'SNL' Does the Impossible

Saturday Night Live has always been the ultimate cultural mirror in my eyes, the show that more than any other captures the here and now of the moment and makes you feel like you're in on the joke(s). This is due in no small measure, I'm sure, to the literal live audience, which lends it that unique communal vibe nothing else can really duplicate, because nothing else—or at least no other scripted show—actually gets broadcast live.

All of this got me wondering just the other day how SNL was going to contend with the current worldwide quarantine, or if it would be able to at all. You can't have more than one cast member in the same room. You certainly can't have an audience. It's quite the obstacle to overcome. But last night, Jesus and Mary did those goddamn geniuses overcome it, and with flying colors.

Using Zoom, Facetime and the like to its advantage, the episode was one of the most resonating 90 minutes of television I've ever watched. I would go as far as to say, in fact, that I think it will be remembered as a milestone both for the show and for the medium. I'm not sure how well the experiment worked of piping in a small "live audience" of viewers during "Weekend Update," but on the other hand, they ended the segment with my favorite joke swap bit between Che and Jost, and it was a howler. As for the rest of the show—just as brilliant as can be. And what more of a master stroke than getting Tom Hanks—the first celebrity to have come out as diagnosed with the covid, and an all-time SNL favorite—to host?

Above all else, this felt like a unifying event, the most quintessential example thus far of how this crisis is universally affecting us all, and how we're universally striving to maintain some semblance of normality in the face of it.

If you missed it, check it out here.