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‘S.N.L.’ Gives Comic Voice to the Downed Chinese Spy Balloon


The downing of a Chinese spy balloon on Saturday afternoon ended America’s fixation on the balloon’s days-long journey across United States airspace and provided “Saturday Night Live” with irresistibly topical subject material for its opening sketch just a number of hours later.

This weekend’s “S.N.L.” broadcast, hosted by Pedro Pascal and featuring the musical guest Coldplay, began with a sendup of an MSNBC broadcast anchored by Chloe Fineman, playing the TV journalist Katy Tur.

“Tonight, our long national nightmare is over,” Fineman said. “We got the balloon.”

She introduced a Pentagon official played by Kenan Thompson, who explained how the balloon was eventually brought down.

“The balloon was in some way in a position to get past our West Coast anti-balloon defense system, the Seattle Space Needle,” Thompson said. “But once it was here, we were in a position to regulate it with our sophisticated tracking technology. Of going like this.” Here, Thompson simply looked up above him.

He added: “I do know there have been questions on why we didn’t shoot it down immediately. But we desired to wait until it was over the coast, in order that it wouldn’t fall on people.”

“Or go ssh-ssh-ssh-ssh,” he continued, making the sound of a deflating balloon, “and land on my automobile.”

Fineman went on to interview a second guest: the stays of the balloon itself, played by Bowen Yang, who seemed none too joyful to be floating within the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Well, you bought me,” Yang said wryly. “Congrats, you shot a balloon.” With disbelief, he added, “I entertain you people for 4 days after which get shot by Biden? I can’t imagine I’m Joe’s Osama.”

Yang recoiled at Fineman’s description of his being as wide as three buses. “OK, ouch,” he said. “I’m a balloon, in order that’s my body. How would you prefer it if someone measured your width in buses? Sorry I’m not camera-ready.”

He also denied that he had been spying nefariously on people.

“By me?” Yang asked. “A balloon? Everyone’s being surveilled continuously, however it’s all the time ‘Shoot the balloon’ and never ‘Unplug Alexa.’ Should you care a lot about your data, why do you all keep your bank passwords within the Notes app? You mail your literal DNA to an organization to seek out out in case you’re, like, 10 percent French. But je suis only a balloon.”

But by the top of the interview, Yang had given up on this pretense.

“You’ve made it very clear that I’m not welcome here, so good job,” he said. “But let me inform you something: You’re going to miss this Chinese spy balloon — I mean, normal balloon. Rattling it. Well, whatever, we have already got your data.”

Now that Pascal has helped make successful of the HBO zombie thriller “The Last of Us,” based on the PlayStation franchise, “S.N.L.” has its own suggestion for the subsequent video game that might be adapted right into a prestige dystopian drama: “Mario Kart”

Although this trailer — starring Pascal because the red-hatted Nintendo plumber, Mario, and Fineman as his perennially endangered love interest, Princess Peach — is fake, it’s pretty knowledgeable concerning the mechanics of the particular game. And Pascal’s husky-voiced interpretation of Mario already brings more to the role than, say, Chris Pratt’s take did.

While there are any variety of sketches from this weekend’s broadcast that we could point to as evidence of Pascal’s comedic range, we’ll single out this one, which finds him waking up in a hospital bed after a weekslong coma and talking with a wierd vocal fry that makes him sound like Julia Garner’s version of Anna Delvey in “Inventing Anna.” (A personality played by Thompson within the sketch describes Pascal’s voice, not inaccurately, as an “L.A. mushmouth thing.”)

Pascal commits completely to the bit, although he and Heidi Gardner come extremely near breaking because the scene turns more sentimental. (He couldn’t quite keep it together for the night’s final sketch, featuring Ego Nwodim as a very unrestrained guest at a birthday dinner.)

With the Super Bowl right across the corner, are you feeling hungry for chicken wings? Like, really hungry? Like really, really hungry?

Even so, you must probably avoid Wing Pit, the increasingly terrifying chicken franchise advertised on this fake business, despite its wide selection of unnecessary offerings. Its menu options rapidly escalate from 4 dozen wings for $39.99 to 600 wings for $205.99. (No pricing was immediately offered for a number of the more extravagant selections, including a 3,000-wing “chicken carnage platter” and a meal of 5,000 wings and 10,000 chicken beaks, piped into your own home via a cement chute.)

Don’t forget to clean all of it down with a tough slurry chicken smoothie. Completely satisfied game day!

Over on the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on the downed Chinese spy balloon. Other jokes targeted Representative George Santos, negotiations over the debt ceiling and the College Board’s revision of its curriculum for an Advanced Placement course in African American Studies.

Jost began:

Earlier today, an American fighter jet shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that had been spotted crossing america, officially ending history’s most intricate gender reveal party. And bad news for China, it’s a woman. Chinese officials condemned the U.S. decision to destroy the surveillance balloon, saying it was a civilian aircraft. OK, but even civilian aircrafts might be extremely dangerous. [His screen shows a picture of a Spirit Airlines plane.]

Che then took over:

The revised A.P. African American history class removed the names of several Black authors that Florida officials called “problematic.” As an alternative, they’ve been replaced with authors they call, “considered one of the great ones.” Representative George Santos said that he’s stepping except for his committee assignments to forestall being a distraction. He added, ‘The final thing I need is attention.’ Then he sashayed away in a feather boa.

Just a few jokes later, Jost pivoted to other news out of Washington:

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, seen here wanting to know in case you or someone you’re keen on has been injured in a automobile accident, met in person with President Biden concerning the debt ceiling and said they’d an excellent conversation. It went so well Biden let him pick a pair classified documents out of the bowl.

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