Last night, everyone from Kanye West to Sarah Palin to Bill Murray to Emma Stone assembled in Rockefeller Center’s Studio 8H to celebrate 40 years of Saturday Night Live. The star-packed affair ran for three-and-a-half primetime hours, plus a one-hour red carpet pre-show, and if you’ve ever watched a TV event like this before you can probably guess what took up much of the runtime: Lots of tributes to the show and its mastermind, Lorne Michaels, lots of retrospective clips, and lots of resurfaced catchphrases and costumes.
If you’re an SNL nerd, you (like me) watched all of this at rapt attention, but maybe you just want the Cliff’s Notes version of the 210-minute extravaganza. Maybe you just want to get to the goods. So, if you didn’t watch last night but you’re hoping to keep up around the water cooler, or you did watch and you’d rather just jump straight to the best parts again, have a look at five must-see moments (plus a bonus) from last night’s SNL40 special.
Oh, and if you’re more of a completist type, you can catch the whole whopping show here.
Celebrity Jeopardy! Returns
Celebrity Jeopardy! was one of the most reliable funny sketches of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, so it’s no surprise to see it resurrected here. Will Ferrell slipped flawlessly back into his Alex Trebek character, and the celebrity impression parade began. Of course, Darrell Hammond was back to screw with Trebek as the always bawdy Sean Connery (and yes, they found some new categories for him to naughtily misread), but the standout may have been current cast member Kate McKinnon and her flawless Justin Bieber. Add in Norm Macdonald’s return as Burt “Turd Ferguson” Reynolds, and you’ve got a standout moment from the special, even if it was a bit too long and that Cosby joke didn’t quite land.
Miley Cyrus Covers Paul Simon
With all the controversy (deserved or not) that’s surrounded her career over the last year or two, it’s easy for some to forget that Miley Cyrus actually can sing, but she reminded everyone of that last night with a wonderful cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” It took some guts to do one of Simon’s signature songs while he was in the audience, but Cyrus both paid tribute to the original version and made the tune her own, belting out the final rounds of the chorus. There were no antics, no props, no wild costumes, just a great performance.
The Weekend Update Dream Team
No SNL special would be complete without a tribute to the show’s centerpiece segment. Weekend Update got the predictable retrospective montage just like everything else, but the real gem of this section of the show came when former anchors Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Jane Curtin (who has rarely returned to Studio 8H since leaving in 1980) gathered at the Update desk to read some “news” about Update and SNL. They only got about three-and-a-half minutes before correspondents started showing up, but managed to get in jokes aimed at the show’s cocaine-fueled beginnings and Fox News. No offense to current anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che, but I’d watch these three behind that desk any week.
Bill Murray Is Still Your Personal Hero
After joining SNL in season two, Bill Murray became one of the show’s earliest breakout stars, conquering big-screen comedy, drama, and…well, life. Murray’s more than a comedy hero for many fans. He’s a laid-back folk hero, and more than a few SNL nerds (this one included) spent the early parts of the show wondering when he’d finally show up. Then, he did, near the end of a 15-minute segment devoted to the show’s many musical sketches. Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer were back as The Culps, Maya Rudolph reprised her Beyonce impression, Adam Sandler brought out Opera Man, Steve Martin dug up King Tut, and then there was Murray. As his legendary lounge singer Nick Ocean, he sang his heart out to the “Love Theme from Jaws” then strolled offstage and into the night, like the Man of Mystery he is (he did show up again later for the In Memoriam segment). Click through to about 12:15 if you just want Murray’s bit.
Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg’s Tribute to Breaking
Yeah, Adam Sandler takes a lot of heat for the films he’s made lately, but he’s still SNL royalty, and he proved he can still deliver the goods in Studio 8H by teaming up with Digital Short maestro Andy Samberg (with a little help from Chris Parnell and Bill Hader) for a song about the show’s long history of cast members “breaking.” In between the power ballad antics of the duo we got plenty of classic break clips, a breakdown tribute to Lorne Michaels, and an extended dig at the always-breaking duo of Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz. Despite coming near the end of a three-and-a-half hour show, it pulled plenty of laughs from a tired crowd.
Honorable Mention: Chris Rock’s Tribute to Eddie Murphy
One of the major selling points of SNL40 was the news that Eddie Murphy would be returning to the SNL stage for the first time since 1984. Murphy is often credited with almost single-handedly saving the show during the bleak early ‘80s, but then he became one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and never looked back. Murphy’s return was a big moment at a big time for the show, so it made sense that fellow comedy superstar and former cast member Chris Rock would come out and deliver a lengthy tribute to Murphy, his legacy, and his influence on countless comedians. It felt like we were building to something great, and then Murphy came out and did…well, pretty much nothing. Still, the clip is worth watching, as much for Rock’s tribute as for Murphy’s anticlimactic, jarringly brief appearance.