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On ‘S.N.L.,’ Biden Hopes That Memes Can Help the Crisis in Ukraine

This weekend’s opening sketch found James Austin Johnson as President Biden in the White House, being warned by a team of advisers about the increasingly tense situation in Ukraine.

“Putin has amassed over 100,000 troops at the border,” said one adviser played by Kenan Thompson.

Another, played by Ego Nwodim, added, “We’re even getting some reports that Russia has already invaded, but those are from same people who said Tom Brady retired, so take it with a grain of salt.”

Johnson, as Biden, asked about assistance from NATO allies and was told all except Germany were contributing. “Oh man,” he replied. “When Germany doesn’t want to go to war, you know it’s bad.”

A third adviser, played by Alex Moffat, introduced a review of what he said was Russian disinformation circulating on Ukrainian Facebook. That included an article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the headline “American CDC Strongly Recommends Russia Invade Ukraine.”

Thompson wondered if this was true, and Johnson warily answered, “For a few months in 2020 — the science was changing so fast.”

The team looked at a series of pro-Russian takes on popular American memes, including The Most Interesting Man in the World (with the caption “I don’t always get invaded, but when I do, I prefer Russia”) and Crying Michael Jordan (“Why I gotta be Ukrainian when Russia two feet away”).

There was also a TikTok dance video that met with Johnson’s disapproval. “The choreography wasn’t even crisp,” he complained. “I’m going to log into my finsta and flame those guys in the comments.”

The team reviewed other video, including a sendup of a series of State Farm advertisements with Pete Davidson playing what the group thought was an impersonator of Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback. Thompson clarified: “Apparently that is the real Aaron Rodgers,” he said. “I guess he left the Packers to play for Russia.”

Chloe Fineman, playing a vicious high-school junior who has newly been named secretary of defense, looked over America’s own unimpressive efforts at social-media response, including an Evil Kermit meme that a horrified Thompson described as “cheugy.”

Johnson wondered if the situation called for a different approach. “Let’s just do something fun and simple that everyone can get behind,” he said. “Like a drone strike.”

You knew Willem Dafoe could act. (Heck, if you stuck around for a strange “Beauty and the Beast” parody near the end of the show, you got to see him dance rather nimbly.) But if your wish was that “S.N.L.” would get him to sing, it was granted in this filmed segment, in which Thompson, Nwodim and Chris Redd contribute verses to a Weeknd-esque pop tune about the problems that wake them up at night, like loud Spotify commercials and a spouse’s sharp toenails.

Dafoe turns up as the co-host of a TV infomercial for an air fryer, who eventually starts to sing. Let’s just say he has the voice of an angel who has also played an unraveling old salt in “The Lighthouse.”

This being a family newspaper, there isn’t too much specific detail we can recount here about this fake advertisement: It features Mikey Day, who is increasingly appalled by his interactions with the retired baseball star Frank Thomas (Thompson), the former football player Doug Flutie (Kyle Mooney) and Dafoe as himself, all trying in the bluntest language possible to sell him on a “testosterone-boosting male enhancement” called Nugenix.

But boy does Dafoe commit to the bit, even when the sketch requires that he fall to his knees, writhe in pain and utter phrases like, “Your perfume smells lovely, m’lady.”

Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che continued to riff on a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine and the impending retirement of Justice Stephen G. Breyer from the Supreme Court.

Jost began:

The stock market is plummeting, and there’s a threat of a land war in Europe. So it looks like Democrats were right: Joe Biden is the next FDR. President Biden is working to prevent a war between Russia and Ukraine and said a video call with European allies went “very, very, very well.” OK the third “very” worries me. You only say that when you’re trying to cover up something. Like if Matt Gaetz said, “that girl was very, very, very over 18.”

He continued:

Ukrainian officials are saying that repeated warnings of invasion are just causing panic, and that panic is the sister of failure. Which is exactly what Lorne said to get us to do this show during a blizzard. Also, am I wrong? I thought Ivanka was the sister of failure. [The screen shows photos of Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.]

Che pivoted to Breyer’s retirement:

Supreme Court Justice Steven Breyer announced that he will retire in June. “We thank Justice Breyer for years of upholding the rights of every American,” said liberals who have been tweeting “retire bitch” for the last year. I sympathize with Breyer because I get those same tweets every Saturday night around this time.

We’re not going to lie: It had been a bit of an up-and-down show up to this point, so who’s better qualified to deliver a much-needed win than Peyton Manning?

Manning, the former Super Bowl M.V.P. (and “S.N.L.” host) was ostensibly at the Weekend Update desk to talk about the thrilling results of last week’s N.F.L. playoff games. “I heard they were incredible,” Manning said, adding: “Sounds like all the teams did a great job. Lots of passing and, uh, all the touchdowns were in the end zone.”

Turns out, however, that he had missed the games so he could watch Season 2 of “Emily in Paris,” a show that Manning praised for its “romance, adventure, sensuality, culture, a fresh take on feminism — finally — not to mention a culinary tapestry so rich I can only describe it as food porn.” In Manning’s own words, we’ll just add: sacré bleu.

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