After 40 years, Saturday Night Live may be the only remaining "watercooler comedy" that everyone still has something to say about. Whether it's "The first five years were the best," or "Bring back Victoria Jackson!" (just kidding, no one says that), we all have our opinions on what is or isn't funny on the show… not just us nerdy online reviewers. SNL is, after all, one of the only shows we grew up with that's still on the air – those of us under 40 haven't lived in a world without it — and we each have a personal connection to the first incarnation of it that spoke to us. For me, it was Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond in the "Celebrity Jeopardy" sketches. For others, it was Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin as the "wild and crazy guys!" For at least one of you out there, it was Victoria Jackson's hilarious handstands.
With that nostalgia for our era sometimes comes an indifference to others. I'll sincerely giggle at Stefon losing it at "Sidney Applebaum," but I struggle to whip up anything more than appreciative nods when the Church Lady sighs, "Well, isn't that special?" Don't get me wrong — Dana Carvey is my hero, and as someone who writes about SNL a lot, I understand the comedic greatness of the iconic routines and characters from the show's first two decades. But they didn't belong to me. Wayne Campbell and Buh-Weet were the inside jokes at a party I was too young for. I knew them better as Austin Powers and Professor Klump, and those younger than me know them as Shrek and Donkey. (I know, ugh.) Older viewers exhibit this bias as well, bragging that Richard Pryor's "Word Association" would never air on today's SNL, while bemoaning the show's descent into the mainstream and over-dependence on low-hanging fruit gags to go viral online.
But last night, that generational rivalry disappeared. SNL's 40th anniversary, a three-and-a-half-hour telecast (seriously, has NBC just given Lorne Michaels keys to the building at this point?) showed an extended family united in the tradition they were once part of, celebrating each other on stage, in retrospective footage, and in star-packed revivals of classic sketches. It was an SNL nerd's wet dream, and as Stefon would say, this had everything. "Celebrity Jeopardy." "Wayne's World." Jane, Amy, and Tina hosting Weekend Update. Melissa as "Motivational Speaker Matt Foley." Martin and Maya throwing to "Nick the Lounge Singer" and "Choppin' Broccoli." Eddie returning to a standing ovation.
Sure, everything ran long, the cameos were a bit much, the highlight reels were redundant, and all the jokes were inside baseball. But this wasn't a normal episode of SNL intended to please fair-weather viewers, or fit neatly into our "what hit" and "what missed" watercooler chats. It was a homecoming that we were lucky to peek in on. And as we've seen before on this show, something magical happens when the family comes home to make each other laugh for a change. READ MORE