Saturday Night Live has been on the air longer than I’ve been alive. About 12 years longer if we’re getting technical. I don’t know what life is like without SNL and I kinda envy people older than me for that time in the world before it existed. And trust me when I say, as a Black man, wanting to go BACK in time is not a feeling that we often have. Pre-SNL TV and seeing Muhammad Ali in his prime are the ONLY reasons to go past 1980 in my book. You get a better sense of TWO things that only time can give you.
One, what TV was like before SNL and the impact it had. I bet it had to be so amazing watching SNL those first few years. Given the fact that we have things like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube and about 3,000 other channels on cable TV, today SNL seems like everything else. But in 1975, when we had about 5 channels, it had to be really shocking to see SNL back then. So fresh, so new, so different. At my age, 28, SNL is just SNL at this point. But for those old enough to remember TV before SNL, it had to be akin to watching a controlled car wreck of comedy unlike anything else at the time.
The second thing that would be great about being older would be having a total understanding of ALL the jokes. So much of SNL's humor comes from it's topical and current world pop culture/political satire. I’m a SNL freak and a political history buff so I got an abnormal amount of the jokes, but a few things still went over my head. (I can only imagine what a novice felt like watching SNL 40.) Their were a few older faces and bits that got a cheer or laugh that I didn’t get. (IE the King Tutt musical bit, Bass-O-Matic, and the context of the Jaws Love Song.) Those moments are where anyone that was over 50 enjoyed the show at a level I could never truly understand. Tomorrow you all go back to being old bastards at the edge of death, but on February 15, 2015, I was genuinely jealous of you old farts. Anyway, in honor of SNL 40 here are MY 10 favorite moments.
10: Miley Cyrus Rocks!
Seeing Miley Cyrus not dressed like a crazy person or a transexual prostitute is kinda like seeing Keith Richards sober. It doesn’t happen often and each time it does, we should really cherish that moment. (Note: Keith Richards is totally going to outlive us all. Including roaches.) The only skin I saw on Ms. Cyrus was her face and hands. It was a refreshing change of pace seeing her FULLY clothed. Without the distraction of her ass hanging out, I finally noticed that she’s actually a VERY, VERY good singer and live performer.
9: Jaws Love Song
While I didn’t quite get the context of the joke, I did enjoy Bill Murray’s hilarious ode to what is arguably Steven Spielberg’s magna opus, Jaws. It’s a bit I’m guessing he’s done before about other popular movies, but given I didn’t see a moment of Murray in his prime on SNL, I didn’t understand the reason for the bit. But the song's lyrics were very funny, Murray was a riot, and he got one of two bleeps for the night.
8: Betty White and Bradley Cooper Go For Broke
The Californians sketch is one that I’ve never cared for. I've always thought it’s just a bunch of writers from New York creating what they feel is a humorous representation of the people from SoCal. Maybe it's because I’m not in those circles, but I’ve never ran into anyone in my 3 years here (I live in LA) that talks remotely like that. SNL 40 offered a version of the sketch with the usual players and a few added A-Listers for punch, Bradley Cooper and Betty White being two of them. And when the bit revealed the two as "secret lovers", what I, and I’m sure the rest of America, expected to be a pantomimed smooch turned into full on tonsil hockey between a 93 year old woman and a man 53 years her junior.
7: Steve Martin "Hosts" Monologue
I've come to understand that Steve Martin is one of those guys, like Billy Crystal and Mel Brooks, that will always be funny. Literally always. You can just tell that some guys are always going to have that fastball. I wouldn’t be surprised if the man’s funeral is funny. He’s a stand-up legend and after just a few minutes you can tell why he was given the first slot after the first commercial break. That man was born to make people laugh and he did that in heavy doses during his time on SNL 40.
