A Little Verklempt: Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special

It’s a good thing I get President’s Day off, because otherwise I’d be taking a mental health day today. The SNL 40th Anniversary Special had me up to my eyeballs in feelings. I knew it would, because I remember how it felt watching the 25th Anniversary Special as an SNL-obsessed toddler teenager. Obviously we were primed to love everything on our screens last night, but here’s what I loved the most of the most:

Opening Musical Number with Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon

Did you start off counting the throwback references and quit because the number was so jam-packed? There were shout outs to Lazy Sunday, Dick In A Box, the Ambiguously Gay Duo, Matt Foley, the wild and crazy guys, Debbie Downer, the cheerleaders, the “don’t make me dance” lady, the Blues Brothers, cowbell, Mary Katherine Gallagher, and a bunch more.

The Opening Credits

The only thing missing was Don Pardo. Yes, I’m talking about the list of people who would appear in the show. During our high school masses sometimes they’d roll out the litany of the saints, where the school chorus would just bust out a list of Catholics. The opening introduction of SNL 40 was the closest I’ll get to a personally relevant litany of the saints. But with Sarah Palin in there also.

The Bass-o-matic

Do you ever have that dream that you’re on stage and you’re supposed to be performing a play you were in years ago? And you worry that you’ll screw up your lines and blocking, and in the good version of the dream as soon as you’re out there it all comes rushing back. I bet this felt like a real-life good version of that dream to Dan Ackroyd.

Jeopardy

ALL of my favorite Jeopardy idiots in one go? AMAZING. From Kate McKinnon’s spot-on human piddling puppy Justin Bieber, to Sean Connery’s filthy misreads of Let It Snow and Who Reads (Le Tits Now and Whore Ads), it was hilarious and – success! – went on for exactly the right amount of time.

Audition Reels

If there’s one thing that makes me verklempt (and there are a billion things, we did a whole week on it), it’s seeing successful people during those little tenuous moments before things started for them. Just the idea that they were living a normal-isn life and couldn’t know how much things would be changing is so sweet. The one that really got me was seeing a baby-faced, slightly nervous looking Amy Poehler. Andy Samberg as a jogger from 1982, Jimmy Fallon looking like he took a cab over after junior high, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig debuting some of their most famous characters – it was like when you see baby pictures of people you’ve only seen as adults.

The Californians

Everyone I know loves the Californians, and I only ever just liked it. This one was different. Laraine Newman cracked me up, Betty White making out with Bradley Cooper was the best thing I’ve seen in weeks, and even Taylor Swift’s wacky accent and hair-mustache were hilarious.

WEEKEND UPDATE DREAM TEAM!

Highlight of the night, here. I had hoped for a Tina/Amy reunion, or a Tina/Jimmy, Amy/Seth showdown, but I hadn’t even dared to dream we’d get Jane Curtin. Watching the clip reel of past Update moments, it’s really clear that some people are just better at it. They have the right combination of charisma and crisp, sharp delivery to make the jokes land hard. I’m not here to name names of the people who weren’t as good (though let’s just say that everyone I listed was amazing, and I think Cecily Strong had the makings of being darn good too). Anyway, whenever anyone starts the job, I think they should sit in a room and watch tape of Jane to see how it’s done.

[Sidebar: my favorite Jane Curtin story is also a Gilda Radner story. Compared to the coked-out masses of the early Not Ready For Primetime Players, Curtin was always very straight-laced and diligent. She had a stable marriage and was basically just normal. Gilda would go over to Jane’s house just to watch Jane and her husband Patrick Lynch make dinner and act like regular people. Jane felt like it was a little weird, but of course she let Gilda keep coming over because she so loved seeing regular, happy people in their natural habitat. So while Jane Curtin pulls off the stern, ball-busting news anchor thing, she’s a giant sweetheart at the same time.]

The celebrity tributes to their favorite characters was an adorable way to bring back Roseanne Rosannadanna (Emma Stone, who nailed it and looked like she was living a Gilda fan’s dream) and Matt Foley (Melissa McCarthy, physical comedy for DAYS). They were perfectly framed not as an attempt to replace Chris Farley and Gilda Radner, but as recognition of what all fans did growing up, impersonating recurring characters. And of course, no Update segment would be complete without the return of Seth Meyers and Stefan and the land shark at the update door.

Maya Rudolph as Beyonce

With appearances by Garth and Cat, Marty Culp and Bobbi Mohan-Culp, Opera Man, What’s Up With That, the Love Theme from Jaws, and the Blues Brothers.

Jerry Seinfeld Q and A

The audience Q and A is a classic SNL opener, and this one with an all-celeb audience was great. Ellen Cleghorne really stole the show though, didn’t she?

Tracy Morgan

Yes, I shed a little tear when Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin introduced a clip of Tracy Morgan, who is still recovering from last year’s car accident and couldn’t be there last night.

Digital Short: That’s When You Break

Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler are a perfect pairing, and it felt so right to celebrate the many times cast members have cracked up over the years. But mostly Fallon and Sanz.

In Memoriam

Look. I cannot watch Gilda Radner without my heart breaking and singing at the same time. I knew that part would make me cry a bit, and it did. There are some other cast members, like Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks, who were taken far too soon. But I was especially touched to see the tributes to the crew members who have passed on. Next time you watch SNL, pay attention to one non-performing aspect of the show, whether it’s sets or costumes or props or cue cards. The show wouldn’t have made it 40 years if they didn’t have one of the best crews in television. It felt so special to acknowledge their efforts, especially in a room full of performers from all different eras who knew firsthand how important these workers were. It was also fitting to end with a moment of levity, mourning the untimely loss of John Lovitz.

Mega-Goodnight

I should probably watch the goodnights in slow-mo, because it was like a Where’s Waldo of awesome people who I love. The whole night was, really.