Jason Momoa Professes Love For the Roman Empire and Pandas On Saturday Night Live

The SNL cast also showed solidarity with alum Dana Carvey following the death of his son last week.
Jason Momoa hosts Saturday Night Live
Jason Momoa hosts Saturday Night Live on November 18, 2023 in Manhattan, New York.NBC/Getty Images

Let’s start at the end, which was the most powerful beat of this week’s Saturday Night Live. Host Jason Momoa gave a full-throated thank you to his mother in the crowd, and the Iowa town that raised him, before hoisting Chloe Fineman and Ego Nwodim onto his bathtub of a chest. To the side of all this big bear energy, Colin Jost somberly held up a sign that read “We Love You Dana and Paula.” It was a kind gesture of solidarity for the show’s beloved alum, Dana Carvey and his wife, who are staring down a Thanksgiving season without their son, Dex Carvey, who died last week from an accidental drug overdose.

Momoa was affable company, if not necessarily memorable. His monologue was more like a wave than an actual conversation with the audience. Visually, he delights. He wore his lion mane scraped into a ponytail, a mustard yellow leather jacket unzipped down to his belly button, with a giant tusk of a necklace holding court on his automobile-sized pecs. He made but one joke, about how he refers to the show that gave him his start as “the B Word.” Momoa’s gift is good vibes, not comedy. So, he wrapped up his brief time on center stage with an old Hawaiian saying. “Take care of the Earth,” he translated. “Take care of each other.” (We have dire work to do on both fronts.)

The cleverest sketch of the evening was a riff on the recent nonsensical TikTok Roman Empire trend, in which women wondered how much time the men in their lives spend thinking about the clashing chaos of a historical period. Nwodim’s frustrated wife struggled to break through to her preoccupied husband, played by Momoa. “I’m just thinking about the Roman Empire, Ancient Rome,” he rapped, “five times a day, it pops into my dome.” Kenan Thompson and Mikey Day filled out the chorus of Gladiator-obsessed husbands. If men are from the Colosseum, women are from the constellations, obsessed with our Zodiac signs, our enneagrams, our Mercury in retrograde. Jason Momoa, be our bridge!

Jason Momoa plays the role of a Roman gladiator on Saturday Night Live on November 18, 2023

NBC/Getty Images

There weren’t a lot of laughs in this episode. Mikey Day’s President Joe Biden riffing off Bowen Yang’s Chinese panda bear lacked heat. The Newark Airport musical sketch needed the effervescence of a host like John Mulaney to really sing. Momoa and Marcello Hernandez’s bouncer sketch should have slapped, but thudded. Even the Please Don’t Destroy guys had an average week, in which John Higgins’ breakup was interfering with his buddies’ ramen order.

It was time to pull out the big guns, and by that, I mean a sketch starring Momoa’s bare chest. He played a man who’d been stranded on a desert island for five years, whose ex, here Chloe Fineman, had been forced in his absence to settle for basic beau Andrew Dismukes. Chin chin to Momoa pouring red wine down his face. “I’m sorry, I forgot how to drink out of a cup. I must take my shirt off,” he said in the two best lines of the night. Refusing to be outdone, Dismukes also removed his shirt, his modest comedian’s tummy mute in the face of Momoa’s juggling pecs.

Jason Momoa in an SNL sketch with Andrew Dismukes on November 18, 2023

NBC/Getty Images

Bowen Yang gave good George Santos during Weekend Update. When Colin Jost chastised him for his Only Fans habit, Yang snapped, “Oh please, isn’t Congress kinda like Only Fans anyway? People paying you to do nasty things on a sad, bad livestream?” Jost then called him to task on his pathological need to lie, questioning whether the disgraced politician was even gay. Um, hello, George Santos invented being gay. “I was the one at Stonewall who said, ‘Here’s an idea, you guys should kiss.’”

Here’s something to be thankful for: SNL returns with Emma Stone as host in two weeks, when she’ll officially join the five-timers club. In the meantime, everybody try to style their hair like Momoa and tell all your family members that there will be no talk of Bill Maher or Donald Trump at your holiday table.