There are two certainties about Arizona: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has turned into a reliable punch line and it’s hot here.
Both of these things made their way into “Saturday Night Live” — in Sinema’s case, twice.
Jason Sudeikis hosted the show, a sort of return of the conquering hero moment. Now known and beloved for co-creating and starring in “Ted Lasso,” he is also a former “SNL” cast member, and he used to play Joe Biden — a role he reprised Saturday, and where he made the first Sinema joke.
James Austin Johnson, who has been playing Biden this season, began the show’s cold open as the president by complaining that no one likes him anymore. But they used to. “I miss the old me,” he says. “Where the hell did he go?”
Enter Sudeikis’ Biden, in a jacket, baseball cap and aviator sunglasses, shooting finger guns. He was the old Biden from eight years ago, he explained, still the vice president, the “Ghost of Biden past” who people did indeed like.
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Johnson’s Biden talked about the obstacles he faces. One is Sinema, a headline fixture for her refusal to back Biden’s infrastructure bill.
“Sen. Sinema?” Sudeikis’ Biden said. “Sounds like a ‘Star Wars’ character.”
OK, no one said it was a funny joke. But it was a joke nevertheless.
The second Sinema joke was better. Michael Che, during the “Weekend Update” segment, introduced a story about Sinema, “who hates the attention” — this with a withering verbal side-eye — “says she is opposed to raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for President Biden’s agenda. Finally, someone speaking up for billionaires.”
Funny enough. And the fact that the audience laughed at the “hates the attention” part is telling. Unfortunately, Che wasn’t done.
“Because it’s so hard to hear them from space.”
He said the last bit while showing pictures of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in their spacesuits. Which actually undercut the joke, taking the politics of the moment out of the equation. Too bad.
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Arizona heat jokes are less political. And funnier
The Arizona-is-hot joke was quaint in comparison — we know it’s hot here, it’s always been hot here, it’s always going to be hot (if not hotter) here. Sinema’s defiance is relatively new and has a sharper edge. We live with the heat jokes and the heat. The Sinema digs cut deeper.
In this segment Sudeikis — who appeared in practically everything — played Mr. Teacher on “Science Room” on PBS, trying to demonstrate gravity, matter and planets with the help of a couple of decidedly awful student volunteers, played by Mikey Day and Cecily Strong.
What planet is this, he asked, pointing to Mercury on a model? To no avail, neither student knew. They were too busy playing with the model.
“It’s right next to the sun,” he offers as a hint Day.
“No, that’s a city in Arizona.”
“Ooh,” Strong’s student says. “Tempe?”
That’s funny. Though it’s easy to imagine a lot of viewers in New Hampshire and South Carolina wondering what a Tempe is.
Who knows, maybe Sudeikis wrote the joke. He came up with the bit in “Ted Lasso” about the Gin Blossoms’ best song vs. his favorite song.
Whoever wrote the Arizona heat bit, it was a nice break to see Arizona get laughed at for something besides audits and political maneuvering. Best of all, no one said, “It’s a dry heat.”
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