I’m 29 years old and I’ve never lived in a time when SNL was not part of the cultural landscape. It’s the thing in my life that I have loved the longest and have obsessed over pretty much since I could talk. I would watch the show with my dad and talk about it at school the following Monday. I also realized how big of a nerd I was since no one knew what I was talking about. What a bunch of losers. (Maybe I was the loser since I never had any plans on Saturday nights?) I fell in love with satire and watching the boys club in the early to mid-90s transition to the powerful women of the early 00s. Fey, Poehler, Dratch, Gasteyer, Rudolph, Wiig, etc. all had such a profound effect on me and my growth. I graduated college in 2004 and all I wanted to be was Tina Fey. I switched my major from science to journalism without a second thought. It was the best decision I ever made. Plus, we’re both left-handed, wear glasses and have dark hair. We’re practically sisters.
As a sketch comedy show, SNL is very uneven at best. Still funny, but incredibly uneven. This is not a new phenomenon; it’s been this way since its inception. That’s just the nature of sketch comedy. But, what keeps SNL relevant is it introduces excellent performers and comedians and there’s always several very good members of the cast at any given time. SNL has launched the careers of dozens and dozens of comedians as well as influenced hundreds more. To say it’s not iconic is wrong and silly.
Sunday’s epic tribute was like any other episode of SNL: too long but mostly what you would expect. Even though they did tributes during the 15 and 25 year anniversaries, this is the first one with this much star power. If you think about it, how many of the original cast members will be around in the next 10 years, and if they are still around, be able to perform with as much gusto and energy as they did Sunday? Here’s looking at you, Akroyd. That Bass-omatic sketch failed not because the blender didn’t work, but because your rapid fire speech wasn’t there. Nice try and it was still great to see you!
Onto the actual show:
Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake opened the show with a rap of SNL’s catchphrases. Like everything they do, it was excellent.
The rap brought back Debbie Downer and Mary Katherine Gallagher which was just a start of 40 years worth of callbacks.
Steve Martin did a monologue where he was joined onstage by Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Miley Cryus, Billy Crystal, Peyton Manning, Pauls Simon and McCartney, and Melissa McCarthy.
The night was mostly a clip show of past sketches and performances, but there were a few new, live sketches. The best one was absolutely Celebrity Jeopardy.
Will Ferrell returned as put upon host Alex Trabeck while Sean Connery, Justin Bieber, Tony Bennet, “Turd Ferguson”, Christoph Waltz and Matthew McConaughey joined him onstage. What’s most incredible is the buildup of this sketch and the way it ended. “Potent Potables” has always been a category on the previous sketches but has never been chosen. When it’s finally chosen in the SNL 40, it results in an inadvertently offensive pre-recorded Video Daily Double involving Bill Cosby. Excellent.
Another sketch that went on for long and sort of dragged the episode down was The Californians. All of the usual folks are present, but there are appearances by Bradley Cooper, Larraine Newman, Kerry Washington, Betty White and Taylor Swift who all lend some helping hands and mouths. The Californians was never my favorite sketch but seemed to be a big hit with the cast so I’ll let it slide. They all were having so much fun.
Wayne and Garth return and make a bunch of jokes about Kanye West. The best part was when they listed the crew as the number one best thing about SNL because that is the truest statement. The show is nothing without the diligent people behind the scenes. A very welcome audience applause soon followed.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were joined at the Update desk by Jane Curtin and I finally got the see Jane Curtin read the fake news in my lifetime. I can now die a happy woman. They were joined at the desk by Edward Norton as Stefan, Emma Stone as Roseanne Roseannadanna and Melissa McCarthy as Matt Foley. Since the latter two original performers were unable to reprise their characters, Stone and McCarthy sweetly stood in their stead. Stone is a big fan of both Radner and Roseanne Roseannadanna, so her performance especially was one of love.
My favorite part of the night was Martin Short and “Beyonce” doing a tribute to the musical bits of SNL.
Bill Murray killed it as Nick the lounge singer as he sang the love theme to “Jaws.” “You bastard, JAWS!” (Also, he dropped a swear on live TV and no one seemed to care because he’s Bill Murray.) I’ll never forget the Star Wars one, even though this one was pretty on point.
There were musical performances by Paul McCartney, Miley Cyrus, Kanye and Paul Simon. There was a beautiful tribute to the SNL greats who we lost too soon, including dear Jon Lovitz. He’ll truly be missed.
The SNL Digital Shorts of course included a song by Andy Samburg about breaking on live TV and how much Lorne Michaels love it (very, VERY untrue). He had a little help from Adam Sandler, Bill Hader and Chris Parnell and I’ve been singing it non-stop since Sunday. (I did like the joke about Lorne being an American treasure even though he’s Canadian.)
Mostly, the three and a half hour show worked without any hitches. Eddie Murphy definitely did not want to be there and Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey honored Tracy Morgan with a clip that showcased more of Jimmy Fallon than Morgan. Jerry Seinfeld was on stage for far too long, especially when he has no history with SNL other than hosting the show one time. And, you mean to tell me that all of those people were there to do political impressions and there wasn’t one live political sketch? Fail, SNL. Major fail.
What were your favorite moments? Any of your favorite characters you were hoping to see but were missing? Will you be back for SNL 50? Leave your comments below!