“Saturday Night Live” steered almost completely clear of politics in its cold open this week, opting instead to spoof the cultural display that is the Super Bowl on the eve of the Big Game.

Kenan Thompson played veteran sportscaster James “No, not that one” Brown on an NFL panel show featuring several former NFL players-turned-commentators: Boomer Esiason (Beck Bennett), retired Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher (Alex Moffat), Nate Burleson (Chris Redd) and Phil Simms (Mikey Day), who quipped “Do we need this many hosts?”

Kenan Thompson

Kenan Thompson Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

In addition to taking obvious jabs at sports commentating, the sketch parodied Super Bowl commercials that go to awkward lengths to address social issues (“We must always strive for equality, and we must always reach for Cheez-Its,” one spoof cracked) and the National Football League’s efforts to protect players and fans from COVID-19.

“The NFL is incredibly careful and if you test positive, they will ask you to cover your mouth with a play chart,” Moffat’s Cowher volunteered, holding one such chart in front of his face.

The sketch stood in striking contrast to the cold opens “SNL” typically aired during the previous administration, which the comedy show often mocked through Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of then-President Trump. The show’s satire was a big ratings draw and often drew Trump’s ire, but two episodes into the new year — and a new administration — the show appears to be going in a different direction.

“SNL’s” final episode of 2020 introduced Moffat as the show’s new Biden impersonator, following a brief and divisive stint by comedian Jim Carrey. But the “SNL” cast member has yet to reprise his role since Biden took office last month.

Last week’s cold open featured Kate McKinnon as herself, hosting a show that evaluated what still worked (or, more to the point, did not) in American society. While that sketch took on some political themes – mocking Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s role in the House despite her support of conspiracy theories and history of racist and anti-Semitic remarks – it did not directly mention Biden at all; Moffat appeared as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

This week’s opener avoided politics almost completely aside from occasional references to the nation’s political divisions and a spoof ad for Papa John’s that evoked the Pizzagate conspiracy theory in an effort to counter progressive Super Bowl ads.

The sketch wasn’t particularly memorable aside from a brief appearance by Aidy Bryant, who pulled double duty as Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians and Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Asked about strategies for the teams, who will face off with one another in Super Bowl LV Sunday night, Bryant gave slight variations of the same answer: “Well, we’re going to run it first, then pass it and then when they have the ball we’re gonna try to take the ball back.”

“Phenomenal insight,” Brown replied.

Beyond the Super Bowl theme, the sketch didn’t feel particularly timely – or tap into the cultural zeitgeist quite like the too-real Zillow sketch that aired later in the show.

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