Twenty One Pilots & Lin-Manuel Miranda on 'Saturday Night Live': 5 Things We Want to See
Fresh off last week’s cameo-heavy season premiere, Saturday Night Live is back this week with host Lin-Manuel Miranda and musical guest Twenty One Pilots. What can viewers expect from the Ohio duo and the Tony Award-winning Hamilton creator, first-time host, and world’s cutest husband?
Here’s what Billboard’s crystal ball predicts.
What Will Twenty One Pilots Play? Musical guests typically perform two songs on SNL. Twenty One Pilots have three recent top 5 Billboard Hot 100 hits, so they’ll likely have to make a tough cut. Out of “Stressed Out,” “Ride” and “Heathens,” our best guess is the last two, since they’re the more recent hits. But hey, that’s no guarantee. “Heathens” comes from the Suicide Squad soundtrack and Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun could choose the other two, which come from their 2015 album, Blurryface. Indeed, it would be tough to leave out “Stressed Out” since it was their breakthrough hit and probably has the most exposure and name recognition of the three.
How will the masses react to Blurryface? Twenty One Pilots aren’t an underground act anymore, but they’re still a relatively niche band compared to what you typically see on SNL. They’ve come out of the shadows lately, getting big time attention from Suicide Squad and the ubiquity of their three hits. Still, SNL represents one of their biggest moments of mainstream exposure yet, especially because much of America will glimpse their act live for the first time. Joseph and Dun aren’t likely to land in any sketches (SNL kinda just had them stand there during this week’s promos while Miranda got the shine), but rest assured their performances are already full of theatrics. How will the Internet respond when it sees Joseph getting into his Blurryface character, with black paint on his hands and neck? Joseph has already spoken to Billboard about dealing with haters on Twitter and we think his skin’s pretty thick by now.
Musical monologue. Billboard would never advise audiences to gamble, but were they so inclined, a rap monologue would be a pretty safe bet. If you’ve recently emerged from your rapture protection bunker and are just now catching up with the year in pop culture, Lin-Manuel Miranda created, wrote, composed, arranged, and starred in Broadway smash Hamilton, a hip-hop musical that casts sublime actors of color to tell the story of Alexander Hamilton. He will be rapping this monologue. Is there a chance that Miranda will choose to sing it? Yes. Will he joke about how we’re probably all expecting that? Yep. Will it be all over your Facebook feed Monday morning? Absolutely. Odds that we do not get a musical monologue, backed by either members of the cast or professional singers? Zero.
Two Lin-Manuels: On last week’s “Family Feud: Political Edition,” Cecily Strong debuted a Lin-Manuel Miranda impression -- goatee and all. This week’s promos briefly acknowledge that, though they fail to mention that Miranda loved it so much, he changed his Twitter avatar to a photo of Strong in hair and makeup. While it seems unlikely that game show Lin-Manuel would get a redux specifically, there are approximately a zillion other ways we could get two Mirandas together. The promos also dropped an amazingly dumb Sex and the City pun: “I’m not a Lin-Manuel Miranda, I’m more of a Lin-Manuel Samantha.” Could that be a hint? We hope so.
High School Theater: There are a couple of ways a theater-themed sketch could go -- It could be be auditions for Hamilton, and feature (famously kind) Miranda as an uncooperative, over-the-top diva. Or, and this is infinitely more likely, we could see a terrific “High School Theater” sketch. They’ve been a popular choice in the last few seasons, and would provide another outlet for the Broadway star to sing and dance his way into America’s hearts. He could portray a shy character that just needs to find his voice!
Dark horse contenders: “Spotlightz Acting Camp for Serious Kids,” a mock Disney sketch, or maybe they’ll resurrect the wonderful “Stars of Tomorrow” with Vanessa Bayer’s precocious child star Laura Parsons.
Unlikely Source of Inspiration Visits Young Lin-Manuel Miranda: Before Hamilton made him a household name -- or, at the very least, a name no longer exclusive to the households of theater kids -- Miranda wasn’t exactly destitute. Thanks to his earlier work, including the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, he’d racked up a list of awards that include Grammys and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. He’s genuinely a singular talent. And as a result, everything about him is ripe for parody. Our guess is that the “real” story behind Miranda’s success, as according to SNL, will be far more sordid. And it’ll definitely involve one or more cast members doing a weird voice.
Pre-taped Bit: A guest like Miranda is a prime opportunity for The Lonely Island crew to return and whip up a good ol’-fashioned SNL Digital Short. Think of the possibilities: the name puns, the costumes, the hooks! You know, it’s fine if they don’t do that. The post-Lonely Island crew has pulled off some excellent pre-taped sketches, anyway. Like, it might just be a great idea to write a rap for it if Miranda sings the monologue. But no pressure. We’re just saying.
Historical Sketch: Hamilton revolves around the life and times of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, which makes it set in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. (You knew this, of course, but it seemed worth politely reminding.) The last sketch of SNL is traditionally the episode’s weirdest or silliest -- think Bayer and Strong as “not porn stars anymore” hawking Swarovski crystals during infomercials -- and a historical parody would make sense for the ten-to-one slot. Maybe, just maybe, it could mean another glimpse of Miranda as Alexander Hamilton. And as a super bonus, it would mean half the cast performs their “Goodnights” in costume, which is always fun.
Last Call: If a historical sketch arrives earlier than 12:50 a.m., it’s safe to assume we’ll see a deranged “Sheila Sovage” (Kate McKinnon) try to mack on Lin-Manuel Miranda before the bar closes. And if that doesn’t happen, dear God, let us see a three time Tony Award-winner help Strong and Bayer sell crystals.