Dakota Johnson returns to host ‘SNL’ with an assist from Justin Timberlake

Three people stand on a stage.
Justin Timberlake was the”Saturday Night Live” musical guest this weekend, and Dakota Johnson, center, hosted for the second time. Sarah Sherman is at right.
(Rosalind O’Connor / NBC)

Even if Dakota Johnson, the star of “Madame Web” and this week’s “Saturday Night Live” guest host, was in on the monologue joke that musical guest and previous five-time host Justin Timberlake was there to upstage her, it must have seemed a lot less funny to her by the end of the show.

It was an episode that felt undernourished on the performance side while being overstuffed with guest stars. They included “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, there to bring back “The Barry Gibb Talk Show” sketch with Timberlake; two cast members from “Shark Tank,” Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran, for a sketch about a woman (Johnson) debuting a bad T-shirt idea at her book club; and Dave Chappelle, who appeared in no sketches, but could be spotted on stage next to Fallon during the final goodnight at the end of the show. Like last week’s host, Jacob Elordi, Johnson couldn’t seem to pick up the rhythms of the sketches, losing her place in the cue cards multiple times and breaking character often when cast members fired off funny lines next to her. It wasn’t first-time nerves: She hosted previously in 2015 to promote “50 Shades of Grey.”

The episode also included a sketch about a family having trouble ordering a meal at a restaurant called Buccacino’s, one about an overly enthusiastic Delta airport counter employee (Devon Walker) blocking Johnson’s character from retrieving her lost bag, and a sketch about the Stanley cups craze called “Big Dumb Cups” that had funny lines, but suffered from dropped lines and scattershot performances. Befitting of someone who might be more comfortable off of live television, Johnson shined in two pre-taped pieces, one about a family watching old VHS tapes (more on that in a bit), and a “Please Don’t Destroy” video in which Johnson and the three writers get into a beef and exchange very personal insults.


Timberlake performed “Sanctified” with featured performer Toby Nwigwe, and “Selfish,” introduced by Falon. Both songs are from his upcoming new album.

This week’s cold open parodied CBS’s NFL playoff coverage, with sports analysts including Jim Nantz (James Austin Johnson), Tony Romo (Andrew Dismukes) and James Brown (Kenan Thompson) lamenting “the last real day of football” because the Super Bowl is just a bunch of commercials and nobody watches the Pro Bowl. The melancholy crew, also consisting of Phil Simms (Michael Longfellow), Bill Cowher (Mikey Day) and Nate Burleson (Walker), clapped back at criticisms of Ryan Gosling’s Oscar nomination for “Barbie,” saying that the character of Ken was the first time they felt seen, and asked sadly, “What are men supposed to do on Sundays? Just go to their friends’ houses for no reason?” The existential crisis concluded with an autotuned song that promised better times, “When there’s football again.”

In the monologue, Dakota Johnson showed a prescient photo from when she appeared at an “SNL” 40th-anniversary event. A photo shows her standing up amid a crowd of celebrities including Steven Spielberg, Donald Trump before he was president and someone who Johnson says would become the most powerful person in the country — Taylor Swift. The host said she’s always had trouble handling interviews and press, leading to a clip of her as a child, on stage with her father, Don Johnson. As her dad speaks at the People’s Choice Awards, she’s next to him rolling her eyes and making faces.

With the Dakota Johnson part of the Dakota Johnson monologue dispensed with, Timberlake appeared on the stage to steal the spotlight, and Fallon, already dressed in his Barry Gibb costume, joined. Timberlake offered to fill in when needed because he’s hosted five times. It felt all the more crass given that Timberlake has been telling the press that he “flirted with the idea of hosting” but decided not to, making it seem as if Johnson wouldn’t have been producer Lorne Michaels’ first choice. Yikes. Maybe “Selfish” was an apt song choice.

Best sketch of the night: Home videos full of secrets

A son (Dismukes) comes across old VHS tapes at his aging parents’ home (played by Day and Johnson) and asks to view them. One of the tapes reveals that his parents were disgusting guests on a Maury Povich-style ‘90s talk show segment, “Is He the Father?” The son learns that his parents were in a dysfunctional relationship that involved lots of cheating and fighting. The pre-taped sketch goes on a little too long, but Day and Johnson, along with fellow cast members Sarah Sherman, Marcello Hernandez and James Austin Johnson, lean into the craziness.

Also good: ‘The Barry Gibb Talk Show’ still works

The first “Barry Gibb Talk Show” sketch with Timberlake and Fallon was in October 2003, and whatever you think of Fallon and Timberlake more than 20 years later, the shtick still works. Even if the guests on the made-up show, including Johnson, have nothing to do, Fallon’s Barry Gibb impression is still killer, the random harmonized lyrics are still funny, and Timberlake admirably doesn’t break as the quiet, unopinionated Robin Gibb. If that doesn’t win you over, there’s Fallon-as-Gibb warbling, “If you don’t cry at [Australian animated show] ‘Bluey,’ you’re not a real man!” Hard agree.

‘Weekend Update’ winner: Give Ethan all the Oscars

There’s something about Bowen Yang and award shows, as we’ve mentioned before. For this guest segment, Yang plays Ethan, a 15-year-old in a tux who makes up his own Oscar categories including “Best Performance That Reminded Ethan of Moments From Ethan’s Past” such as having an eye problem like Paul Giamatti’s character in “The Leftovers.” “Been there,” Ethan says and sighs. Ethan’s Academy of Motion Pictures membership is 100% Asian, leading him to share a hashtag for his one-person ceremony, #EthansSoAsian! He concludes the segment by stealing Niecy Nash-Betts’ Emmy speech and revealing that his last name is Oscars. Here’s hoping Ethan makes a return appearance before the Academy Awards in March.