Ramy Youssef Brings A Calm Yet Amusing Presence To A Solid Saturday Night Live

Ramy Youssef may not be a household name, but his self-titled comedy series "Ramy" on Hulu landed him Emmy nominations for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, not to mention a Peabody Award in 2020. So, he's got the right amount of experience and accolades to be called up to host "Saturday Night Live." Furthermore, Youssef is an established stand-up comedian, joining the likes of Nate Bargatze and Shane Gillis as hosts this season. But how did he handle the live sketch comedy of "SNL" in his hosting debut?

Well, Ramy Youssef doesn't seem to have much versatility when it comes to providing a variety of characters, and "SNL" leaned back on familiar formulas like talk shows and game shows, though they still delivered some hearty laughs. But there were also some amusing, peculiar sketches in this episode, and of course, big laughs from the reliable pre-recorded antics of Please Don't Destroy, complete with help from musical guest Travis Scott (who previously contributed to the "Tenet" soundtrack). Let's dig into the highs and lows of this weekend's "SNL."

What was the best sketch of the night?

Please Don't Destroy came out on top of this episode with a little bit of help from Ramy Youssef and Travis Scott. Not only was this a catchy hip hop track, but the sudden turn into the trio being way too high to properly function in this club was masterfully executed. If that was all this sketch was, that would have been enough. But Youssef's presence ends up adding another wrinkle as he struggles with not fitting in with this club environment, from wearing shorts to bringing a backpack (a rolling backpack) and stressing about how he initially pitched a night out with Travis Scott to the rest of the crew. It's the kind of anxiety-fueled comedy that everyone can relate to when we reflect on saying something that felt fine in the moment but was really weird and out of sorts in retrospect. Finally, sealing it with the reveal that they only ingested CBD and weren't really high gave it the perfect ending. 

How was the rest of the episode?

Couple Goals – Coming in close behind Please Don't Destroy, we have one of my favorite spins on the game show formula. We get a couple answering questions to see how much they know each other, and even though we know how this kind of scenario is going to play out, it's the material that makes it work. In this case, Ramy Youssef's greatest fear is that he'll be accused of killing his wife (Ego Nwodim), and that fear just escalates from there, with hilariously complex and winding cue card answers that have far too intricately thought out paths for the future. Youssef plays this one perfectly, and his chill demeanor works just right for this kind of bit. There's also an added layer of comedy to this bit thanks shorter but equally absurd interplay between Heidi Gardner and Mikey Day, not to mention James Austin Johnson's reliable hosting techniques, which remind one of Bill Hader's similar skillset. 

Team Captain – Kenan Thompson and Ramy Youssef delivered a fantastic two-hander in this locker room sketch where Youssef tries to hype up his teammates while their coach struggles to inspire them due to mistakenly sending the team thread some unsettling pictures intended for his wife. Not only did Thompson play this in that hilarious way that only he can, but there was a superb bit of escalation as the rest of the team further detailed how much worse the text threat got after the initial mistake.

As for the rest of the night, fitting the bill of the 10-to-1 sketch, Murder Detective gave us a spoof of "CSI: Miami" and its pre-opening theme puns from David Caruso that have been mocked on numerous occasions. Andrew Dismukes made it delightfully awkward, but I wish there was a little bit of variation and escalation to spice it up a bit. Immigrant Talk Show was a solid variation of a familiar formula, with Marcello Hernandez and Ramy Youssef playing the disappointed immigrant fathers of sons that they can't stop chastising. The only issue was Youssef never really felt like he fell into a groove with the character to feel authentic.

Youssef brought even more of his ethnic background's flair to the show with the Ozempic for Ramadan commercial, though it felt a little too short on the laughs. Another sketch put Ramy Youssef in a fake band playing NPR's famous Tiny Desk Concert segment had the makings of a funny sketch, but it never quite took off. And of course, the cold open featuring Donald Trump shilling for his new $60 Bible was just another bit of tired political satire that always has trouble lampooning what is already ludicrous in real life. 

How was Ramy Youssef as an SNL host?

Ramy Youssef has plenty of comedy experience, but stepping onto the stage of Studio 8H in 30 Rockefeller Plaza can be challenging for even the most seasoned comedic talents. While Youssef doesn't exactly have varied sketch comedy chops that allowed him to disappear into a variety of characters, he did have a calming presence at the top of the show that eased us into the rest of the night. Youssef felt neither confident nor nervous, especially in his stand-up monologue, which was impressive considering how firmly he took a stand about the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Throughout the evening, Youssef was a solid center for the episode, though he didn't necessarily feel like the star of the show. In a way, that's kinda what you want to see in a host, as they blend seamlessly in with the rest of the cast, not unlike an Emma Stone or a Ryan Gosling. But at the same time, you also want to see them standing out when it comes to the characters they're playing, and it would have been nice to give Youssef a little more variety, or at least for him to provide some variety in his portrayal of characters in each sketch. But even so, the comedian still helped deliver a solid episode. 

Sarah Sherman should mock Colin Jost forever

Finally, even though it's been over a month since New York City's famous owl Flaco died after tragically crashing into the side of a building, recent details from the animal's autopsy allowed "SNL" to dig back into the headline-making story for a Weekend Update segment with Sarah Sherman playing the bird's tearful wife. But of course, it ended up being worth it, because it turned into one of Sherman's signature methods of mocking Colin Jost. If Sarah Sherman did this every time she appeared at the Weekend Update desk, it would never get old. The dynamic between Sherman and Jost is always hilarious. There's an innocence to Sherman's presence, which makes her skewering of Jost land in an even more satisfying way, especially with how Jost is portrayed as a character at the desk. The way Sherman also kept playing up the owl aspect of this character, from the wings flapping to the "hoo" interludes, only made this bit that much better. What can I say? I love Sarah Sherman getting the best of Colin Jost. 

That's all for this week. We'll be back next week when former cast member Kristin Wiig returns to "SNL" to host on April 6. For more on each new episode of "SNL," be sure to check out The Ten to One Podcast wherever podcasts are available.