Since kicking off Season 46 last fall, Saturday Night Live has been running closer to business-as-usual than almost any other late-night show during the pandemic. Still, if you look closely, there are differences: Their audience size has been reduced, which has often made studio reactions more muted; the schedule has featured more episodes in a row and yet longer breaks in between; and the host bookings feel less tethered to the usual promotional cycles of big movies, TV show premieres, and awards season.
Case in point: 10 months after Schitt’s Creek ended, four months after the show’s historic Emmys sweep, and two months after his co-starring role in Hulu’s Happiest Season, Dan Levy took a victory lap this week with his first Saturday Night Live hosting gig. In other words, he wasn’t really there to plug anything so much as have fun with the opportunity.
As a comic actor, Levy showed up ready to do silly character work and blend in with the cast in a way that was often endearing—especially once he got through that backstage-tour monologue. As Levy ran the audience through a variety of exaggerated COVID protections, the sight gags just didn’t land and Aidy Bryant’s safety supervisor character emerged to crickets.
It was a rough start, but that wasn’t Levy’s fault. The monologue has become increasingly awkward in the small-audience pandemic era, especially when the host can’t just try out a stand-up set (which briefly became an unexpected event last fall). Once he finished, though, Levy jumped into a fairly consistent, if not quite spectacular, episode of SNL.
Read ahead for some of his best moments…
Editor’s Note: Phoebe Bridgers served as the evening’s musical guest, and she was equally terrific. Replay her performances here.