previously appeared in 2015. Johnson will be on to promote her new movie Madame Web.

She'll be joined by musical guest Justin Timberlake. The singer has plenty of SNL experience as a host, musical guest, and cameo star. He returns to Studio 8H to promote his upcoming album Everything I Thought It Was.

[Update: See Dakota Johnson's best sketch of the night]

3 things to watch for on Saturday Night Live tonight, January 27

1. Dakota Johnson's comedy chops

Comedic actress" isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Dakota Johnson. While she does have a couple of romantic comedies and some dramedies in her filmography, Johnson typically doesn't play any over-the-top or outright comedic roles.

But that doesn't mean she isn't capable. If anything, Johnson's films prove she's pretty fearless when it comes to her performances. That always translates well to Saturday Night Live. Johnson should be game for whatever the SNL writers have in mind this week. Given last week's dud, the show may consider pulling out some stops this week.

Johnson's last turn as host produced one of the more controversial sketches in recent SNL history. It's unlikely the show will look to push the envelope in the same way tonight. But Johnson seems up for any direction needed to get the laughs.

2. Justin Timberlake and cameos

It's not a bold prediction to say Justin Timberlake will do more than just sing. The past three musical guests (Renee Rapp, Billie Eilish, and Olivia Rodrigo) have all appeared in a sketch during the night. Timberlake should continue that streak considering his history with SNL.

The only real question is whether anyone else comes along with Timberlake. Jimmy Fallon and Andy Samberg are Timberlake's frequent SNL collaborators. Both would get a pop from the audience if they appeared in a sketch or pre-tape.

Or, SNL could use Dakota Johnson's connections to make a splash. Her Madame Web co-star Sydney Sweeney comes to mind. Sweeney's Hot Ones performance is currently going viral, and she has the movie Immaculate coming in March. Unless SNL is planning to have Sweeney as a future host, now would be the time to invite her on the show.

3. Is it Nikki Haley's turn in the SNL spotlight?

Saturday Night Live's cold open often makes the biggest splash when attracting a general audience that otherwise doesn't tune in. Parodies of Donald Trump and Joe Biden have been a successful recipe so far this season.

But Nikki Haley has largely gone under the radar. Heidi Gardner played her in a November 2023 debate sketch, but James Austin Johnson's Trump was the real star of the sketch.

With Ron DeSantis ending his campaign, Haley becomes the only real competition for Donald Trump. SNL has a chance to lampoon Haley in a way that it never really did with DeSantis. Whether it's with Gardner or a stunt casting, SNL could use some variety in its cold opens. There will be plenty of time for Trump and Biden bits the closer we get to November.

Saturday Night Live airs tonight, January 27, at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC. The show is also available on Peacock.