Was there “What Up With That?” There was indeed “What Up With That?,” but we’ll get to that in just a moment.
It was inevitable that, in his first go-round as host of “Saturday Night Live,” Jason Sudeikis, the Emmy-winning “Ted Lasso” star, would revisit a few of the characters and sketch formats he helped make popular during his time as an “S.N.L.” cast member.
That started right away in this weekend’s opening sketch, in which Sudeikis returned to his recurring role as Joseph R. Biden — whom he portrayed back when Biden was still vice president under President Obama, before the role was handed down to a series of other actors.
The sketch opened on the White House, where President Biden (now played by the rookie cast member James Austin Johnson) was with his press secretary, Jen Psaki (Chloe Fineman), lamenting his declining approval ratings.
Left alone onstage, Johnson said: “I don’t understand. People used to like me. The press would call me Uncle Joe. I miss the old me. Where the hell did that guy go?”
Enter Sudeikis as his energetic version of Biden, wearing a baseball cap, a windbreaker and aviator-frame eyeglasses.
When Johnson said he didn’t recognize him, Sudeikis reacted with shock.
“What do you mean, who am I?” Sudeikis said. “I’m you. I’m you from eight years ago, man. The ghost of Biden past.”
“How can you be me?” Johnson asked him. “You seem so happy. So carefree. So … what’s the word I’m looking for?”
Sudeikis answered, “Lucid.”
As the 2013 Biden, Sudeikis explained that, in his time, he was still the vice president, which was essentially the “easiest gig in the world — we’re like America’s wacky neighbor.” All he had to do, Sudeikis explained, was: “pop in with an ice cream cone, some aviator shades, do some finger guns. Shake a few hands, rub a few shoulders.”
Johnson said, “Well, you can’t do that anymore.”
“Which one?” asked Sudeikis. “Rubbing shoulders or shaking hands?
“Weirdly, both,” Johnson replied. He attempted to fill in Sudeikis on some other recent history, explaining that “the last president ruined everything — hung out with porn stars, served McDonald’s at the White House, got into a fight with the Pope.”
“Wow!” Sudeikis exclaimed. “Hillary got awesome.”
Before Sudeikis said he had to depart for a Psy concert, he offered this bit of motivational advice to Johnson.
“I want you to stand tall,” he said. “Flash those 100-percent-natural choppers we got. And remember, we may be from different eras. But at the end of the day, we’re both Joe freakin’ Biden.”
Weekend Update jokes of the week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che riffed on Steve Bannon, Facebook and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Jost went on to tie Facebook back to the West image.
Embodiment of all evil of the week
If you never quite warmed up to Sudeikis’s portrayal of the good-guy coach Ted Lasso, perhaps his portrayal of evil incarnate, the Devil himself, is more your temperature.
Reprising another of his vintage “S.N.L.” characters, Sudeikis returned to the Weekend Update desk in a red suit and tie and a pair of devil horns to let us know about his latest nefarious creations, including earthquakes, killer storms, Instagram for kids and climate change.
“Have you ever been to Florida?” he asked. “That’s not that different from hell. It’s basically pre-hell. It’s people in their hundreds, and the temperatures are also in their hundreds.”
Sudeikis also took credit for Bitcoin and vaping but was aghast to be associated with QAnon. “Hey, no,” he said to Jost. “Those guys are crazy. Bunch of sad internet psychos, thinking a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles exists. Excuse me, don’t drag my good name into your sick fantasy.”
He demanded that Jost apologize “or I swear, I will go back on our deal to let you marry Scarlett.”
‘What Up With That’ of the week
How, at this point, can one explain “What Up With That?” — a recurring “S.N.L.” sketch going back to 2009 — to the uninitiated? This loosest of talk-show parodies cannot be made fully comprehensible in the space we have left, so just know that this latest outing successfully reunited Sudeikis (in a familiar permed wig and red track suit) with Kenan Thompson (still playing its indefatigable host, Diondre Cole) and his old “S.N.L.” co-star Fred Armisen (as the resident saxophonist, Giuseppe). Is this all making sense so far?
The celebrity panelists included Oscar Isaac and Emily Ratajkowski, and although Bill Hader wasn’t there to play Lindsey Buckingham, he was replaced by the “Succession” cast member Nicholas Braun, whom Thompson nonetheless believed to be Buckingham in a Cousin Greg costume. What’s not to understand about that?