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Rami Malek inspires SNL to create its loosest and funniest show so far this season

  • "The show’s writers seem to have been inspired by their host’s gameness and greenness," Shirley Li says of the Oscar-winning former Mr. Robot star, pointing out that he hasn't gotten much of a chance to show off his comedy chops. "They let him take the reins in outlandish parts that would typically go to a cast member (any other episode with 'Mattress Store' would probably have inserted the host in Bowen Yang’s role as the perplexed salesman, for example) and capitalized on his intense screen presence. Other times, they treated him like a talented utility player and a blank slate. The dual approach helped stitch together SNL’s huge cast, and was consistently, unusually funny. Of course, Malek put in considerable effort. The actor enriched his sketches by conveying every part, however small, with the precision he puts into his dramatic roles. In 'Bug Assembly,' his seventh grader felt like a nerdy child chasing validation. In 'Celeb School Game Show,' he delivered a hammy impression of cast member Pete Davidson, gesticulating wildly, all while Davidson performed a subdued take on Malek. And in the delightfully strange 'Angelo,' Malek wrung weirdness from his near-wordless role as a dancer supporting new cast member Aristotle Athari’s 'international singing sensation.' Even with his Bond co-star Daniel Craig appearing in the scene, Malek didn’t fade into the background. At one point he grabbed ribbons, one of which was tangled. Maybe the knot was meant to be there or maybe it was unintentional; Malek held it like an object he didn’t understand but cherished anyway. As my colleague David Sims noted, SNL is juggling its largest cast ever, shifting away from weekly political commentary, and trying to remain fresh. The series has added three new featured players, recruited a new generation of digital-short-makers, and sought unconventional—as well as first-time—hosts. But amid a stacked lineup of stellar performers vying for screen time, a host picked for star power such as Kardashian West requires everyone else to navigate around them, while even an excellent comic actor like Owen Wilson can get sidelined into playing forgettable background characters."


    • Rami Malek rose to the occasion in his limited number of sketches: "I have to confess that Malek playing second stink-bug to Bowen Yang’s campily scene-stealing daddy longlegs in his first sketch made me a little nervous," says Dennis Perkins. "Sticking your acclaimed thespian host into an insect costume and having him stand around while someone else gets the laughs isn’t the strongest vote of confidence I’ve ever seen. But Malek rose to the occasion in his limited number of sketches, his wonted intensity working wonders in a hammy two-hander with Aidy Bryant, and making the inevitable Squid Game pre-tape into something appropriately unnerving. And, in the impression-fest that was game show Celeb School, Malek just went for—and got—those laughs, aping Pete Davidson’s mannerisms with all the enthusiasm of a guy who saw his opening to truly get into the SNL groove. I’m not alone in my excitement that SNL pro and finally emergent comedy all-star Jason Sudeikis will be the first actual sketch comedian to host next week, but a good, offbeat booking necessarily transforms the show into something unpredictable. That can be truly dire, sure, but Malek’s off-center presence tonight made for a consistently funny, ensemble-centric show."
    • Malek and Heidi Gardner in cut-for-time sketch

    TOPICS: Rami Malek, NBC, Saturday Night Live