Daniel Craig hosted this week’s Saturday Night Live, and although the entire proceeding had a slight air of futility—his appearance was part of the promotional push for No Time to Die, a movie that has been delayed by the new coronavirus—Craig acquitted himself well, showing off a goofy sense of humor that stood in sharp contrast to his gloomy James Bond. Of course, everything else Daniel Craig has done stands in sharp contrast to his gloomy James Bond, but this week’s episode of SNL answered the single most important question raised by his body of work: What’s the deal with the bizarre hairstyles and unlikely accents Craig brings to films like Logan Lucky and Knives Out? The answer was written all over Craig’s face each time he appeared on SNL as a new character: This is a man who absolutely delights in putting on a fright wig and distorting a regional dialect beyond all comprehension, and now that he has made his last James Bond film, no power on earth can stop him from spending the rest of his life doing exactly that. In honor of this new chapter in Daniel Craig’s career, here are his appearances on this week’s Saturday Night Live, scientifically ranked from worst to best using a proprietary algorithm based entirely on how amusing I found his wig and accent.
8. Monologue / No Time to Die Sneak Peek
This sketch, in which Daniel Craig appears on camera with his own hair and his own voice, is a testament to the lengths the actor will go to in order to find the truth of a character, but it’s also a betrayal of his entire artistic project. And yet, the No Time to Die sneak peek embedded in the monologue—also available as a standalone YouTube clip—is one of the clearest articulations of Craig’s commitment to terrible articulation in the whole episode, and the closest he’s come to addressing his feelings about his signature role since he called Bond a misogynist back in 2015. What prevents this sketch from ranking higher, besides the lack of fright wigs, is a fatal conceptual flaw: You can’t make that much hay from the disparity between the glamorous casinos James Bond hangs out in and the depressing reality of real-life gambling when one of the glamorous casinos James Bond hangs out in is “Circus Circus in the early 1970s.” Feast your eyes, glut your soul, etc.:
7. Deep Quote Game Night
Part of the problem with this sketch is that it is obviously a riff on the I Think You Should Leave sketch where Tim Heidecker ruins a game night celebrity guessing game by expecting other guests to be familiar with people like “Jazz Legend Marcus ‘The Worm’ Hicks” and the recurring guests of The Colgate Comedy Hour. Pointing that out irrevocably places me in the camp of people who ruin game night by ranting about The Colgate Comedy Hour, so as long as I’ve got you here and game night is already ruined, did you know the DMV sloth in Zootopia was recreating a routine from Bob and Ray’s beloved Broadway show The Two and Only, which closed on Feb. 13, 1971?
The main point is this: Not enough wigs.
6. The Sands of Modesto
A fair-to-middling concept—a soap opera changes its blocking to slow the spread of the new coronavirus—becomes middling-to-good in its execution, almost entirely on the strength of Daniel Craig’s extraordinary wig. There’s some sharp absurdism in the dialogue—“But you were killed in that plane crash!” / “That’s what I was told—but I’m alive!”—and the prop department’s decision to put sleeve buttons on both ends of Daniel Craig’s fake arm shows a laudable attention to detail. But the soap opera setting means the SNL cast is also doing accents, which prevents Craig’s from popping as much as it otherwise might have. Still, nothing can blunt the sheer visual impact of Daniel Craig in a wig as bad as this one. There’s no obvious reason to pair this sketch with footage from the early 1970s, but Craig’s steadfast commitment to wigs and accents shows how foolhardy it is to establish a theme and then violate your audience’s trust, so here’s the season finale of the short-lived 1970s soap opera A World Apart, starring Susan Sarandon:
5. Debbie Downer Wedding Reception
Daniel Craig, Daniel Craig’s wig, Daniel Craig’s accent, and Daniel Craig’s wig’s accent all take supporting roles in this sketch, which stars Rachel Dratch as her signature SNL character, Debbie Downer. But those structural constraints didn’t stop Craig from quietly delivering exquisite wig and accent work in the role of “Uncle Gary,” a man whose voice suggests he has travelled from a distant galaxy to attend this wedding reception, an impression that is reinforced by hair that somehow levitates a half-inch or so above his scalp. The most valuable players here, though, are the director and camera crew, who blocked out a way to pull off four of Debbie Downer’s trademark sad-trombone zooms in a row. The 1970s are a treasury of zoom shots, but very few of them feature sad trombone, so instead, here are the opening credits from the first season of the PBS children’s television show Zoom. (If you’d like your 1970s ephemera to be thematically tied to your Daniel Craig Saturday Night Live sketches, think about what the ravages of time have done to those optimistic, energetic kids by now. Wah-wah-WAAAAAAAH.)
4. Overnight Salad
This is more of a showcase for Aidy Bryant’s demented brilliance than Daniel Craig’s inexplicable costume and dialect choices, but when his moment arrives, he really, really commits to it. By that point, though, Bryant has already done most of the work, a slow burn that she achieves with an assist from her cinematographer: the extremely wide angle lenses and checkerboard floor hint at Escherian geometric impossibilities long before Craig starts hollering about digestive impossibilities. I mean:
To really bring out the taste of hot dogs soaked in mayonnaise, we’ve paired the Overnight Salad with a 1973 Jell-O commercial featuring Evan Dando of the Lemonheads, an excellent year for Jell-O commercials featuring Evan Dando of the Lemonheads.
3. On the Couch
A high-concept songwriting exercise worthy of the Lonely Island, “On the Couch” features Craig’s weirdest accent all evening, plus a truly horrible wig. But neither Craig’s accent nor his wig show up until the very end of the sketch, which proves to be an insurmountable obstacle in a list of sketches ranked on the basis of wigs and accents—although “On the Couch” is going to be tough to beat next week, when we rank SNL sketches based on how prominently they feature the crystal-clear voice of The Weeknd. The kind of structural trickery that powers the disappearing verses in “On the Couch” is not that common in novelty songs of the 1970s, so instead, here is Rick Dees performing “Disco Duck” on The Midnight Special:
2. Daytime Show
This isn’t a Daniel Craig sketch so much as it’s an Ego Nwodim sketch, but Nwodim’s hair looks ridiculous, and Craig uses the British five-syllable pronunciation of “aluminum,” which means it rated surprisingly high on Slate’s wig-based ranking of Daniel Craig sketches. In continuing our theme of including extremely tangentially related footage from the 1970s, here’s a vintage talk show train wreck: John Cassavetes, Ben Gazzara, and Peter Falk completely derailing an episode of The Dick Cavett Show with their tomfoolery:
1. Accent Coach
The belly of the beast, and the best sketch of the night by a mile: A behind-the-scenes look at the creative process that led Daniel Craig to his ridiculous Knives Out accent, including plenty of ridiculous accents. Craig doesn’t wear a wig in this one—he plays “Daniel Craig,” painting himself into the same wig-free corner where he filmed his opening monologue—but Beck Bennett has more than enough wig to go around. It’s nearly impossible to find footage of a real dialect coach from the 1970s that doesn’t eventually descend into one racist caricature or another—see Robert Easton on The Tonight Show for a quick illustration of the problem—so instead, here’s one of the greatest sketches about Hollywood dialect coaching to ever air on broadcast television. It’s from a 2020 episode of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, and it’s absolutely fantastic:
There really is a clip for everything!