Like Saturday Night Live itself, the 40th anniversary celebration show was a mixed bag. Here’s everything that was good.
Andy Samberg’s digital short
Because they are ALWAYS good, but this one, sung with Adam Sandler featuring an assist from Chris Parnell, highlighted the history of character breaks on the show. It was already a strong bit but emphasizing how often Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz lost it was great, and including Candice Bergen’s legendary break with Gilda Radner was exactly the kind of call back to classic SNL I wanted out of the anniversary special.
As Nick the Lounge Singer, Murray sang a completely ridiculous ode to the shark in Jaws. SNL could really use more absurdity like this. It had nothing to do with anything, was borderline insane, and produced the most quotable line of the show: “Jaws, you bastard.”
The ladies of Weekend Update
Three iconic “Weekend Update” anchors took the desk for a live sketch: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Jane Curtain. This was not a flawless segment, but these three comediennes together were. An appearance by Land Shark (before there was #LeftSharkthere was Land Shark) was just icing on the cake.
Louis CK’s and Dana Carvey’s run time jokes
The show was long, and just when it was starting to feel intolerably so, Louis CK and Dana Carvey, in character as “Garth”, both made excellent jokes about the show’s length. “Garth’s” may have been planned, but I doubt Louis CK’s was—the show could have used more off the cuff stuff like this.
Martin Short and Beyonce
Martin Short is a class act, and his bit with Maya Rudolph as “Beyoncé”—and her perpetual hair wind—made the tribute to musical performances really stand out. Not every section of the show was memorable—Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte’s ESPN sketch killed the sports montage before it even started—but this one really held together thanks to the commitment of Short and “Beyoncé (and her hair wind)”.
Man, what a job. Editing the clip packages for SNL40 must have been a BLAST. With so much material to choose from, each package was a hit parade. They were also, almost exclusively, the only place we saw some of the most iconic characters and bits from SNL’s long history—which made them that much better.
Musical Performances (minus Paul McCartney)
SNL has had some truly memorable musical performances over the years, and, with the exception of Paul McCartney’s corpse, the performances on SNL40 were solid. Miley Cyrus, Kanye West, and Paul Simon each delivered, and while no one went crazy—which wouldn’t have gone amiss, honestly—they served to remind everyone of the place music has in SNL’s history.
This sketch was everything SNL40 should be—iconic characters, new material. Mike Myers and Dana Carvey still have that chemistry that make “Wayne” and “Garth” two of the most indelible SNL characters of all time, and they turned the SNL-themed Top 10 into a combination of touching tribute—what a classy way to acknowledge the crew—and topical, with a great reference to Kanye West’s stage-crashing ways. “There’s a line of demarcation” is the #2 quote of the night.