A “Saturday Night Live” season that was more abrupt than intended and still more generous than it had to be came to a bittersweet end this weekend.
Cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, “S.N.L.” could have called it quits after its last live episode in March, but instead the show found innovative ways to persevere and play on through circumstances that seemed antithetical to the creation of sketch comedy. You rooted for it to work as much as you hoped that “S.N.L.” never has to do it again.
This weekend’s episode, the season’s third at-home production, began with an honest-to-goodness cold open sketch: an online high-school graduation ceremony for a school called Mary Magdalene by the Expressway, whose principal (Kate McKinnon) has informed her students that they’ve been refused by most of their preferred keynote speakers, including Barack and Michelle Obama, Axl Rose, murder hornets and Elon Musk and Grimes’s baby.
Instead, the class will have to be satisfied with remarks by President Trump, played as always by Alec Baldwin. He began by offering congratulations “to the class of Covid-19,” then warned: “My valet got the virus so I had to do my own makeup,” Baldwin said. “I had to resort to a Liza Minnelli TikTok makeup tutorial.”
Baldwin told the students they were actually lucky to be graduating at a time when there were “so many exciting new jobs out there, like grocery-store bouncer, cam girl, porch pirate, amateur nurse and coal.” Following boos from some students who were calling for Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Baldwin asked, “Don’t you hate when these elite medical experts tell you what to do?” Then he took a swig from a Clorox bottle that he called “good old invincibility juice.”
He offered some parting advice to the class: “Surround yourself with the worst people you can find. That way you’ll always shine. If you don’t understand something, just call it stupid. Never wear sunscreen. And live every day like it’s your last. Because we’re going to let this virus run wild.”
He added, “Reach for the stars, because if you’re a star, they’ll let you do it.”
Finally, Baldwin opened the show by declaring, “And taped, from my home, one last time: It’s Saturday Night.”
Mother’s Day Tributes of the Week
Traditionally, the “S.N.L.” broadcast of Mother’s Day weekend is an opportunity for the cast members to share the stage with their moms and thank them for their love and guidance. While that wasn’t possible this year, the show offered a monologue from the surprise guest host Kristen Wiig, who addressed her mother and said: “I’d like to tell her I love her and send her good luck. She’s in a competition over Zoom right now, and mom, I hope you win.” (That competition turned out to be a “Miss Florida Muscle Lady” contest.)
Should you prefer a more traditional and sentimental acknowledgment of the holiday, this week’s episode also featured a musical number by Boyz II Men, who performed “A Song For Mama” alongside a montage of vintage photos showing the “S.N.L.” cast with their mothers and families.
Public Service Announcement of the Week
In what seemed like the beginning of a sincere, heartfelt appeal, several of the cast members appeared in stark black-and-white, alternating lines as they sang:
Well, Mother’s Day is Sunday.
Father’s Day’s in June.
It’s been a hard-ass time for families.
Feel like the animals in the zoo.
Parents need some help these days.
Kids could use some, too.
So given the special circumstance,
We’d like to introduce a special rule.
Their request? “Let kids drink,” a phrase sung repeatedly over footage of children only seeming (we hope!) to swig from wine glasses and beer bottles. But it’s a plea that becomes more compelling with each refrain because, as the song acknowledges, “Children are the future, and right now the future stinks.”
Weekend Update Jokes of the Week
At their makeshift Weekend Update desk, the anchors, Colin Jost and Michael Che, riffed on the continuing impact of the pandemic and the accusations made by a former staffer to Joe Biden that he sexually assaulted her.
Jost began with a riff on the president:
A personal valet who handles President Trump’s meals has tested positive for coronavirus. The news was first reported on CNN while the anchors tried not to smile. Trump also traveled to Arizona to visit a factory making respirator masks and — you’re totally going to believe this — he didn’t wear a mask. He did however wear goggles, for some reason, and I’ve got to say, he looks … special. He looks like they talked him out of wearing a cape. I’m not saying that the virus started in a laboratory, but if it did, it was a guy who looked liked this who snuck in at night to pet the bats.
Che picked up the thread:
Look, obviously this pandemic has been tough for everybody. I lost my grandmother. Colin, you lost J. Crew. Everything’s changing so fast. But what if this is my last time on TV? That sounds dramatic but I got a whole summer to survive. Not just the virus — I’ve got to worry about the police. You know 40 people were arrested in New York for not social distancing? And 35 of them were black, four were Hispanic, and only one was white. I guess white people are harder to catch because they’re all greased up in sunscreen at Central Park.
Jost, who admitted he was not yet ready to joke about J. Crew, started in on Biden:
Tara Reade, the woman who has accused Joe Biden of sexual assault is calling on him to drop out of the race. Replied Biden, “Wait I’m still in the race?” I don’t know whether the allegations against Joe Biden are true, and I’m not sure Joe Biden does either. He’d probably have an easier time remembering Tara Reade if her name was, like, Waffle Fries Johnson. What I do know is that this is a really good argument for a female president. Like, you’ll never hear about Angela Merkel just grabbing some dude’s crotch. And if she did, it would be with consent at a BDSM club in Düsseldorf.
Weekend Update Guest of the Week
Tina Fey, another acclaimed “S.N.L.” alum, returned to the Weekend Update desk to reflect on the challenges of being a mother in this difficult moment.
“I’m getting to spend so much more time with my passwords,” she told Che, adding, “Also my kids are here.”
Fey said that she missed shopping at grocery stories. Still, she added: “There are so many great hacks you can get off the internet. For example, did you know that if you’re baking cookies and you don’t have any flour, you can just go to bed? Yeah. You can all just shut your mouths and go to bed.”
And while she predicted that there would be many emotional ups and downs to come, Fey urged mothers to “ride those waves.” “Ride them like a day-drunk boomer at a currently open Georgia water park,” she said.
Final Sketch of the Season of the Week
While there’s no blueprint for how to conclude an “S.N.L.” season like the one that just transpired, this fanciful segment seemed to strike just the right tone.
Set to Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” the filmed sketch offered glimpses into the dreams of “S.N.L.” cast members as they resumed their regular lives in New York: Kyle Mooney cavorting with an Elmo impersonator in Times Square; Aidy Bryant playing with dogs in Central Park.
Little by little, the dreams grow more baroque: Cecily Strong takes her seat at what turns out to be “Sonic the Hedgehog the Musical”; Chloe Fineman wanders Little Italy and finds a Popeyes chicken restaurant; Ego Nwodim sits on a bench next to Woody Allen and gives him an uncomfortable look. It was a charming, funny and entirely understandable wish for things to return to normal — but not too normal — as quickly as possible.