Saturday Night Live‘s last show of 2017 returned to a favorite target for one of its sketches. With host Kevin Hart, the show spoofed TNT’s Inside the NBA and Shaquille O’Neal’s often nonsensical analysis.
If you’ve seen SNL spoof TNT’s NBA studio show before, you’ll be familiar with the formula this sketch takes. Some of the talent performing these roles have changed over the years as SNL’s cast has overturned (for instance, Bill Hader portrayed Ernie Johnson and Jay Pharoah may have played either Kenny Smith or Shaq), but one consistent element has been Kenan Thompson as Charles Barkley constantly belittling Shaq’s intelligence.
This time around, Hart played Shaq at his most incoherent, opening the sketch by wishing Jewish viewers a “Happy Harmonica.” He was joined in the sketch by Thompson as Barkley, Alex Moffat as Johnson and Chris Redd (new to this season’s cast as a featured player) playing Smith.
Once again, Shaq’s colleagues have no idea what he’s talking about, which compels Barkley to keep insulting him. But this time, Shaq has had enough, leading Hart to break out a surprise. Here’s the sketch:
Kevin Hart on stilts as Shaq! How else could the 5-foot-4 adequately portray the 7-foot-1 O’Neal? Hart was pretty impressive in navigating his way from sitting behind the studio desk to standing up to challenge Barkley to a game of one-on-one.
Hart must have some experience in walking with stilts, right? (Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise for someone as short as he is, especially on a movie set.) Either that, or he got pretty good at standing up then taking a few steps during SNL‘s week of rehearsals. He looked like he could’ve dribbled by Thompson for a layup.
No, this wasn’t the best SNL sketch and their Inside the NBA spoofs have been funnier — perhaps most memorably when Barkley played Shaq in 2012.
Regardless, Thompson got in some good lines as Barkley. For one, betting $100,000 in the Alabama U.S. Senate election on Roy Moore. But the standout may have been, “Shaq, that didn’t make a lick of sense. How do you even do endorsements? Do they just put a pack of Icy Hot in your hand and then spread peanut butter on the roof of your mouth and dub over the words later?”
The unfortunate reality is that the show hasn’t been able to do a sketch like this too often because there haven’t been enough black cast members to play three characters. (They could do it now, with Redd, Thompson, Michael Che and maybe Leslie Jones doing some gender-bending.) It’s not as much fun unless the host is involved, but that requires a black person to make an appearance.
Fortunately, Hart stepped up (in more ways than one) to play Shaquille O’Neal. Maybe we’ll see him return to play the role again soon.