SNL celebrates 40 years of laughter

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Like many of my friends, I had looked forward to the “Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special” with anticipation. On Sunday, Feb. 15, I eagerly settled down to watch the three-and-a-half-hour special celebrating the past 40 years of the Emmy-award-winning comedy series. I was hooked from the start of the red carpet preshow. The sheer number of cast members, musical guests and hosts all gathered in one place was overwhelmingly exciting. From the sentimental montages to the revisited sketches to the mixing of former stars with current ones, it was an event that seemed more exclusive than the Oscars. It was also a somewhat shocking reminder of the vast number of celebrities who passed through the portals of SNL on their paths to fame.

“Saturday Night Live” is synonymous with musical guests, and it delivered on that front as well. Legends Paul McCartney and Paul Simon appeared onstage during the opening monologue and returned later for performances of their own. Miley Cyrus held her own amongst these musical greats, delivering a surprisingly tasteful rendition of Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” This performance was, in my opinion, the best musical number of the night (save, perhaps, Bill Murray’s “Jaws” love theme).

One of the best of the show’s many montages included audition reels of past SNL stars. I thoroughly enjoyed Andy Samberg and Adam Sandler’s “That’s When You Break,” a song paying homage to SNL stars busting up during sketches.  Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Jane Curtin also appeared together as a “Weekend Update” dream team.  My only complaint about that segment was it did not last long enough.

A touching “In Memoriam” paid tribute to some of the late greats of SNL, including John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Chris Farley. The tribute ended on a genuinely comedic note, however, by including Jon Lovitz, who is notably not dead.

Despite its lengthiness, I felt entertained throughout the special. I thought the special’s length allowed it to sufficiently highlight all the many eras of “Saturday Night Live.” It gracefully balanced comedians and actors from throughout the show’s history, paying tribute to SNL old and new. Because of this, it appealed to a wide range of audiences, giving them each a taste of the “Saturday Night Live” they grew up with.

For me, the special felt like both a nostalgic reminder of the SNL of my childhood, as well as a look into many of the great sketches that occurred well before my time. I will admit, as a younger viewer, some of the references went over my head. In this way, the special served as a mini history lesson, allowing me to catch a glimpse of SNL as it was before I began watching.

What amazed me most of all, however, was to think that this hilarious show, this show that I love and enjoy today, is a show that my parents also grew up watching. The fact that it has remained so popular for so long is a true testament to the talent of the show’s cast and crew, as well as to the ability of good comedy to transcend differences in age.

All in all, the special was a wonderful and exciting tribute to some of the best comedians of the past 40 years. Here’s to hoping that the next 40 will be just as great.