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Emma Thompson talks hosting SNL, playing a late-night host, and then washes a dog with Jimmy Fallon

Dame Emma Thompson, very good dog, Jimmy Fallon
Screenshot: The Tonight Show

That’s not a euphemism, although “washing a dog with Jimmy Fallon” might as well be the new go-to phrase agents use when informing clients about a mandatory upcoming appearance on the Fallon’s party games-happy Tonight Show. But, no, Oscar-winning actress and recent Dame Emma Thompson actually got down and washed a very good and very fluffy sheepdog on Friday’s show.

One would expect nothing less from the always engaging and all-around formidably game Thompson, who—prior to soaking a sheepdog—told Fallon that her upcoming inaugural Saturday Night Live hosting gig is hardly something unusual for her. Oscar-winner and occasional corset-sporter she may be in her wide and varied film career, but Thompson told Fallon about her even wider and more varied entertainment journey, including stops as a stand-up comic (avoid political rallies at Nelson’s Column, she advised), and her time as a sketch comedian for British TV. She mentioned her 1988, six-episode British sketch show Thompson (where she worked alongside Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton and then-husband Kenneth Branagh), but Thompson also did uni sketch at the Cambridge Footlights with a pair of guys named Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, suggesting that Saturday’s Saturday Night Live will leave the unflappable Thompson characteristically unflapped. (Thompson did admit to having only written sketches during the daytime, unlike SNL’s infamous all-night grind, so we’ll see.)


Speaking of Fallon, though, Thompson told the late-night host about playing, well, a late-night host in the Mindy Kaling-penned upcoming comedy called, accurately enough, Late Night. Noting that her “heart sank” when Kaling called to tell her that Kaling had written the role of fading late-night star Katherine Newbury just for her (since most of the time such honors come tied to a stinker of a script), Thompson graciously called Late Night “one of the best scripts I’ve ever read.” (Since Thompson herself has won an Oscar for her Sense And Sensibility adaptation, one assumes she’s abstaining on that score.) In the requisite clip, we see Thompson’s washed-up late-night host being berated by boss Amy Ryan for daring to book guests like Doris Kearns Goodwin, while rival Fallon reaped huge ratings by, yes, washing a sheepdog on-air with Robert Downey Jr. You see where this is going, with trouper Thompson enthusiastically echoing Ryan’s assessment of the experience by pronouncing it “fucking glorious.”

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.