Mostly whimsical reflections on life
For many adults, it is unthinkable to think of television without Saturday Night Live. The SNL 40 celebration Sunday night reminded us why.
With its own red carpet, lionization of Lorne Michaels and TV ads seemingly cut just for the occasion like the Super Bowl, SNL 40 was a comedy extravaganza, featuring people who made us laugh for decades. Or as Martin quipped, “We have comedians, actors and Alec Baldwin.”
The marathon show included all the catch-phrases, sketches, bizarre moments and characters that became part of our culture. Newer generation comics on the show blended with old-timers, giving the program a seamless quality and a sense of comedic continuity.
Will Ferrell reprised his hilarious take-off of Alex Trabec hosting Celebrity Jeopardy! with original “guests” such as a naughty Sean Connery (Darrell Hammond) mangling categories and a newcomer, Justin Bieber, played by current SNL cast member Kate McKinnon.
Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Jane Curtin anchored a look-back of Weekend Update, spiced by Melissa McCarthy’s rendition of Chris Farley’s Matt Foley character, including a pratfall that destroyed the news desk, while a shark swallowed Fey’s head.
You got to see vintage Steve Martin and not-so-vintage Miley Cyrus singing Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” even though Simon was on the show and could have sung it himself. Dan Ackroyd parodied an infomercial by blending a bass in the Bass-O-Matic into a creepy milk shake.
Eddie Murphy made an awkward appearance after an absence from the show or any of its commemorative editions for more than 30 years. Jack Nicholson re-emerged from professional retirement to do a cameo introduction. Sarah Palin showed up, perhaps to see how she could be funnier if she acted more like Tina Fey, and wound up standing next to Al Sharpton. Martin did King Tut, which is still my favorite bit of all time from the show.
Some of the originals are showing wear. Chevy Chase, in his red carpet interview and on stage, acted as befuddled as Clark Griswold in the National Lampoon vacation movies. And, some of our all-time favorites, such as John Belushi and Gilda Radner, are no longer with us. Neither is the iconic voice of the show, Don Pardo.
Betty White once again flashed her enduring charm, ending a somewhat flat sketch of The Californians by making out with pool boy and sex toy Craig (Bradley Cooper.)
Jimmy Fallon, who I think has gotten funnier after leaving the show, and Justin Timberlake, who continues to amaze, kicked off the show with a musical ditty that included a light rap consisting of all the SNL catch-phrases that entered the national lexicon. The bit was briefly interrupted by Debbie Downer (Rachel Dratch) who noted poor ratings followed shows that began with musical numbers.
All in all, it was a night to remember, if for no other reason the rare assemblage of so many truly funny people – Billy Crystal, Jane Curtin and Jerry Seinfeld (who doesn’t have much to do with the show, but is funny, lives in New York and thought he would just drop in.) That doesn’t fully explain Derek Jeter being there, but who cares. He’s a Yankee.
What could cap the occasion better than Simon singing “Still Crazy After All These Years” – an appropriate anthem to SNL if there ever was one.