6: Melissa McCarthy Channels Chris Farley
The Matt Foley sketch is one of the greatest sketches in SNL history. It’s simply brilliant. I'm telling you Chris Farley will be remember by fucking aliens for that sketch. But given the part/fact that Chris is ah… you know, dead, I didn’t expect to see the sketch in any other form besides a video clip. I mean it’s SNL 40, so yeah we all knew they were showing it. But Melissa McCarthy, in the “stars doing their favorite characters” bit during Weekend Update perfectly played up the late comedian’s most beloved character. Besides having Farley's look down perfectly, the bit was complete with all the physical humor from the original including McCarthy crashing through the Update desk, which I didn’t see coming. Bravo! Chris was somewhere laughing his ass off.
5: Seinfeld Takes Questions
He’s Jerry Fucking Seinfeld. Like Martin, this is what he does. Seinfeld did a bit where he took questions from the audience. A particular exchange with him and John Goodman was laugh-out-loud funny, along with a back and forth with Seinfeld show co-creator, Larry David. You can see why the guy is so respected and loved.
4: Jason Sudeikis Makes the Left Shark Look Normal
The “What’s Up With That” musical sketch featuring Kenan Thompson as an overzealous soul singer turned political pundit has always been one of my favorites on SNL. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see it, but during a brilliant musical themed bit, they broke Thompson lose. It’s the same song as always and in the background you can see a red tracksuit/b-boy clad Sudeikis losing his fucking mind. He’s provided background dancing for the skit for as long as I can remember but tonight he was especially funny. And given America's recent love of crazy attention hogging background dancers, I'm sure the rest of the viewing public got a kick out of Sudeikis as well.
3: Eddie Murphy Comes Home
It’s going to be very easy to bang on Eddie Murphy after this one. He was back on SNL for the first time since before I was born, 1984, and he was about as funny as a cancer patient fresh in remission battling AIDS. He didn’t do a single bit or character but the moment for me served as a much needed history lesson for the world. There would be no SNL without Eddie Murphy. There was a point in time when he was easily the funniest human on the planet. And along with Michael Jackson in the 1980’s one of the most famous people on the planet as well. Think about all the people there last night and remember this. Murphy was the ONLY one that got a standing ovation. There's a reason for that.
To often we clown his shitty choices in movies, his flops of the past few years and forget just how funny, daring, and brilliant this man was. I knew he did Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, and 48 Hours while on the show, but HOSTING SNL as a fucking cast member?! Can you imagine ANYONE on the show now, or anyone else while they were on the show, being big enough to do THAT?! Hellllll nooooo. (Will Ferrell wasn't a movie star while he was on SNL so you can't say him.) Murphy is a living comedy genius. Sure he wasn’t all that funny during his return but so what? I’m glad I got to see him on that stage and have THAT moment. He deserved it. He’s the one cast member that’s always seemed BIGGER than the show and I’d love to think this could be the groundwork for him to come back and host the show.
2: Audition Tapes
The coolest moment of the night for me was something I thought I’d NEVER see. The SNL audition tapes are something of legend in the film/TV business. You’ve heard the stories about certain people’s (audition tapes) and how great they were. The stories about how TERRIBLE someone that’s famous now was during their audition. It was so cool seeing everyone so young, fresh faced, and bright eyed. They were all full of so much life and energy. It’s a moment that changed all of their lives and it's something they ALL had to do. You could tell that some just had it from the moment they opened their mouths. Like Will Ferrell. Some were raw, but had promise. Like Seth Meyers. And some had no chance in hell to get onto the show. Like Kevin Hart.
1: Celebrity Jeopardy
Ultimately, SNL is a comedy sketch show, so while the previous two moments weren’t particularly funny, I felt like the top moment of SNL 40 had to be the funniest sketch. I'll start by telling you that Celebrity Jeopardy has always been the funniest thing on SNL to me. Will Ferrell plays an overmatched/frustrated Alex Trebeck trying to maintain order and sanity during a game of jeopardy with dimwitted celebrities. With Darrell Hammond’s over-the-top wild-man parody of Sean Connery serving as his main adversary. SNL 40 even brought back Norm MacDonald’s gum-chewing maverick Burt Reynolds. Along with a pitch perfect Jim Carrey as Matthew McConaughey, the sketch proved it still has tons of life and offered up the night’s best laughs.