Dakota Johnson and Justin Timberlake Serve Up ‘SNL’ Nostalgia Nobody Wanted
There are two kinds of returning Saturday Night Live hosts. There’s the John Mulaney kind, a professional funny person who gets asked back multiple times thanks to killer performances on previous shows. And then there’s the Dakota Johnson kind, an actor with a movie to promote. 2024 will prove to be an interesting year for those kinds of hosts — thanks to last year’s multiple strikes from writers and actors, movie theaters will be relatively bare this year. The only new film of note in the next couple of weeks is the unintentional comedy (at least according to the trailer) of Madame Web. So, welcome back, Dakota.
The thing is, Johnson was terrible the last time she hosted back in Season 40 to promote the unintentionally funny 50 Shades of Grey. The worst part isn’t that she isn’t particularly gifted as a comedian — she’s not — it’s that she seems so disinterested, as if she has better places to be. But hey, Madame Web isn’t gonna promote itself. A little comedy help was in order, but unfortunately, it came in the guise of Justin Timberlake doing image rehab.
Twenty years ago, Timberlake was a surprisingly able comic performer — for a pop star, anyway. But he was much funnier when paired with a real comedian like Andy Samberg. Match him up with Dakota Johnson, and you get creepy cringe served up for people “nostalgic” for that one scene in Social Network. Dakota Johnson was in Social Network? Looks like it. From there, Timberlake name-dropped his decades-old SNL appearances, every nod to the past offered as a potential applause break — except no one was asking for any of it.
And the reminiscing didn’t stop there either. For all you Jimmy Fallon fans out there, Timberlake’s ol’ pal popped in for a new installment of “The Barry Gibb Talk Show,” itself a nostalgia play back in 2003. Does any Gen-Z viewer have any idea who Barry Gibb is? They’d be even more confused after watching the Brothers Gibb trade forced punchlines with Andrew/Bowen Yang.
On a night of unrequested callbacks to the past — there was even a Weekend Update O.J. joke — the one bit that did work was the one with a fresh take. Elderly parents spend time with their son (Andrew Dismukes) watching old home movies on VHS. Kid Dismukes is pretty cute blowing out candles and playing soccer, but the fun begins with the tape that captured the moment Pop (Mikey Day) discovered he was going to be a daddy. The clever twist — the reveal happens on a Jerry Springer-esque show when a paternity test determines Day’s “broke-ass liar” is the father. For a certain kind of ‘90s kid, this one will bring back some fun, albeit trashy and violent memories.
The night on the whole was an “oof” — combined with last week’s Jacob Elordi episode, SNL’s 2024 has gotten off to a very bumpy start. Fingers crossed for next week when SNL invites an actual funny person, The Bear’s Ayo (“Give her all the hardware!”) Edebiri. One bit of advice: Keep the callback cameos to a minimum.