Saturday Night Live became Sunday Night Live for one night this past weekend. Lorne Michaels' colossal tribute to the 40th anniversary of the cherished, laudatory sketch comedy show that has been airing on NBC at 11:30 p.m. for the last four decades, served up a potent dose of hilarity blended with nostalgia on Sunday night. With the recent retiring of two late night talk show kings to make way for new rulers, following Leno's dethroning last February, 2015 has been a transformative and monumental year for comedy. So it is only fitting that the head chef of satire would cook up a lavish feast.
Throughout these transitions one ingredient has remained constant in the funny-sphere. Jews. Starting with the original cast, SNL has been touched by the chosen people with icons like Gilda Radner, Billy Crystal, Jon Lovitz, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Andy Samberg, Seth Meyers, Rachel Dratch, Rob Schneider and Chris Kattan. Although Schneider and Kattan are only half Jewish, according to Adam Sandler's math in the "Hannukah Song", if you put them together they would make one "fine lookin' Jew."
The three and a half hour special, which streamed live online, had an all star attendance. Michaels invited everyone who has ever played a role in the making of SNL, from cast members to guest hosts to musical guests to the unseen forces who operate their magic from behind the curtain. The results made for an epic stew of comedy laureates including Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Martin Short, Eddie Murphy, Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Norm Macdonald, Chris Rock, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrel, Melissa McCarthy and musical icons like Paul Simon and Paul McCartney. Find the full list of attendees here.
The celebratory evening delivered a rich panoply of beloved sketches and tributes to late cast members. If comedy is tragedy plus time, then the Jewish people have a lot of material to work with. However, while there were a number of Jewy moments, there were also a few Jewish gems whose absence we noticed.
1. Yes. Emma Stone as Gilda Radner. Stone paid tribute to the legendary cast member, Gilda Radner, on Weekend Update with Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Jane Curtin with a revival of one of Radner's most famed personas, Roseanne Roseannadanna.
2. Missed. Drake's bar mitzvah rap. When Drake aka Aubrey Graham was both the host and musical guest a few years ago, he rapped about becoming a man in a flashback sketch of his 1999 Canadian bar mitzvah where he spat the following rabbinically inspired rhymes, "I'm black and Jewish, don't be foolish" "I celebrate hannukah, dated Rihana-Kuh" "I eat hova with nova…a bagel and cream cheesy with my boy his name is Weezy." Rabbi Akiva would be proud.
3. Yes. Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David's Q&A. At one point Jerry Seinfeld came out to answer questions from the audience, otherwise known as celebrity royalty, and Larry David jumped in with, "Hey let me ask you something, was I really a writer on Saturday Night Live?" to which Seinfeld responded, "Yes Larry you were, you wrote here for one season."
4. Missed. Coffee Talk with Linda Richman. In this canonized sketch, Mike Meyers played an embellished version of a stereotypical, middle-aged Jewish woman with a magnified New York accent, long painted fingernails, a ton of gold jewelry, large dark tinted glasses and a galaxy of hair that always required constant adjusting. The parody was based off of Myers' actual mother-in-law.
5. Yes. Jon Lovitz lives. The veteran SNL cast member, was "paid tribute" to in a memoriam given by Steve Martin, who honored "SNL greats who are no longer with us…" Lovitz, who is known for his Hannukah Harry sketches, is also now known for being alive.
6. Missed. Jewish Willy Wonka. A few years ago, Ben Stiller's opening monologue had a shaky start due to Stiller "feeling faint" from fasting for Yom Kippur. To Stiller's good fortune, Willy Wonka-vich (Andy Samberg), came to the rescue escorting Stiller to a magical land of Jewish delicatessen offering the hungry host, "Everything you've every dreamed of…from salty to fishy."
7. Yes. Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg singing in wigs. The special night was peppered with digital shorts, including a music video featuring Jewish SNL vets Sandler and Samberg, who sang about the inevitable breaking of the fourth wall that many cast members face when battling a case of the giggles. They held it together despite wearing funny wigs.
8. Missed. Adam Sandler's "Hannukah Song." Speaking of Sandler, though he did make an appearance as the adored "Opera Man" on Sunday, we were saddened not to be serenaded by his famous holiday anthem that reminds us that O.J. Simpson is "Not a Jew."
9. Missed. Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy. Played by current cast member, Vanessa Bayer, the recurring character who appears on Weekend Update, is Seth Meyers' 13-year-old podiatrist's son who delivers tips on foot care couched in Talmudic tutorials.
10. Missed. Jewess Jeans with Gilda Radner. The slogan "You don't have to be Jewish…but it wouldn't hurt" became synonymous with Gilda Radner's over the top Jewish personality and farcical look in the spoof commercial that parodied the jean commercial for Jordache Jeans. Radner played Rhonda Weiss in the hilarious tribute to the original, shamelessly cheesy ad that was almost a lampoon on its own. The sketch closed with the catchy line, "Jewess jeans. Guaranteed to ride up."
With or without all of the prized tribe-influenced moments whose absence we lamented, the black tie evening was a tremendous tribute and an impressive feat. Here's to another 40 years.
Mazal Tov Lorne.