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Review: UA grad Awkwafina brought spark to otherwise flat SNL

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UAlbany alum Nora Lum, stage name Awkwafina, historically hosted Saturday Night Live last weekend on Saturday, Oct. 6.

Awkwafina, who graduated UAlbany in 2012 with a degree in Journalism, has recently risen to fame on the big screen. She starred in Ocean’s 8 earlier this year, the all-female reboot of Ocean’s 11, and also had a role in the smash hit Crazy Rich Asians. Previously, she gained fame as a rapper online, releasing her first EP in 2014.

Last week’s season premiere hosted by Adam Driver was a tough act to follow, but Awkwafina did an excellent job. After a cold open of the “GOP Locker Room” skit revolving around the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Awkwafina delivered a heartfelt monologue. Although it had funny moments, it centered around how honored she was to be the first Asian American woman to host SNL since Lucy Liu in 18 years ago. She emphasized the importance of representation in media, especially for Asian women, saying “Standing here tonight is a dream I never thought would come true. So thank you, Lucy Liu, for opening the door.”

Although Awkwafina held herself well, it can be argued that she actually carried the show. Even last week’s premiere was only good because of Adam Driver’s impeccable performance. So far, the first two episodes of SNL’s latest season have been lackluster. Awkwafina took hold of each character and breathed a new life into them.

However, the actual sketches were at best sluggish. From a sketch revolving around Cleopatra getting a makeover to a street dance-off featuring “The Price Is Right” theme song, the jokes missed their targets. One particularly unexciting sketch was a gameshow-style dating show called “So You Want to Date a Magician.”

Although Awkwafina maintained her cool while other cast members such as Leslie Jones and Pete Davidson broke character, the skit in general was only almost funny. It seemed that the writers had great ideas with potential, but the execution fell flat. The funniest part of the episode was the Weekend Update, featuring “guests” Pete Davidson as himself along with Eric and Donald Trump Jr. (portrayed by Alex Moffat and Mikey Day).

Awkwafina remained humble and appeared to be ecstatic to be hosting the show alongside musical guest Travis Scott. She tweeted, “I still can’t believe what happened tonight. Thank you @nbcsnl and thank you to everyone who tuned in to watch, including grandma.”

Awkwafina (or Nora Lum, at the time) graduated from UAlbany in 2011 with honors and a B.A. in journalism. She returned to her alma mater to speak with students in Fall 2017 as part of the New York State Writers Institute’s speaker series.

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