In case you’re like most of the world and haven’t been watching NBC for the past few weeks, Saturday Night Live aired its 3.5 hour-long 40th anniversary special last night. The show was about 2 hours too long, but it was a fun tour de force for those who made SNL history and those who simply watched it.
Lorne Michaels explained that they invited anyone who ever hosted, was a musical guest, or was in the cast for at least a year. So, yeah, it was a big night (Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Laraine Newman, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, etc., etc.). Unlike normal SNL episodes where audience gags had random people in the crowd, last night’s audience gags would have Bradley Cooper and Chris Lowell giggling in the background, or Jon Lovitz the ghost watching on.
Overall, the whole thing was fun, but kind of one big circle jerk. One thing about SNL is it’s always had to balance its New York audience and the need to appeal to a wider, mass audience. Last night was no different. There was a long, sentimental montage about New York and 9/11 within the first hour of the show that, while appreciated, is still a bit boring for someone whose never lived outside of Oklahoma (or even been to New York). And then there were the jokes themselves.
I guess I was surprised that pretty much every single sketch was about SNL itself, which feels a bit like a missed opportunity considering all of the great talent there. Yes, it was a dream come true to have Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Jane Curtin behind the Update desk, but it would have been even better to hear them tell actual Update jokes for the full segment rather than tell a few throwaway masturbatory SNL jokes for 2 minutes.
Perhaps the weirdest part of the night was Eddie Murphy. SNL made such a big deal about bringing Eddie Murphy back for the first time since he left 30 years ago, I had pretty high expectations (along with a lot of other people, I presume). Before he came on, Chris Rock gave a full Eddie Murphy sermon, talking about how Eddie saved the show when it was near cancellation in the non-Lorne years and how there would never be a next-Eddie Murphy. All for Eddie Murphy to walk out and say, “Yeah, this is cool,” then be disappointed that they didn’t cut to commercial break sooner. Considering the show was at quite a lull then, it would have been nice if Murphy could’ve saved the 40th special, too, or at least act like he cared as much as Chris Rock.
All that said, last night was still fun to watch because it reminded me how much the show means to me and to a lot of other people. Throughout the special, they aired montages of old sketches and reduxed old sketches. Even the sketches I didn’t watch live were so immortal, I grew up with them (The Land Shark, Bass-o-matic, Mr. Bill to name a few). It was fun to relive every aspect of SNL history and rekindle my love for the show that started as a young child (probably too young–I remember singing the Ambiguously Gay Duo theme song on the playground without really getting the joke).
In short, SNL was my primary education in comedy, and last night was like the best family reunion ever–a little awkward at times when your weird uncle shows up late and drunk (I’m looking at you, Chevy), but you’re still glad you went.
Now go YouTube clips from last night, because I can’t pick just one to embed here.
Did you watch? I’d like to know what you think.