Comedy often thrives in specificity, and a sketch that came late in the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live was the perfect example, mining laugh after laugh from the minutiae of the band Weezer’s discography. Three couples, all neighbors, get together for dinner, and Weezer’s recent cover of Toto’s “Africa” randomly comes on the playlist. Two guests, played by Leslie Jones and the episode’s host, Matt Damon, have very strong opinions about the song, and about Weezer in general. The four others barely care about the disagreement that ensues, but they are suddenly a captive audience to a screaming argument.
Damon, wearing black-framed glasses, gives a spot-on performance as the self-satisfied nerd whose opinions are absolute, whether people like it or not. The equally brilliant Jones initially entertains his defense of the band’s more recent output, before hitting him with: “Real Weezer fans know that they haven’t had a good album since Pinkerton in ’96!” Their purist-versus-completist showdown continues, first in good fun, before descending into charged personal insults. “Oh, I’m sorry! You’re dumb!” Jones yells. “No offense, but burn in hell,” Damon shoots.
If you know Weezer’s back catalog intimately, every silly reference made in the sketch lands, but if you don’t, it’s still effective. Because above all, this is a sketch about the way some people discuss almost anything these days—with feigned politeness immediately escalating to personal cruelty. Though part of the joke was that this Weezer disagreement was playing out at a dinner party, I was immediately reminded of so much online discourse, where part of the point is coming up with the most extreme reaction possible. “No offense … but drink my blood,” Damon tells Cecily Strong, playing another of the guests, when she tries to intervene.
The biggest joke of all? Weezer is, at this point, the epitome of Gen X dad rock, a pleasant-enough group that has been plugging away for 26 years to mostly middling critical returns. Most people, like the four other dinner guests in the sketch, would be hard-pressed to summon anything but the gentlest opinion on the band. But once Damon and Jones’s critical discourse begins, it quickly descends into polarized hot takes and name-calling. “Weezer? I didn’t even know they were still a band,” muses Beck Bennett. “Is this a thing people care about?” asks Heidi Gardner. “No. No, it isn’t,” replies Kenan Thompson.