Aubrey Plaza’s troubles began as an intern long before she played the sardonic April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation. During college, she served briefly as a page at NBC, where she spent her time sharing fake facts about her travels and looking to put her hangovers away. Not surprisingly, Plaza only lasted a few months before she was asked to leave, but in her short time with the network, she got the chance to hit the road. SNLand design department. “I was stalking, lurking in the shadows,” she told Jimmy Fallon earlier this week.
When Plaza took the stage last night to host SNL for the first time, she wasn’t lurking anymore. During her opening monologue, she gave a tour de force SNL Studio 8H then joined three of the set designers she had interned with years ago. “When I was showing up an hour late and barely working, did you ever expect to see me hosting the show?” she asked one of them. “Come on Queen!” she demanded.
And pay homage SNL did. Allison Jones, the casting director for Parks and Recreation, once called Plaza “the weirdest girl I’ve ever met,” and Plaza’s cheerful vibe came to define the episode. The show latched onto it from the jump, delivering several sketches about quirky characters with quirky behaviors that allowed Plaza to play to her talents. During morning announcements at a Catholic school, she played with a nun who was accidentally electrocuted in the bath, died for two minutes, and discovered that heaven might not exist. The experience left her questioning everything. “I’m going to have sex tonight!” she shouted, widening her eyes in shaky resolve.
In a game night sketch, Sasha (Plaza) and her partner, Ian (Mikey Day), shock their new neighbors by accidentally revealing their dark past while playing Taboo. Racing to get Ian to correctly guess a secret word, Sasha prompts him by reminding him of what he was “on” the night they first met. His thoughts – on ketamine, on parole – finally led to the right one: fire. The effect felt like a return to SNLa few years ago, when Kristen Wiig and Will Forte often pushed the show’s sketches in absurd and grotesque directions.
Still, even though the show ended up with a Plaza vibe, it didn’t take long for it to go too far. SNL After all, it’s been her longtime goal to reach and satisfy Central America—something Sarah Sherman has had to contend with since joining the team last year. Known for her body horror comedy under the name Sarah Squirm, Sherman has found ways to tone down the extreme side of her humor without leaving the reasons behind. SNL she hired in the first place. In both Sherman’s and Plaza’s cases, the compromise works, but one has to wonder what might have been if the show hadn’t pursued middle-of-the-road comedy so hard.
As he approaches his 50th anniversary—and even long-time members question his longevity after that milestone—SNL like being at an inflection point. Since so many of the show’s most recognizable cast members have recently departed, newer members have the potential to revive it. With youth often comes experimentation, and it has led to big payoffs in the past, that is the viral power of Digital Shorts.
But this season played it safe more often than not, tapping big-name hosts and guest stars to add pizzazz instead of giving its newer cast plenty of room to try new things. Nostalgia reached out last night in a few predictable ways, including by Plaza appearing as her celebrity Parks and Recreation character during a “Weekend Update” bit. Her boss, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), finally joins her for a moment that sweetly connects the two shows. Poehler took the opportunity to sit in his former anchor chair and deliver a joke. It was a joy, of course, but also a reminder of the past rather than a sign for the future.
Every era of it SNL he has to find his own voice. In a season rife with change, the show struggled with relevance and originality; it has not yet found a way to stand out from previous eras. But as much as Plaza’s turn on the show drew on the past (her time as a page, beloved old characters), it also hinted at new possibilities.