On Friday, I told you all about NBC’s announcement of the return of “SNL” this week, after the Wuhan coronavirus forced the Tiffany Network to place the comedy variety show on hiatus. It was unclear how exactly a show that depends on a live audience to work would, well, work at all remotely. It seemed like a sure trainwreck.
Of course, there was one, more intriguing part of the announcement: the rumor that Oscar-winning actor and everybody’s favorite “Bosom Buddy,” Tom Hanks, would play some part in the program.
That rumor, it turns out, was true:
Makes me think about the first SNL after 9/11
Tom Hanks. And he survived COVID!
This is so surreal.
So f’ing surreal. pic.twitter.com/OhBgZfI5My
— PassMeAPickle (@CeeLeeMusic) April 12, 2020
So, “SNL’s” solution to the cast members needing to follow social distancing rules was to tailor many of the skits around that. Graphics stood-in as set dressing, since the comedians appeared from their own homes. And most of the skits used just one cast member. But it wasn’t always clear whether any particular skit was taped in advance or performed live. It’s likely the pair of musical guest segments, by Coldplay’s Chris Martin, were taped.
They even made the episode’s concept – trying to come up with skit ideas under coronavirus conditions – the subject of one scene. Two of the regular players, along with former show favorite Fred Armisen in a guest spot, appeared in split-screen, almost singing to each other over the phone about the problem.
One of the sparse, funny moments of the episode came during the “Weekend Update segment.” Anchor Michael Che set up a joke by explaining that he was mourning the recent passing of his beloved grandmother. In the process, Che tricked his co-anchor, Colin Jost, who is white, into delivering a joke about black men that would normally be called out as racist by SJWs, in a different context. Seeing such edgy comedy on the show was refreshing!
Unsurprisingly, “SNL” stepped away from the laughs to share a musical tribute to one of their long-time producers, Hal Willner — a touching moment which included many, former cast members, including Molly Shannon and Adam Sandler:
— Paul Myers (@pulmyears) April 12, 2020
Something else caught my attention, too. During his opening monologue of “SNL At Home,” Hanks seemed to direct his jokes to different areas behind the camera, as if pretending to play to the live audience in the 30 Rock studio where the show is normally done.
He assured the home audience that he’s completely recovered from COVID-19 and back in the U.S. from Australia.
Now, I was half-joking in my other article when I brought up one of the running jokes about “Saturday Night Live”… whether or not it’s even funny.
But Tom Hanks managed to riff on that, too. And he hit that mark — hard.
He told viewers:
“Hey, it’s good to be here, though it is also very weird to be here. Hosting Saturday Night Live from home. It is a strange time to try and be funny, but trying to be funny is SNL‘s whole thing. So we thought, what the heck? Let’s give it a shot.”
You can watch the full, opening monologue below: