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Beck Bennett Knows How to Steal the Show

His role in Peacock’s Killing It is the latest example of his standout post-Saturday Night Live work.
  • Beck Bennett in Shrill, Killing It, I Think You Should Leave, and The Other Two (Photo: Hulu; Peacock; Netflix; Max)
    Beck Bennett in Shrill, Killing It, I Think You Should Leave, and The Other Two (Photo: Hulu; Peacock; Netflix; Max)

    Beck Bennett became Saturday Night Live’s go-to guy during his eight-year run on the long-running NBC sketch comedy. Politician, game show host, SoCal bro, overprotective dad — he could step into any role and do so with gusto, guaranteeing a laugh every time. When paired with his longtime comedy partner Kyle Mooney, he was able to bring a fresh, bizarre energy to the series that paved the way for current SNL talent like Sarah Sherman and Please Don’t Destroy.

    Unlike some of his peers, Mooney included, Bennett has yet to helm his own series or step into a starring television role post-SNL. That’s not to say he won’t — it’s only been two years since he left the show, after all. And even before his departure, he popped up on TV series here and there to prove that he doesn’t need top billing to make an impression. In the years since, he’s solidified himself as a reliable standout. If Bennett walks on screen, it’s time to report a robbery — he’s about to steal that scene.

    Bob, Ghosted

    Streaming on Hulu

    The 2017 Fox sitcom Ghosted followed an X-Files-like duo: Adam Scott as believer of the paranormal and Craig Robinson as a skeptic. The series itself was short-lived, canceled after just one season, and Bennett’s contribution was even more brief. His character Bob, a medical examiner for the top-secret paranormal investigation team at the center of the series, is introduced and then (spoiler alert) killed off, all in the cold open for Episode 4, “Lockdown.”

    But in just a few minutes, he’s able to show off some of his greatest comedic assets. He comes into the scene panicked, warning the team that he’s made a huge mistake: he bought too many donuts. He quickly turns on that charming everyman quality that made him so versatile on SNL, ready to bro down in such a generic way that it becomes hilarious, inviting Scott and Robinson to join him for some “beer cans filled with frosty brewskis.”

    Bob’s fatal flaw? Loving Jamiroquai too much. While jamming to “Virtual Insanity” he accidentally awakens a mythical creature who crushes his head to a pulp. He tries to signal for help, showcasing Bennett’s penchant for physical comedy, but everyone around him thinks he’s just being goofy, lovable Bob. R.I.P., Bob.

    Jeff, The Other Two

    Streaming on Max

    The Other Two is packed with non-stop jokes, almost all delivered by characters who are terrible and incredibly ignorant. Yet somehow, in his two Season 1 appearances as flight-attendant-not-pilot Jeff, Bennett manages to be even more annoying and dense than anyone else. He meets Brooke’s (Heléne Yorke) attempt at a flirty come-on — “I hope you’re hungry” — with an impressively blank stare. Once he finally gets what she means, he spends a little too long mansplaining what food is, and by the end of it all, Brooke hates herself even more than she did when she was shoving a pizza box into a laundry machine earlier that day.

    It’s Bennett’s restraint is key to this role. Yes, he can be over-the-top and bounce off the walls for a laugh when he needs to, but it’s the calm and quiet intonation that sells his best line as Jeff: “This might be a bad time, but I remember now. You did eat my butt.”

    Kevin a.k.a. The Awesome, Shrill

    Streaming on Hulu

    Aidy Bryant and Bennett spent their SNL heydays together (Bennett was cast one year after Bryant), so it makes sense that they would bring out the best in each other. In Shrill, Bennett plays an internet troll known as “The Awesome” who’s been degrading writer Annie (Bryant) online, endlessly body-shaming her from behind the keyboard. When Annie finally confronts him, it’s an empowering and emotional scene for Bryant, and Bennett matches suit — at least at first.

    In the first half of the scene, Bennett shows off his acting chops, humanizing the man behind the vile words being spewed at Annie. But when Annie rebuffs his advances, he goes from zero to douchebag in a matter of seconds. It’s jarring, enraging, and makes for a memorable Season 1 finale. For all the naive or kindly or goofy characters Bennett plays, it’s worth remembering that he can be a pretty straightforward villain when he wants to.

    Stuart, I Think You Should Leave

    Streaming on Netflix

    Bennett’s Stuart may have 200 guys in his friend group, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. For one, he has to pay to be in it — it’s more of a pyramid-scheme-like friend “tier” than a real group of guys. And if he becomes too annoying or fat or gets too wild in the pool at a party, he either has to pay more or he’s out. The friend he has to answer to if he screws up? One of Tim Robinson’s many loud, aggressive, and slightly off characters.

    Robinson’s cadence and demeanor are tough to match, but Bennett rises to the occasion. And he still manages to make the tempo of the jokes his own, resisting the urge to simply out-Robinson Robinson. When Stuart singles out his colleague Mike as the person whose life he’d like to have the most, that deranged, slightly too intense staredown is all original Bennett.

    Johnny, Killing It

    Streaming on Peacock

    Bennett carries all of the best moments in Killing It Season 2’s first episode. He plays Johnny, an inspector who shuts down Craig (Craig Robinson) and Jillian’s (Claudio O’Doherty) palmetto berry farm just as it starts booming. There may be giant African land snails in the area that could be deadly to humans and it’s up to Johnny to make sure the area is secured. He starts out as a real company man, a go-getter with a passion for the job and plenty of pocketed quips to (supposedly) put everyone at ease.

    But over the course of the farm’s weeks-long quarantine to hunt for the snails, he becomes a changed man. His energy wears thin, his attention to detail wanes, and his dog’s death sends him into an unimaginable, sad-sack spiral. It’s far from the most upbeat version of Bennett, but he’s such a pro that he can make even a deeply inconsolable Floridian snail inspector laugh-out-loud funny.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Beck Bennett, Ghosted, I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson, Killing It, The Other Two, Saturday Night Live, Shrill