Aubrey Plaza’s antics as an intern began long before she played the sardonic April Ludgate in Parks and Recreation. During college, he briefly served as a page on NBC, where he spent his time sharing false facts on the tours he led and sneaking out to vomit hangovers from him. Unsurprisingly, Plaza lasted only a few months before he was asked to leave, but in his brief stint on the web, he had a chance to track down snldesign department of . “It was lurking, lurking in the shadows,” he told Jimmy Fallon earlier this week.
When Plaza took the stage last night to present snl for the first time, he was no longer lurking. During her opening monologue, she gave a tour invented by snl Studio 8H, then joined three of the set designers with whom he had interned all those years ago. “When I was an hour late and barely working, did you ever expect to see me hosting the show?” she asked herself to one of them. “Bow to your queen!” she demanded herself.
and pay homage snl made. Allison Jones, casting director for Parks and Recreation, once reportedly called Plaza “the weirdest girl I’ve ever met,” and Plaza’s deliciously offbeat vibe came to define the episode. The show leaned into him early on, delivering several sketches about weird characters prone to weirder behavior that gave Plaza the chance to play to her talents. During a premise about morning announcements at a Catholic school, she played a nun who accidentally electrocuted herself in the bathroom, died for two minutes, and discovered that heaven might not exist. Her experience left her questioning everything. “I’m going to have sex tonight!” she yelled, her eyes widening with shaky resolve.
In a sketch about game night, Sasha (Plaza) and her partner, Ian (Mikey Day), ended up horrifying their new neighbors by accidentally revealing their dark history while playing Taboo. Competing to get Ian to guess a secret word correctly, Sasha encouraged him by reminding him what he was “in” to the night they met. Her guesswork, about ketamine, parole, finally led him to the right one: on fire. The effect felt like a throwback to snlThe halcyon days of a little over a decade ago, when Kristen Wiig and Will Forte often pushed the show’s sketches in absurd and grotesque directions.
Still, while the show tiptoed toward the Plaza vibe, it didn’t go too far. snl after all, it has long aimed to reach out to and please average Americans, something Sarah Sherman has had to navigate since joining the cast last year. Known for her body horror comedy under the name Sarah Squirm, Sherman has found ways to tone down the more extreme side of her humor without forgetting the reasons. snl hired her in the first place. In both Sherman’s and Plaza’s cases, the compromise works, but one has to wonder what would be possible if the show didn’t so fervently pursue in-between comedy.
As it approaches its 50th anniversary, and as even longtime cast members question its longevity after that milestone,snl seems to be at a tipping point. With many of the show’s most recognizable cast members having recently departed, the newer members have the potential to reinvigorate it. With youth often comes experimentation, and in the past it has led to great benefits, namely the viral power of Digital Shorts.
But this season has played it safe more often than not, turning to big-name hosts and guest stars to add pizzazz rather than giving its newer cast ample space to try new things. Last night nostalgia exploded in some predictable ways, even making Plaza appear as its famous Parks and Recreation character during a “Weekend Update” bit. She was eventually joined by her boss, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), for a moment that sweetly connected the two shows. Poehler took the opportunity to sit in her former hostess chair and crack a joke. It was a delight, of course, but also a reminder of the past rather than a sign of the future.
every age of snl you have to find your own voice. In a season full of changes, the show has struggled to be relevant and original; it has yet to find a way to stand out from earlier times. But as much as Plaza’s turn on the show was a nod to the past (his time as a Page, dear old characters), it also hinted at new possibilities.