Adele proved a worthy host on Saturday Night Live, bringing some great comedic timing and smooth acting chops to 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
SNL can be a tricky assignment, especially for entertainers without a comedy background. (Certain Hollywood actors, for example, do wonderfully well on the silver screen and underperform when thrown into SNL’s theatre of the absurd.) But from the moment Adele stepped onto the stage for her opening monologue, she was fully at ease in her new role.
She approached the hosting gig with the enthusiasm of a novice and the confidence of a veteran. Modestly, she explained in her opening monologue why she was booked as host rather than musical guest (knowing the latter would have been more naturally suited to one of the most celebrated singers of our time). The reasons? There were two: her new album isn’t finished yet, and she was too “scared” to assume both roles.
Focusing on her hosting duties was the right choice. The 32-year-old, who has been featured twice as musical guest on the sketch show – once in 2008 and the other in 2015 – showed off her comedy range throughout the episode, delivering a seemingly effortless performance that seemed mostly on par with that of the regular cast.
One skit featured her as one of a group of people consulting a psychic in 2019, only to be predicted a suitably apocalyptic 2020 – filled with ripped-from-the-headlines activities such as trying to rescue the United States Postal Service, cancelling air travel, taking long road trips and being afraid of using public restrooms. In another sequence, Adele was a ghost trying to share her tragic story with Pete Davidson’s Chad – a tone-deaf, impenetrable, and unflappable deadbeat. The singer was reunited with Davidson for another sketch, this time as they played a couple visiting a particularly unforgiving grandmother (Maya Rudolph) outside her retirement home.
There was, of course, the matter of Adele’s singing – were we really going to be deprived of a performance? That was taken care of in a Bachelor-themed skit, in which Adele played a version of herself as a contestant on the dating show – an intense version who turned out to be extremely prone to breaking into song. The skit deftly turned into a medley of sorts, with Adele performing her own hits including “Someone Like You”, “When We Were Young”, “Hello” and “Rumour Has It”.
Then came the skit that will likely be remembered as the misfire of the evening. It starred Adele, Kate McKinnon, and Heidi Gardner as three white women advertising what they viewed as the wonders of Africa in a fake tourism ad. The sketch itself drew mixed reactions on Twitter. Many deeming it ill-timed and offensive, lacking in depth and substance (criticism was mostly directed at the skit itself, rather than Adele’s performance). In the same episode, musical guest HER performed with a band wearing T-shirts in support of Nigeria’s ongoing “End SARS” protests – some wondered how much say she’d had over the sequence and her involvement in it.
A later skit – a faux ad for “A** Angel Perfume Jeans”, was definitely end-of-episode material, in that it was not particularly funny. But this isn’t Adele’s fault, and she pulled off the skit as much as it could possibly be pulled off, passable American accent to boot.
In the chaotic world of SNL, where brilliance can often yield to confusion, Adele delivered an overall solid performance as host. She was skilled, personable, and – crucially – funny, a quality that many talented entertainers have lacked when it came to the coveted hosting role. Perhaps the best thing about Adele’s performance was that she didn’t use it for a major announcement, like many had expected. There was no new song, no major album news. Adele came into the gig with one job: to host SNL, and she hosted the hell out of it.