Saturday Night Live March Madness TBS Screengrab: ‘Saturday Night Live’

NBC’s Saturday Night Live has often tackled sports, particularly basketball. And that’s often included impersonations of various networks’ NBA pregame personalities, but it mainly focuses on the NBA on TNT crew, which has become a bit of a recurring sketch.

The latest version of their cold open Saturday saw SNL spoof TBS’ postgame coverage of March Madness, which featured Charles Barkley (Kenan Thompson), Ernie Johnson (James Austin Johnson) and Kenny Smith (Devon Walker). Jay Wright and Clark Kellogg were missing, as SNL leaned into the NBA on TNT cast members, who have lent themselves to March Madness coverage shared by CBS Sports and TNT Sports.

The skit starts strong with some great jokes. Thompson, channeling Barkley, hilariously confesses he doesn’t have a clue about the college game. He even cracks a joke about preferring his “other show” on CNN with Gayle King, where they discuss serious topics like immigration and the war in Ukraine.

Next, Austin Johnson, impersonating Johnson, smoothly transitions the conversation to Saturday’s Final Four matchups. However, Thompson, back as Barkley, throws another punchline, admitting he didn’t pay attention to any of the games. Walker, portraying Smith, chimes in, playfully suggesting there were “better games on,” subtly hinting at something other than the NBA.

That was their way of transitioning the conversation to the women’s game. With that, Walker couldn’t resist taking a jab at the record-breaking viewership of the Iowa-UConn game on ESPN. He joked that it even gave the ratings of Young Sheldon on CBS a run for their money.

“The women’s tournament got the stars,” Thompson said as Barkley. “Caitlin Clark’s doing ads for State Farm, Subway, Xfinity, and Nike. I’m only doing ads for three of those companies.”

While that was a great line, and Barkley is often featured in commercials, it was would’ve been a great opportunity to take a subtle shot at his NBA on TNT co-star Shaquille O’Neal, who does just about any commercial under the sun. Instead, they chose to keep the skit as a playful dig at Chuck.

“Can I tell you something else about Caitlin Clark?” asked Thompson. “She dunked on me once. On the set of a Subway ad, man. We were just shooting around, and in between takes, suddenly, boom! She jumped 10 feet in the air, and then she just posterized me. She hung on to the rim, wrapped her legs around my head, and said, ‘Welcome to the cream team, you bald-headed *****.’ Man, you gotta respect that; you gotta respect that level of trash talk.”

Feigning boredom, the crew jokingly made it seem like a chore to discuss the men’s tournament, which has paled in comparison up until this point. However, Monday night’s National Championship game will feature the two best teams in the country in UConn and Purdue.

“Well, I guess I don’t get paid unless I do,” Thompson said when Austin Johnson asked him to break down Monday night’s matchup.

And it’s quite funny that they miffed at Barkley’s lack of knowledge about the college game, considering he was deeply confused during halftime of Purdue vs. NC State on Saturday.

From there, they turned it over to an “actual college basketball expert,” with Heidi Gardner playing LSU head coach Kim Mulkey.

“People think I’m just mean because I got resting Q-Anon face,” Gardner said, portraying Mulkey. “But that’s what it takes to win in the college game and I work my girls hard. Every day, I make ’em run 10 miles breathing in Louisiana swamp gas. Then, we practice full-contact, and if I don’t see hustle, I’ll throw a live alligator on the court. You better box out that Gator; don’t get ate up now.”

SNL lampooning the prominence of sports media discussing March Madness, only to playfully acknowledge the record-breaking viewership of the women’s Iowa-UConn game, is a clear sign of the times. No longer relegated to the sidelines, the women’s game is grabbing national attention, even catching the eye of the late-night comedy giant.

The game is no longer an afterthought, and its arrival on the biggest comedic stage in late night signifies a shift in the sports landscape.

[Awful Announcing on X]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.