Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special Gives the Show a Well Deserved Pat on the Back

There’s a good chance that the Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special is still going on, at least with partying and cheering about it. Clocking in at three and a half hours, this special seemed like it was never going to end last night – but I’m certainly not complaining!

It was a large and daunting feat to take on and not every minute hit the mark. Some skits went on for too long, some monologues were stiff. Neither Chevy Chase nor Eddie Murphy gave the fans any comic genius and seemed largely there to receive pats on the back.

Frankly, almost the entire special felt like a large pat on the back to the show but everyone else had a lot more fun with it than Chase and Murphy. Maybe I’m just not cynical enough but I was happy to watch person after person come on with such enthusiasm and love for the show, cast member and celebrity alike, as if they were simply performing for themselves and not a massive audience.

Anniversaries are about looking back, reflecting on how you got to whatever mile-marker you’re on. That’s what this special did and I was just happy to be along for the ride.

It started with Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon singing about some of the best cast members, sketches, characters, and quotes over the years. Then Steve Martin was joined by people with some level of attachment to the show. It got the right attitude going from the start.

Early on there was a video montage of auditions for Saturday Night Live, showcasing both people who made it (Seth Meyers doing a Hugh Grant impression, Kate McKinnon doing a Penelope Cruz impression) as well as people who didn’t (Jim Carrey and Stephen Colbert). If my heart wasn’t doing funny things by this point, it certainly was now.

It reminds viewers of the incredible talent present on this show since it began, and still continues to grow.

Then we got to re-visit the “Celebrity Jeopardy!” skit and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who didn’t miss Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek. It was a great mash-up of classic memories of the show (Sean Connery and Burt Reynolds/Turd Ferguson) and new celebrities (Kate McKinnon’s Justin Bieber, Taran Killam’s Christoph Waltz, and Jim Carrey’s Matthew McConaughey). It was only missing Tom Hanks as himself.

I was dying of laughter at this point.

Other highlights included Martin Short with Maya Rudolph’s Beyoncé in a montage dedicated to music. It included Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig as Kat and Garth again, Joe Piscopo as Sinatra, Adam Sandler’s Opera Man, and more. The Wayne’s World skit was self-referential and an absolute treat.

The Weekend Update tribute had a special segment for the women of SNL, headlined by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (of course) and Jane Curtin. We got to see Emma Stone as Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Rosannadanna and Melissa McCarthy as Chris Farley’s Matt Foley. Even Stefon showed up – played by Edward Norton and Bill Hader!

We got another digital short in the form of Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler singing a song about cast members breaking character – with Bill Hader jumping in halfway through which was only fitting as he’s one of the most notorious and hilarious character breakers the show has ever seen. Honestly, be nice to yourself and go watch a compilation of Hader breaking character, I’ll wait here.

SNL has become a staple for weekend couch potatoes like me and this special showcased that its best moments far outweigh its flaws. It’s not always on point, but it’s a cultural phenomenon. I didn’t need to be reminded of why I love this show as much as I do but I was happy that I was anyway.

My SNL cast is Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jason Sudeikis, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Jimmy Fallon, all of those wonderful people. I grew up on them and they’ll always be my favorite. Last night got me nostalgic for them but also made me realize that there will always be a cast for everyone and that every cast has so much talent. I hope every generation gets to appreciate their SNL cast alongsides former casts, as much as I do mine.

Last night wasn’t perfect but my heart grew three sizes with laughter and affection and that’s all I could have ever asked for, really.

I guess the only thing I wonder is: what on earth are they going to do for the 50th Anniversary in ten years?



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