This Week’s “SNL” Took a Strange Trip Into Tennis History

A sketch that asks, "What if there was a Battle of the Sexes before the actual Battle of the Sexes?"

"SNL" Tennis sketch
Sarah Sherman and Jason Momoa played rival tennis players in this sketch.

Jason Momoa returned to Saturday Night Live this weekend to host for the first time since 2018. That time around, Momoa’s combination of great comic timing and a penchant for physical comedy made for more than a few memorable sketches, including playing an 80s bully who really, really, really hates dorks.

This time around, there was more of the same — including one sketch in which Momoa played a guy who’d recently been rescued from the desert island where he’d been stranded, and another in which Momoa and Mikey Day played businessmen in the early 1900s who were fascinated by an early movie camera.

And then there was the sketch that asked the question, “What if Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs hadn’t been the first Battle of the Sexes in the world of tennis?” Structured as a documentary, the sketch featured Momoa and Sarah Sherman as rival tennis players in the late 1960s whose match goes terribly wrong.

Without spoiling too much, this heads into the more visceral aspect of physical comedy that’s become a regular feature of Sherman’s appearances on the show. It’s also not far removed from the 2015 comedy Seven Days in Hell, which also juxtaposed tennis history with increasingly absurd and bleak comedy — and as a fan of Seven Days in Hell, I’m very much here for that.

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Momoa’s comment that “at the time, I was the largest man to ever play tennis” turns out to be an excellent example of foreshadowing. There’s also some excellent retro hair on display in the sketch, and fans of vintage tennis gear will also not be disappointed.

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