Phoebe Waller-Bridge Brings Her Brand of Psychopathic Raunch to "SNL"

The "Fleabag" writer shines brightest (in her usual vulgar way) in her opening monologue.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge has had a successful past few years, to say the least.

The Emmy-winning writer of Fleabag and Killing Eve brought her brand of unfiltered brashness to the SNL screen this Saturday in an episode that felt like a victory lap. Still, while worth watching for any Waller-Bridge fans, the show wasn't quite able to live up to the level of comedic brilliance we've come to expect from her.

The best part was probably Waller-Bridge's opening monologue, in which she stated that everything she writes has a "grain of truth" to it, discussed genit*lia for several minutes, and definitively explained why Fleabag's "Hot Priest" is so hot: It's because he actually listens. She discussed psychopathy, which is brought to the fore on Killing Eve, and theorized that she herself might even be a psychopath (or at least, everyone she knows is). She closed with some killer lines like, "Back then horny women were to be burned at the stake. Now they're given Emmys!"

Unfortunately, the rest of the show took a slightly downward turn following that monologue. While it might be a bit harsh to call SNL an "aging, decrepit beast that should've been put out of its misery seasons ago," as Vice did in its review of this episode, several of this show's sketches faltered dangerously. Last week's debut episode was promising with its clever depiction of the Democratic presidential candidates, but then again, those jokes kind of write themselves.

At least this episode, despite no shortage of lackluster jokes, we got to see Phoebe Waller-Bridge use many different accents and play a couple of memorable roles, including a psychopathic war wife who gallivants around with Hitler in the sketch "Words of the War." That sketch was possibly one of the episode's best, mostly thanks to Waller-Bridge's excellent deadpan and the scene's escalating absurdity. Weekend Update was also a highlight, featuring Kate McKinnon's lovably aggressive Elizabeth Warren, a well-placed Pete Davidson joke, and a flamboyant Chen Biao, played by freshman cast member Bowen Yang. "Mid-Day News" was also excellent, bringing racial politics and stereotypes to the fore as South Floridian news anchors try to determine whether the criminals they're reporting on are black or white.

Weekend Update: Chen Biao on US-China Trade War -

Mid-Day News -

On the other hand, the odd sketch "Royal Romance" made fun of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry but never quite hit its stride, and its jokes pushed the boundaries between satire and racism. Then there was the painful "Kaylee, Crystal, and Janetta," a sketch which featured four women at a bar. Perhaps meant to be a subversion of the super-feminine, stereotypical Sex and the City type of girl gang, characters portrayed are loud, tattooed, mullet-wearing, totally unfeminine, and frequently violent women. But that sketch doesn't seem to do many favors for any of them, instead asking the audience to laugh off a sequence where they each attack an ex-lover, refusing the kind of self-aware nuance that makes Fleabag such a standout example of how to write a "difficult woman" character.

Kaylee, Crystal & Janetta -

It's hard to say exactly why SNL has struggled so much over the past few years. Comedy writing is incredibly hard, but with all the absurdity in the modern era, we need excellent satire now more than ever to put it all into perspective. Still, the show could benefit from more diverse perspectives, more boundary-pushing and nuanced comedy, and stronger characters—the latter of which, specifically, Waller-Bridge is so good at creating. One has to wonder what would've happened had Waller-Bridge been able to write a few sketches herself.


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71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - 22 Sep 2019 - Drama Series - 'Game of Thrones'

Photo by Rob Lour (Shutterstock)

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All the Things Millennials Have "Killed"

Don't cry because it happened; smile because it's over.


Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Millennials changed the face of American culture and many people (from older generations) argue that they changed it for the worst.

But what could be deemed lazy may just be efficient. Instead of working at a desk, people can make bank from their phones. Instead of a basic marketing rollout, marketers make memes. Instead of ordering food over the phone, people have over 20 delivery apps to choose from.

As requested by @youngandjoven: "Can someone write an article on millennials killing the doorbell industry by texting 'here.'" Popdust delivers. You're welcome.

Paper Cups

Paper cups are for the dentist, and the dentist only. If you're not waving around a plastic cup, ignoring the environment while shouting "F*ck Tha Police," what are you even doing?

Phone Calls

There's a reason why so many adults today don't like calling the doctor: It's a nerve-wracking experience. After the invention of Caller ID, if it's an unrecognizable number, why pick it up? Telemarketers everywhere will be obsolete by the time millennials are cool, old farts.

Saying The N Word in A Rap Song

Ah, remember the good ol' days when PC culture didn't exist? You know, just casual racism that no one would acknowledge (with the exception of any black person in the room)?

