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June 16, 2024

Saturday Night Live celebrates 40 years

By AMANDA AUBLE | February 19, 2015

Saturday Night Live (SNL) celebrated its 40th year anniversary and its comedy legacy with a three and a half hour-long NBC special that aired on Feb. 15. The landmark television event not only reunited SNL cast members and revived classic sketches, but SNL 40 also brought together some of the entertainment industry’s biggest stars for a hilarious, fitting tribute.

First aired in October 1975, SNL aimed to parody contemporary American culture and the growing television medium with its original brand of sketch comedy. The show has now become an institution, launching the careers of numerous comedians and developing various sketches into feature-length films. Comedy legend Lorne Michaels created the show and still runs it today.

The curtains opened to Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake who performed an SNL-themed rap. After referencing a lengthy list of famous sketches, from “More Cowbell” and “Dick in a Box,” to an appearance from Molly Shannon as Mary Catherine Gallagher. The comedy duo followed true SNL format and yelled “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” straight into the camera.

Steve Martin, who currently holds the record for most SNL guest appearances, delivered the night’s monologue. He asserted that comedians have served as SNL staples, citing influential names like the show’s first host, George Carlin. Martin was soon joined onstage by Tom Hanks, who expressed that actors who have hosted the show played a vital role in SNL’s success.

This initial debate made way for a star-studded introduction. More iconic entertainers immediately flocked to the stage including Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Melissa McCarthy and Billy Crystal. Singer Miley Cyrus and Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning, appeared to highlight the show’s ability to incorporate both musicians andathletes.

Finally, in a hilarious and one-of-a-kind moment, Sir Paul McCartney and Paul Simon appeared on stage, both carrying guitars. The two legendary musicians spoke to the importance of SNL’s reliance on “singers named Paul.” Martin invited them to prove their relevancy, and the pair performed a short rendition of the Beatles classic “I’ve Just Seen a Face.”

SNL 40 allowed for some live revivals of sketches that have lasted in American popular culture for decades. The first featured an original member of the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players,” Dan Aykroyd, who revived his famous role as a fervent salesman trying to sell the Super Bass-O-Matic, a blender for making fish smoothies.

“Celebrity Jeopardy,” a fan favorite for featuring hilarious impressions and cast antics, returned to stage with Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond, both reprising their roles as the inexplicably rivaled Alex Trebek and Sean Connery. Current cast members also got a chance to showcase their celebrity impressions. Although impressively accurate, Kate McKinnon’s brooding Justin Bieber and Taran Killam’s bubbly Christoph Waltz felt out of place and did not feature strong jokes. However, Kenan Thompson’s surprise portrayal of Bill Cosby in a “Video Daily Double” on the topic of drink mixing showed the SNL’s famously cutting humor.

“The Californians,” a more recently popular sketch, was the final recreation and featured some high-profile guest appearances. Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen perfectly reprised their roles as heavily accented southern Californian soap opera stars. This sketch caused newcomers like Taylor Swift and Bradley Cooper to stumble when trying to duplicate the heavy accent.

Another unique moment of the special was when Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Jane Curtin returned to the “Weekend Update” desk to deliver some witty punchlines. “Weekend Update,” the show’s fake newscast, is known as the testing ground for introducing new SNL characters.

Emma Stone donned an enormous wig and did her best impression of Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannadanna and Edward Norton appeared along Bill Hader as Stefon. Melissa McCarthy did a spot-on impression of Chris Farley’s van-dwelling motivational speaker, Matt Foley. The segment ended with McCarthy body slamming the news desk.

Notably, Chris Rock gave a passionate speech honoring legendary cast member Eddie Murphy’s groundbreaking debut on SNL. During a period when SNL struggled to stay on the air, Murphy played a leading role to keep the show alive. This appearance was greatly anticipated as Murphy hadn’t returned to the SNL stage in 30 years. However, Murphy himself only delivered a brief, generic thank you.

In perhaps the show’s most exclusive and behind-the-scenes moment, never-before-seen audition tapes were played. This gave viewers an inside look into how cast members got onto the show. Footage included clips of Kristin Wiig, Phil Hartman, Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell. Auditions of famous comedians who didn’t make the cut for SNL, including Jim Carrey and Zach Galifianakis, were also shown.

Paul McCartney was the first musical guest on SNL 40 and performed “Maybe I’m Amazed,” after an introduction by famous Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards.

The night’s other performers included Miley Cyrus, who put a unique twist on Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Kanye West also took the stage, performing a medley of songs that featured a surprise performance with Sia. Paul Simon himself closed the show with a suitable rendition of “Still Crazy After All These Years.”

SNL 40 presented a strong tribute to the show’s 40-year history. Some die-hard fans might have wanted more behind-the-scenes exclusives, but the show expertly recreated its most popular moments.

 


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