Aubrey Plaza’s antics as an intern began long before she played the sardonic April Ludgate in Parks and Recreation. During college, briefly served as a page on NBC, where he spent his time sharing false facts about the tours he led and sneaking out to throw up his hangovers. Unsurprisingly, Plaza lasted only a few months before she was asked to leave, but in her brief stint on the net, she had a chance to track down snldesign department of . “He was lurking, lurking in the shadows,” she said. saying Jimmy Fallon earlier this week.

When Plaza took the stage last night to present snl for the first time, he was no longer lurking. During her opening monologue, she gave a tour invented by snl Studio 8H, then joined three of the set designers with whom he had interned all those years ago. “When I was an hour late and barely working, did you ever expect to see me hosting the show?” she asked herself to one of them. “Bow to your queen!” she asked.

and pay homage snl made. Allison Jones, casting director for Parks and Recreation, once supposedly called Plaza, “the weirdest girl I’ve ever met,” and Plaza’s deliciously offbeat vibe came to define the episode. The show leaned into him early on, delivering several sketches about weird characters prone to weirder behavior that gave Plaza the chance to play to her talents. During a premise about morning announcements at a Catholic school, she played a nun who accidentally electrocuted herself in the bathroom, died for two minutes, and discovered that heaven might not exist. Her experience left her questioning everything. “I’m going to have sex tonight!” she yelled, her eyes widening with shaky resolve.

in a sketch about game night, Sasha (Plaza) and her partner, Ian (Mikey Day), ended up horrifying their new neighbors by accidentally revealing their dark history while playing Taboo. Competing to get Ian to guess a secret word correctly, Sasha encouraged him by reminding him what he was “in” to the night they met. Her guesswork, about ketamine, parole, finally led him to the right one: on fire. The effect felt like a throwback to snlThe halcyon days of a little over a decade ago, when Kristen Wiig and Will Forte would often present the show’s sketches in absurd and grotesque addresses.

Still, while the show tiptoed toward the Plaza vibe, it didn’t go too far. snl after all, it has long aimed to reach and please average America, something Sarah Sherman has had to navigate since he joined the cast last year. Known for her body horror comedy under the name Sarah Squirm, Sherman has found ways to tone down the most extreme side of his humor without forgetting the reasons snl hired her in the first place. In both Sherman’s and Plaza’s cases, the compromise works, but one has to wonder what would be possible if the show didn’t so fervently pursue in-between comedy.

As their 50th anniversary approaches, and even longtime cast members Question his longevity after that milestone—snl seems to be at a tipping point. Since many of the show’s most recognizable cast members they have left recently, newer members have the potential to reinvigorate you. With youth often comes experimentation, and in the past it has led to great benefits, namely the viral power of digital short films.

But this season he has played it safe most of the time, taking advantage of renowned hosts and guest stars to add pizzazz rather than give its newer cast ample room to try new things. Last night nostalgia exploded in some predictable ways, even making Plaza appear as its famous Parks and Recreation character during a “Weekend Update” bit. She was eventually joined by her boss, Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), for a moment that sweetly connected the two shows. Poehler took the opportunity to sit in her former hostess chair and crack a joke. It was a delight, of course, but also a reminder of the past rather than a sign of the future.

every era of snl you have to find your own voice. In a season full of exchange, the show has struggled with relevance and originality; it has yet to find a way to stand out from earlier times. But as much as Plaza’s turn on the show nodded to the past (his time of his as a page, dear old characters), it also hinted at new possibilities.

By sbavh

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