On Sunday night, Saturday Night Live heaven occurred, for fans of the show at least. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the late night comedy program, a three and a half hour chunk of prime time television was set aside for a special SNL celebration show. Since the start of this year’s 40th season, SNL has advertised the event as one of the biggest television events, and definitely the biggest SNL event of all time. However, little to no information was provided as to the actual anniversary episode. Viewers were kept guessing, anxiously waiting to see what the show would look like. As the program drew nearer, details were released regarding the guest list and live audience. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, SNL creator Lorne Michaels explained “The rules we used were these: Every host was invited. Every musical guest was invited. Any cast member and writer who had been here longer than a year was invited. Not everybody is going to come. The other rule we used, which was just the simplest way to go, was if people sent back their RSVP, they were in the mix of people we could write for.”
The evening began with a live red carpet event, in which members of the SNL family arrived and were interviewed by The Today Show team. What may have been the most entertaining or exciting aspect of the Red Carpet segment was to see the star-struck look in many of the current SNL cast members’ eyes as older, former players arrived and were interviewed. The special opened with an electrifying performance from Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, in which they performed a “History of SNL” rap, similar to their History of Rap bit from Fallon’s The Tonight Show. While there were fewer live sketches than many hoped for, the video montages from the 40 years were fantastic and brought entire casts from previous generations to the forefront of current, younger viewers’ minds.
In terms of the live sketches, audience favorites like “Celebrity Jeopardy” and “The Californians” were brought back and updated. It was in these live sketches that the former celebrity hosts who had been invited back participated. The celebrity-packed California lifestyle spoof featured guests like Taylor Swift, Bradley Cooper, Kerry Washington, and Betty White. While not every guest excelled in the sketch they were a part of—go watch “The Californians” and see for yourself how Swift attempts a Californian accent—so many did. A highlight was Emmy–winning Betty White who ended “The Californians” by making out with Bradley Cooper, a sight I believe everyone should see in order to appreciate her comedic abilities. Turd Ferguson made a much-appreciated appearance in “Celebrity Jeopardy” and Will Ferrell was on his game, per usual with his realistic and humorous Alex Trebek impersonation. Kate McKinnon, one of the strongest cast members this year, brought her Justin Bieber to the Jeopardy skit, updating it and providing extra physical humor in an already packed sketch.
Weekend Update was given a fantastic, albeit brief segment in which Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Jane Curtin returned to give an abbreviated Update. The highlight of the segment was not only the fact that three former female Update anchors hosted it, but also the return of the beloved Bill Hader played Stefan. Celebrities like Emma Stone, Edward Norton, and Melissa McCarthy stopped by to play their own renditions of beloved Update guests—Roseanna Rosannadanna, Stefan, and Matt Foley.
While it is difficult to choose a favorite part of the show, perhaps the most entertaining segment was the “Iconic Moments” section hosted by Martin Short and Maya Rudolph (who played Beyonce for the entire segment). Rudolph sang “Drunk In Love” and “Halo,” changing the lyrics to recap moments from SNL, of course, hilariously. A close runner-up was Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer’s over-the-top awkward music teacher duo the Culps to sing some of today’s hits: “Uptown Funk,” “All About That Bass,” and “Turn Down for What.” Please, whenever you can, go watch this hilarity and appreciate the comedic gold that is the Culp Duo.
There were so many other incredible segments throughout the show that I don’t have room to recap and rave about, but if we’re Facebook friends, you know that I was over-the-moon excited with the entire show. This was like the best high school reunion ever. Nobody got old, gross, and came out a loser; rather everyone shone (to the best of their ability) and SNL was indeed honored—with plenty of homage paid to Lorne Michaels. When you get a chance, my recommendation is go to NBC.com, watch as many highlights from the special as possible, and enjoy this fantastic celebration of late-night comedy that’s “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”