SNL40: The High School Reunion from Hell

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Last night the iconic late night comedy show Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40 years on the air with a 3.5 hour SNL, preceded by a 1 hour SNL40 Red Carpet Live. I was pretty excited about SNL40. After all, I’m of the generation that was a faithful viewer from the very first episode, when SNL was quirky, innovative, daring, and LIVE. I was deliriously happy to see that so many of the major guest hosts had agreed to come back, and I was expecting some fantastic reminiscing down memory lane as well as some wild & crazy new skits, combining cast members from different eras and guests hosts.

I cannot begin to tell you how disappointing it all was.

SNL40 Red Carpet Live

The SNL40 Red Carpet Live, which actually wasn’t “Live” but was “recorded Live from an earlier event,” should have tipped everyone off to the quality of the upcoming show. Hosted mostly by Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, who seemed very excited to be in the presence of cast members who were on SNL before Matt & Savannah were born, as well as in the vicinity of celebrity guest hosts like Robert DeNiro, Sigourney Weaver, Betty White, and Alec Baldwin, were not prepared to “meet & greet” the stars.

Unless they called asking every single star the exact same question “being prepared.” As each guest approached, they were asked, “How does it feel to be here?” Even worse than the hosts’ asking each guest the same question, all these famous people — many of whom are, or used to be, brilliant comedians — answered virtually the same way: “It feels like a high school reunion.”

I should have known from their lack of humorous answers and the “high school reunion” simile that SNL40 was not going to go well. But I soldiered on through the boring red-carpet Q&A, constantly assuring myself that the show would be better.

At least we got to see which SNL sketches were voted best of the decade during the Red-Carpet-Recorded-From-An-Earlier-Live-Event. Well, we didn’t get to see the entire “best sketch,” just enough to know what it was.

Fan-Voted Best Sketches
By Decade

1970s: John Belushi’s crazy Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger, Pepsi sketch, where he repeated the order by shouting out the number of burgers and drinks for each one ordered.

1980s: Eddie Murphy’s brillint satire of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood — set in a slum tenement or project, Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.

1990s: Will Ferrell as Alex Trebek  hosting Celebrity Jeopardy, where “Sean Connery” mispronounces everything as something sexual and insults the host.

2000s: Christopher Walken’s, Will Ferrell’s, Jimmy Fallon’s, and Chris Kattan’s iconic Gotta Have More Cowbell, Baby

2010s: The newscast reporting the black Dracula, Blackula, and the Jewish Dracula, Sidney Applebaum.

Now, bear in mind, we didn’t get to see the entire sketches, and that should have been an additional warning about the quality of the actual SNL40, but I continued watching.

SNL40 Opening Number

The actual show, SNL40, seemed to begin like many of the SNL shows: with a musical skit, this one featuring the talented and ever energetic Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.

But it went on far too long, continuously bringing in more and more cast members and hosts, until finally it just became tedious, despite the obvious enthusiasm of Jimmy and Justin.

The Steve Martin monologue which followed was relatively amusing, for the most part, but again, it went on too long and kept get interrupted by all the other star guests, like Tom Hanks, who diffused the humor rather than increased it.

SNL40 quickly went downhill from there.

Guest Hosts &
Former Cast Members

Some of the most famous guest hosts just walked out and talked. DeNiro talked about New York city like he was reading (poorly) from cue-cards rather than speaking from the heart, and DeNiro’s lived in NYC all his life. This was followed by a montage of the city that was boring in the extreme.

Former cast members, all comedians, were not funny. Chevy Chase, who looked like he was in a fake fatman suit, was virtually unrecognizable and clearly uncomfortable. Eddie Murphy thanked everyone for some of the best times of his life, but not in any remotely funny way.

Peyton Manning, one of the former guest hosts, mocked himself, both on the Red Carpet Live and for a few minutes on the show, but there were no sketches with him.

The clips from the audition tapes of the cast members were so brief and unfunny that I couldn’t figure out how any of them ended up on the show. Jim Carrey told everyone — multiple times — that he failed his audition and so was never a cast member. He wasn’t in any of the sketches last night either.

Musical Acts

Paul McCartney has lost his voice to the point where is was painful to listen to him trying to sing “Maybe I’m Amazed.” While he was playing the piano, which he can still do just fine, and attempting to sing, the other musicians increased their volume until McCartney was drowned out. It was sad.

Miley Cyrus did a relatively fine job covering Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” but I wasn’t aware that she’d ever been a host/guest on the show.

And after Christopher Walken — in his 15 second appearance — said, “Here’s CAN-yay West,” winning the John Travolta Mispronounciation Award, Kanye did some bizarre “performance art” by singing a medley while lying on the floor. Except when he was kneeling or crawling under some white cloth canopy. It was weird, to say the least.

New Sketches

The “new” sketches, with cast from various seasons and with guests, were disappointing. Bill Murray reprised his Lounge Lizard Nick Ocean, singing the “love theme” from Jaws. The replay of the Celebrity Jeopardy was somewhat amusing, especially when “Sean Connery” requested the category Let It Snow as “Le Tits Now,”  and Who Reads as “Whore Ads.” But The Californians sketch made no sense whatsoever. Not even the long kiss between Betty White and Bradley Cooper could save that one.

Man, Betty and Bradley were the finest actors of the evening during that kissing scene.

Either that, or they really, really like each other, and need to get a room.

The After-Party

Everyone kept mentioning the “After-Party,” which apparently went on till 4a.m. None of the viewers were invited to that, of course, and we didn’t even get a hint of the menu, or a chance to see the guests interacting with each other like we do at the Golden Globes.

The SNL40 High School Reunion

I guess the simile everyone was using on the Red Carpet SNL40 was accurate: it was like a high school reunion. Except for the fact that though everyone was from the same high school, they hadn’t been in the same class so they didn’t actually know each other. There was no food or alcohol during the reunion to make everybody more comfortable with each other. And the viewing audience didn’t know what to do with themselves for the 3.5 hours that this High School Reunion was interminably dragging on.

I’ve never been to a high school reunion myself. For good reason. I didn’t like high school. It was nothing but a group of cliques. If last night’s SNL40 was the “high school reunion” of all the funny people who’d ever been to the same “school,” — none of whom were funny last night — then, unfortunately, it was the high school reunion from hell.

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