By Mary Kate Dorr
Live from New York, on Sunday night generations of some of the most talented and prominent comedians gathered to celebrate 40 years of “Saturday Night Live.” The “Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special” packed four decades of performers, inappropriateness, sarcasm and undeniable wit into a mere 3.5 hours.
What better way to open the anniversary special than with the Jimmy Fallon/Justin Timberlake duo? If you live under a rock and are unfamiliar with SNL and comedy and maybe life in general, Fallon, a 1998-2004 cast member, and Timberlake, a fan favorite and five-time host, are known for collaborative and ridiculously funny song and dance numbers. This performance managed to reference seemingly every noteworthy SNL skit to be created, ever. From Schweddy Balls to more cowbell to male genitalia in a box, this duo rapped about it all while making women swoon across the country, because the only thing better than Jimmy and Justin is Jimmy and Justin in tuxes.
The night was just getting started. Of course ex-cast member Will Ferrell made an appearance, returning as Celebrity Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. Other standout sketches included a scarily good Matthew McConaughey impersonation by Jim Carrey, followed by Kenan Thompson as Bill Cosby. Female Weekend Update anchors Jane Curtin, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler had their own skit. Bill Hader’s ever-popular Stefon also made an appearance, and was joined by Edward Norton as a twin version of Stefon.
But this night was not just about sketches. SNL released the original audition tapes of some of its most famous cast members looking timid, awkward and scared as hell. Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler, Jason Sudeikis, Gilda Radner, Jim Carrey, Andy Samberg and Seth Meyers all appeared, young and unaware that this audition would lead to a defining career and reputation as a comedian.
These auditions not only portrayed some of the most talented performers from the last forty years, but a few of the most popular skit characters to be featured on SNL. Vanessa Bayer’s spot-on Miley Cyrus impersonation not only helped her secure her position as a cast member, but has become a reoccurring role on SNL. Kristen Wiig auditioned using her obnoxiously enthusiastic “Target Lady” persona, another reoccurring skit and also the only one my parents hate as I choose to imitate it regularly.
Past host Robert Di Nero may have said it best when he took the stage: “Saturday Night Live broke all the rules of comedy and TV, and 40 years later, they’re still doing it,” he said.
The sketch comedy show has been monumental in shaping some of the greatest and most knee-slapping hilarious actors and writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. If this is what 40 looks like, I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see what 50 years brings SNL.