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SNL: Natasha Lyonne's Best Sketches, Ranked

Collider logo Collider 5/22/2022 Emily Bernard
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The Season 47 finale of Saturday Night Live already? Say it ain’t so! Last night, Emmy nominated actress Natasha Lyonne made her SNL hosting debut alongside musical guest Japanese Breakfast. There was plenty of fanfare before the show even started. A number of long-time cast members, including Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Kyle Mooney, and Pete Davidson announced that they would be leaving the show after this season. Considering these four have stayed past the typical seven-year SNL contract, we knew this day would rear its ugly head sooner or later. Regardless, this announcement can’t help but feel like a shock, especially since it feels like this cast is still trying to find their footing. McKinnon had a sweet and teary send-off when she thanked the crowd in her “Final Encounter” Cold Open, Davidson slid over to Colin Jost at the Weekend Update desk to look back on his time at the show, and Aidy Bryant thanked everyone for a great 10 years while she forecasted trends with Bowen Yang. There were many emotions swirling about for Natasha Lyonne’s host debut, but as expected, she handled her hosting duties like a pro.

Long before she was spending time behind bars with Big Boo, Crazy Eyes, and Red, Lyonne was spending time at Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. That’s right, the popular 1980s family series Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was where Lyonne, at only six years old, learned to cut her teeth in the industry. The New York native told Marc Maron on an episode of his podcast that growing up, she was always trying to fit in and had a “hyper critical” and “hyper-analytical” mind that made her self-conscious. Despite this desire to fit in, she also had a desire to rebel, a quality that is not only welcomed now, but encouraged and evident in her work.

Lyonne credits her first “grown up” role to be in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You, in which she played DJ, Allen’s daughter. Not only was this a more prominent part than she was used to, but it was her first time acting alongside big stars such as Julia Roberts, Alan Alda, and Goldie Hawn. That experience was followed by memorable roles in American Pie, Slums of Beverly Hills, and But I’m a Cheerleader, three films with their own cult following. Shortly after these projects, Lyonne sought help for her drug and alcohol addiction and battled numerous health problems. But thanks to the help of close friends, including actress and Russian Doll co-star Chloë Sevigny and producing partner Maya Rudolph, she’s managed to not only come out alive but thrive.

She pushed herself creatively in the theater world, starring in critically acclaimed playwright Mike Leigh’s Two Thousand Years and later in Tommy Nohilly’s Blood From a Stone with Ethan Hawke and Ann Dowd. But she catapulted into our living rooms and hearts with her Emmy nominated work as Nicky Nichols in Orange Is the New Black, a groundbreaking Netflix dramedy series following the lives of several inmates at a women’s prison. These days, she’s starring in and producing Russian Doll, another Netflix success. The twisty series, which she co-created with Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland, recently returned for Season 2 after a lengthy hiatus. Though she shines in front of the camera, working behind the scenes is where Lyonne comes alive. She started the production company Animal Pictures with Maya Rudolph and produced everything from the documentary Sirens which made it to Sundance, to Hulu’s rom-com Crush, and Rian Johnson’s upcoming television series Poker Face, the latter of which Lyonne will also star.

Let’s revisit some of the best moments from the May 21 episode of Saturday Night Live. Live from New York, it’s Natasha Lyonne!

RELATED: 'Russian Doll' Season 2 Review: Natasha Lyonne Time Travels in a Chaotic and Emotionally Satisfying Return

5. ‘50s Baseball Broadcast

It’s all fun and games until someone shows up to work on methamphetamine. In this 1950s baseball broadcast, legendary announcer Diz Newsom (Lyonne) gets a bit out of hand when he shows up to announce the Yankees game completely high on his new cold medicine. Rather than describe the game to the listeners, Diz shares his opinions on Marilyn Monroe, hookers, and Italians.

4. Weekend Update: Trend Forecasters on Summer Trends

Wondering what’s going to be in and out this summer? Then you must ask the trend forecasters (Aidy Bryant and Bowen Yang), because they spoke to the sun and have some seen some things. With drinks in their hands, they spill the bad news for people who like navel oranges and the greeting, "This is your captain speaking." And no matter how hard Michael Che tries to calm them down, they never cease their yells. This was one of Aidy’s many recurring characters on the show that will be missed dearly. But if her time on SNL is any indication of her future, it’s safe to say it’ll be bright.

3. Mr. Dooley

You know the classic film 9 to 5 starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin? Yeah, well, this isn’t that. It is, however, a hilarious parody of ‘80s movies titled 9:15 to 5:10 that follows three bumbling women (Cecily Strong, Heidi Gardner, and Ego Nwodim) who kill their misogynistic boss and attempt to trick his male co-workers (Kyle Mooney and Fred Armisen) into thinking he’s still alive. Weekend at Bernie’s, anyone?

2. Natasha Lyonne Monologue

Natasha Lyonne has been through a lot in her life, but she’s grateful to have gotten through to the other side with the continued support of her close friends. Two of those friends, Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen, decided to pop by in her monologue to try out their best Natasha Lyonne impressions, and honestly, they were pretty accurate. Lyonne also joked about how it’s not the best time to be promoting a Netflix show called Russian Doll, and looks back at her first big starring role as Opal in Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

1. Final Encounter Cold Open

It was a strong and emotional start to the season finale. The show opened with what is perhaps Kate McKinnon’s most famous recurring sketch, “Close Encounter.” This was bittersweet, of course, as it was announced that this would be McKinnon’s last episode. The return of Ms. Rafferty (McKinnon), the woman with no filter whose alien abduction experiences are always far more disturbing and baffling than the other abductees was met with rapturous applause. Lyonne and Cecily Strong’s characters had beautiful, almost moving experiences from their time on the spaceship, whereas Ms. Rafferty managed to have another confusing and invasive one. Thankfully, she was able to recount it all in great detail.

Saturday Night Live returns with new episodes this fall on NBC.


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