‘SNL’ host Ramy Youssef asks God to ‘free the people of Palestine’ and ‘all the hostages’

Ramy Youssef, the rising star with a new HBO special “More Feelings” and a starring role in the recent Oscar winner “Poor Things,” flexed his sketch comedy muscles in his first outing as “Saturday Night Live” host. After a strong monologue, Youssef proved a versatile ensemble player, whether as the team captain of a losing basketball team with a pervy coach (Kenan Thompson); a husband on a game show called “Couple Goals” who is terrified he’ll be accused in his wife’s untimely death; or an immigrant dad who dotes on his daughter but disapproves of everything his son does (more on that one in a bit).

Youssef’s sharp timing and even his singing skills helped in sketches like an NPR Tiny Desk spoof in which 35-year-old intern Elliott (Bowen Yang) keeps interrupting, a scene about a homicide detective (Andrew Dismukes) who can’t stop repeating a bad joke, or this week’s Please Don’t Destroy music video, in which the host uses the unfortunate term “Twisted rockin’ ball” before an anxiety-filled night of revelry with Travis Scott.

As with Ayo Edebiri in February, this was an episode led by someone with not only onstage comedy chops but also TV comedy cred — Youssef created and starred in the Hulu series “Ramy.”

Musical guest Travis Scott appeared in and sang on that Please Don’t Destroy music video, as well as performing “My Eyes” and “FE!N” featuring Playboi Carti.

This week’s cold open started as an Easter-themed sketch about three Marys witnessing the Resurrection, but when the resurrected in question appears, it’s actually Donald Trump (James Austin Johnson). After ushering them off — “No more lines, bye bye” — Trump turns the conversation to the new $60 Bible he’s selling, which includes his favorite part: “the ending… how it all wraps up.” (He admits he kept waiting for the bunny to show up during the story of Easter, though). Trump says he’s selling Bibles for the glory of God, the pandering and mostly the money. He shows some illustrations from his edition of the good book, which include a baby Trump in the Moses basket and Trump as Adam, naked except for a fig leaf. Because this version of Trump is always reaching for pop culture references, he shouts out Beyoncé’s new album “Cowboy Carter” and says she’s God, Jesus is Kelly Rowland, and the Holy Ghost is “the Black Michelle Williams” (the singer), whom he says is as important to Black people as the white Michelle Williams (the actress) is to white people. The bit wraps up with a rambling Lord’s Prayer in which Trump asks for us to be led into temptation and to have our automobills paid (a Destiny’s Child reference), in the name of the father, the son and the Easter Bunny.

In his monologue, Youssef also shouted out “Cowboy Carter,” suggesting that with Easter, Ramadan and a new Beyoncé album all in the same week, “There’s just so many religions celebrating all at once.” Youssef, the man behind the first Muslim American sitcom, discussed how open and loving Muslims are; later, he recounted a call he received during the 2020 presidential election campaign asking him to rally Muslims for Joe Biden — and expects it to happen again this year. The host touched on other political topics as well. He joked that many candidates talk about change, but a trans woman president would walk the walk, and noted that the idea of the South as a region of divisiveness and racism isn’t quite accurate. “I don’t believe in ‘the South,’” he said, “The South is 45 minutes away from wherever you are.” (Including upstate New York, where he’s encountered Trump signs: “I went North, but I’m South!”) Lastly, Youssef said he’s often asked by friends to pray for them — including one hoping to get custody back of his pet dog and another wishing for an end to the violence in Gaza. The complicated prayer he ended up with asked, “Stop the suffering, stop the violence. Free the people of Palestine, please,” which got an applause break. He continued, “And please free the hostages, all the hostages… and while you’re at it… free Mr. Bojangles. He’s a beautiful dog.”

Best sketch of the night: Immigrant Dad Talk Show is sponsored by The Belt

Maybe it was the specificity of the sketch or the spot-on impressions from Youssef, Marcello Hernandez and Thompson, but the mock talk show featuring immigrant dads sitting in lawn chairs at a neighborhood barbecue was the funniest of the night. Each dad strongly supports everything his daughter does, even if it’s running up a hilarious $12,000 bill at Sephora (“I don’t even know what Sephora is!”), but can’t accept all the things their sons like that they shouldn’t, including computers, their dogs and paying for coffee. When a non-immigrant dad shows up (Mikey Day), he’s admonished for being too affectionate with his son. Best moment? The show is sponsored by The Belt, available everywhere you buy pants.

Also good: Ozempic for Ramadan is rebranded Ozempic

The pretaped commercial for a Ramadan version of Ozempic touts the benefits of using the diabetes/weight-loss drug to assist in fasting. Youssef, as the lead pitch person for the product, says that he used to struggle with fasting, but now, “As long as I shoot up before sunrise, it’s halal!” The product also works for converts and doesn’t include any pork. And, according to the pitch, if anyone thinks this is just regular Ozempic cynically marketed to a growing Muslim market, “That’s Islamophobic!”

“Weekend Update” winner: A celebrity owl’s widow warms up to Colin Jost

Chloe Fineman played a TikTok star, Piper Dunster, who regrets her badly aging hot takes, but it was Sarah Sherman as the New York widow of a recently deceased celebrity owl Flaco who stole the show. Dressed in full feather gear, Sherman said that she was shocked to learn her dead owl husband had a severe case of pigeon herpes — but maybe it wasn’t so surprising given that he had lots of sex with anything that had wings. “I once caught him dipping tip in a frozen turkey,” she says. As the widow, Sherman teases “Update” co-host Colin Jost about what it’s like being the spouse of a sexy famous person, suggests he has an underage mistress and concludes by suggesting that he’s just her type: “Nocturnal predator!”