Top Sheets

GQtried covering this phenomenon, which obviously left their staff conflicted. No one uses top sheets anymore, and maybe laziness is the reason. Making your bed already takes effort, and we already don't wash our sheets enough. Just when we've revolutionized laundering, the standard of living has gone up, and the way we treat ourselves has gone down exponentially.

Thank You Notes

Unless you're really trying to get the job (like I did with Popdust), no one writes thank you notes anymore. There's no incentive to, especially when employers are ghosting their candidates.

Don't let your mom guilt you into sending relatives a thank you note for that Amazon gift card; save the environment and just shoot your grandma a heart emoji.

Being Nice To Your Racist and/or Homophobic Relative

"It's just the way they are, and you can't change them!" Wrong. The younger generation will always revolutionize discourse and norms. Indifference is hate, choosing your family has more of a place now, and we're embracing it. Thanksgiving debates will never be the same.

Hot Coffee

Ok, this isn't killed off completely, but it should be. If Gen Y has taught us anything, it's that iced coffee is King and I will not accept any other opinion. Next.

Healthily Paced Relationships

Either people are moving in together after two months, traveling the world together, or dragging out year-long courtships because marriage is too much of a "commitment." Millennials revived The Bachelor for a reason: We want to see what unhealthy relationships look like to remind us what we really deserve!

Chain Restaurants

Experts claim millennials have killed chain restaurants. Who can blame us? The desire to experience "authentic," "healthy" food has gone up with our fetishization and fusion of ethnic foods.

Seriously, fajitas must be stopped.


Oh, what started it all.

First of all, doorbells and buzzers are quite different. If you live in any major city, you know this. The obnoxious, soul-sucking noise that is a buzzer has nothing on the sweet, versatile doorbell; but the family doorbell stopped working years ago, and now you just text "here."

The White Male Leading Role

Lol jk, nvm.

Game of Thrones - Season 8 Trailer


As usual, the latest episode of Game of Thrones immediately lit the internet up with diverse opinions and takes, from fans freaking out about the presence of a Starbucks to-go cup in a scene to the Twitterverse bemoaning the poor quality of writing.

Among the more common protestations was the sentiment that episode 4 made it very clear that the show is written exclusively by men.

Perhaps chief among people's concerns about last night's portrayal of female characters was the GOT writers' choice to have Brienne run after Jaime—in her bathrobe, no less—and weep pitifully as he left her behind in the snow. While it's important to keep in mind that there is nothing inherently weak about displaying emotion, it is a very valid argument that Brienne's reaction to Jaime's desertion was extremely out of character. Not only that, but everything about the interaction was set up to make the knight seem womanly and desperate: she pleaded and wept, holding onto his face and spouting clichés like, "Don't leave me."

We've seen Brienne remain stone cold in the face of a great many tragedies, and while actress Gwendoline Christie is gifted at allowing hints of emotion to seep through Brienne's carefully constructed composure, we've never seen that composure crack entirely. That it would now—after just a couple of amorous nights with a neck-bearded, one-handed knight—feels unlikely. But when faced with complicated situations in which a female character's reaction requires nuanced thought and consideration, it seems the GOT writers just revert to unfortunate feminine stereotypes.

Episode 4 showed this weakness again in Dany's transparently power-hungry conversation with Jon. The dragon queen, who has undergone a massive character shift over the last few episodes—namely, from a three-dimensional character to a one-dimensional one—was presented as a stereotypical temptress in this episode. There was no nuance at all in her scene with Jon, and it became clear that her love for him—whether real or not—is something that she only views as another chess piece to be used in her quest for power. Not only is this a boring plot choice that removes much of the appealing humanity Daenerys once presented, it's a sexist choice that paints Dany as a sexually manipulative Bathsheba.

Sansa, too, has been suddenly simplified. In episode 4's conversation with the Hound, her implication that she was grateful for her rape was a wildly out-of-touch decision. Sure, there is nothing wrong with a woman finding strength in the knowledge that she has lived through great hardship, but Sansa has never been the blood-thirsty, dauntless character she was portrayed as in episode 4. Not to mention, to portray rape and abuse as a character-building experience is irresponsible and insensitive to the real experience of many women. Sansa has been a historically nuanced character, displaying tenderness and strength in equal measure—but not anymore.

It's as if, knowing they had to rush to wrap up the show in six episodes, the scriptwriters decided to save time by turning their female characters into easily palatable stereotypes of women. This is particularly unfortunate given the show's relatively strong track record for creating female characters with autonomy and storylines of their own, but it seems that when faced with time limits and pressure, the all-male writing team for season 8 just...didn't bother with the female characters.

While there is no question that Game of Thrones is a groundbreaking TV show in many ways, one can't help but to wonder how much more groundbreaking it could have been had women been a part of the writers' room.

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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