Avoiding the pitfalls of countless pop culture journalists over the past 40 years, I’ve refrained from headlining this article about the sketch-comedy classic “Saturday Night Live” with the expired pun, ‘Saturday Night Dead.’
That said, memories of laughs past were on-view during Sunday’s SNL 40th Anniversary Special on NBC, a three-and-a-half hour juggernaut collage of everything that’s kept producer Lorne Michaels’ late night skit show relevant for nearly half a century.
The actual live sketches of Sunday’s broadcast skewed funny: re-hashing classics like the (now-self-referential) “Wayne’s World” sketch, Mike Myers and Dana Carvey once again portrayed the lovable basement bros with, an admirable amount of, well, schwing. Throwing in Wayne and Garth’s Top Ten (this time about the best of “SNL”) balanced the right amount of earnesty - adding Myers’ and Carvey’s (as Wayne and Garth) impressions of Michaels updated the 90s throwback dutifully.
Less exciting was seeing the best of the late 2000s, mid-2010s era cast microwave the barely-old leftovers of “The Californians,” though the SoCal-mocking skit always seemed more fun for the cast than the audience to begin with.
The undead part comes in during “Weekend Update”: while co-anchors Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and 70s cast member Jane Curtin brought awesome female energy back to the desk (which has been a boy’s club since Poehler left in 2008), it was profoundly weird to see actors Melissa McCarthy and Emma Stone do bizarre, 21st-century renditions of Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseanna Danna and Chris Farley’s Matt Foley, respectively, without any insight or new developments with the characters.
Though the special ran a bit long (and, let’s be honest, VH1 pays a better tribute to the show’s legacy by running reruns of “SNL” for every comedy nerd with cable), it was fascinating to see the montage of audition tapes reveal how heavy-hitting cast members Poehler, Will Ferrell and Andy Samberg (who was apparently hired on the strength of character “jogger in the 80s who’s constantly out of breath,” ) received every comedian’s dream entry-level position as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.”