Ayo Edebiri’s First Time Hosting “SNL” Was Overshadowed by Offstage Decisions

Specifically, the announcement that Shane Gillis would be back to host

Ayo Edebiri’s First Time Hosting “SNL” Was Overshadowed by Offstage Decisions

There’s a small but memorable coterie of Saturday Night Live hosts who fit seamlessly in with the rest of the show’s cast. In recent seasons, the likes of Quinta Brunson and Dan Levy have meshed well in their appearances there and, last night, Ayo Edebiri did something similar, giving the impression less of a star beamed in for a rare one-off appearance and more a talented comedian among talented comedians.

Given that Edebiri has made a name for herself as both an actor and a writer — and has done acclaimed work on The Bear and Bottoms, to say nothing of charming all of Ireland this awards season — it’s not exactly shocking that her first episode hosting SNL found her in fine form. Unfortunately, Edebiri’s debut on the show was also overshadowed by two factors that had little to do with her or her comic timing.

The first was the brief onscreen appearance of Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley, who showed up in the episode’s cold open. Politicians’ appearances on the show have been good for getting headlines; they’ve been less successful at being actually funny. There’s a sense of breaking kayfabe about the whole thing, when the same people the show satirizes turn up as themselves to show that they’re in on the joke.

The more eye-opening moment had little to do with anyone who appeared physically on this weekend’s show and more to do with news about an upcoming episode. That’s the news that Shane Gillis will host the February 24 episode of Saturday Night Live. And while the show has had stand-up comedians host memorable episodes in recent years — including Nate Batgatze and Jerrod Carmichael — neither of them were hired, and then fired, from SNL as Gillis was.

Specifically, Gillis was fired after racist and homophobic comments he’d made prior to his hiring came to light. Since then, his stand-up career has flourished, and he’s been the subject of profiles in The New Yorker and The New York Times.

As Jason Zinoman wrote in the latter article, Gillis’s SNL exit may well have helped his career. “It made Gillis a martyr to some, and he was savvy enough to embrace those fans without tediously obsessing over cancel culture,” Zinoman wrote “He has said he understood the criticism of his comments, offered a halfhearted apology, then doubled down on lumbering through the china shop of cultural sensitivities.”

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One also wonders how the current SNL cast feels about this. Deadline reported that Bowen Yang seemed none too pleased when Dave Chappelle joined the cast to say good night at the end of last week’s episode, and reports circulating around Chappelle’s last appearance on the show as host suggested that some of the show’s writers had opted out of working on that episode.

It’s entirely possible that Gillis has taken steps to address any potential issues that could occur as a result of his hosting the episode. But it’s also the case that there are numerous other potential hosts who wouldn’t have the same baggage that he does. And the fact that we’re talking about this at all — as opposed to the highlights of Edebiri’s first time hosting SNL — is frustrating in its own right. Hopefully Edebiri will be back to host before long — and under less distracting circumstances.

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