Chris Rock, who hosted the season premiere of Saturday Night Live last fall, made a cameo for the season finale.
In the cold open, as the cast reflected on the unusual and surreal season marked by continued restrictions because of Covid-19, Rock appeared and noted that his hosting gig on Oct. 3 “feels like six years ago.”
“Here’s how messed up the world was when I hosted, OK?” he said. “I wanted Kanye West to be the musical guest. And he couldn’t do it because he was running for president. Remember that?”
“Also, the week I was here, the sitting president, who said Covid would disappear, got Covid! That was this season. Then the election is over. Heat Miser loses. Big moment for SNL. Clearly the right time to leave, to end the season. But no, these idiots did 12 more shows. Even Jim Carrey knew it was time to go home.”
That was a reference to Carrey’s turn playing Joe Biden in sketches early in the season. But he stepped away from the role, with Alex Moffat playing the president-to-be starting in December.
The show opened with Aidy Bryan, Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson standing on stage as themselves, breaking from the traditional opening of a character sketch.
“This year was crazy,” Bryant said.
“So crazy it made a lot of us crazy,” Strong said.
Then Thompson said, “It was actually a pretty fun year for me, but I discovered a lot of people don’t like hearing that, so yeah, it went crazy.”
Then the open cut to other cast members Heidi Gardner, Bowen Yang and Ego Nwodim.
“We went from doing very weird shows at home to terrifying shows in person,” Yang said.
Nwodim said, “Everyone else was fleeing New York, but Lorne [Michaels] was like, ‘We should go back, for comedy.”
The open was titled, “What I Remember About This Year,” and although much of it was meant for laughs, there were poignant moments, as when cast members paid tribute to those who died of complications from Covid. They included longtime staffer and music producer Hal Willner, along with family members of cast and crew.
Getting emotional, McKinnon said, “This was the year we realized we are more than just a cast. We’re a family.”
Bryant said, “And like a true family, we are kind fo sick of each other and we need a little break.”
Strong then chimed in with a wry political remark, “Thank you for staying with us during and election, and an insurrection, and an objection that there was an insurrection.”
The open was mainly set up for cast members to riff on the ways that they managed the pandemic and the myriad of restrictions.
McKinnon said, “I remember that there were so many Covid precautions that if I wanted to hug anyone, I had to pull them into the closet and do it in the dark and away from the authorities. That led to a lot of confusion.”
Bryant got big cheers when she said, “I remember hearing that if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds then you don’t have Covid. And I did that so much because I believe in science.”
Pete Davidson appeared, and said, “I can’t believe I made it an entire season without testing positive.” Then he paused for a beat and said, “For Covid.”
Chris Redd recalled, “One time I was getting a swab stuck up my nose and Adele was getting a swab stuck her nose, and we locked eyes and I panicked and I said, ‘It’s a living!’ What the hell does that mean?”
The cast recalled that initially, the audience was made up of first responders, doctors and nurses. But Bryant noted that it “sounds really nice, but we quickly realized that a doctor who just left the ER after a 36 hour shift is maybe not the best audience for comedy. Then Strong introduced an actual photo of an audience member who was reading a medical textbook during the show.
The cast also joked about the quality of the material the past season, making light of what could be some uneven shows and sketches that were just overdrawn. “Remember when a fly landed on Mike Pence’s head, and then we did a 15-minute sketch about that?” recalled Beck Bennett.
Then Thompson recalled, “And then at the end of that sketch I said ‘Live from New York’ as another fly, who was the ghost of Herman Cain, that’s what this season was like.”
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