by Julian Spivey
“Saturday Night Live” said goodbye to a handful of longtime cast members in one of the season’s best offerings from its 47th season in this weekend’s season finale.
Going into the finale we knew it was going to be the final episode for Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney and Pete Davidson, all of whom have been on the show for eight seasons of more (truly a rare feat for the sketch comedy show). All four of those cast members have played an integral part in the show over the last decade and most will be missed (I’ll get to that in a bit).
The episode was hosted by “Russian Doll” actress Natasha Lyonne, a New York native, who wound up being one of the better hosts of the season in her show debut, though she often took a back seat to the cast member’s saying farewell, as often happens in today’s ‘SNL’ during the season finale.
Lyonne’s monologue was unique in that it was one of the few non-stand-up monologues that seemed completely that of the host’s – meaning it didn’t feel written for her as much as written by her (though I don’t know for sure who penned the monologue). Lyonne spoke of her career, starting as a child, and the struggles she experienced as a young adult (arrests and drug addiction). It was one of the most honest and personal monologues you’ll see from a ‘SNL’ host. She was also joined briefly by former ‘SNL’ cast members and her close personal friends Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph (Lyonne and Armisen actually dated for quite a while) who offered imitations of her memorable NYC accent.
Lyonne’s contribution to an early sketch on the episode in which she portrays a (male) 1950s New York Yankees radio announcer who’s overcoming a cold with the help of a newly prescribed drug called methamphetamine was one of the entire season’s funniest sketches. When Lyonne’s announcer recalls a story of how Babe Ruth once ate a live child – clothes and all – I lost it laughing probably harder than I did at any one thing on ‘SNL’ all season long.
The farewells to cast members got underway right off the bat with McKinnon – who for my money may be the greatest female cast member in ‘SNL’ history – bringing back her recurring character of Ms. Rafferty, who is constantly being abducted and probed by aliens and has been my absolute favorite bit (original character or impression) from McKinnon’s decade-long tenure on the show. It was also just terrific to see a ‘SNL’ cold opening for once that had nothing to do with politics or current events. I know current events have often been considered the show’s bread-and-butter, especially for the cold opening, but my wish is for the show to just concern itself with being funny from the git go. Oftentimes in the last half-decade-plus the real-world has just been too depressing or “out there” to really get the humor out of it. The Ms. Rafferty cold open went from hilarious to emotional quickly as Rafferty volunteers to go off for good with the aliens in an exchange for the U.S. learning more about their alien technology. When McKinnon gets on the spaceship she says, both in character and breaking the fourth wall, “I love ya. Thanks for letting me stay awhile,” through teary-eyes before receiving the honor of exclaiming, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night,” one last time.
Bryant and Davidson’s farewells would come during Weekend Update when each got a moment to say goodbye in their own special way with Bryant doing so in character with Bowen Yang as their trend setter Update correspondents, who have been one of the last two season’s most beloved Update guests. Bryant, during the “Future Trends” segment of the bit, said: “In: Ten nice years.” Yang adds: “In: A friend I couldn’t have done this without” and then finally Bryant ends the segment with: “In: My best guy’s kissing me” to which Yang and Update co-anchor Michael Che lean in for a smooch on her cheeks.
Davidson, who has been away from the show for a good amount of its second half of the season while filming other projects, returned to Update one last time for one of his stand-up routines while seated at the Update desk and was understandably more emotional than we’re used to seeing from him, especially when thanking ‘SNL’ boss Lorne Michaels saying, “I appreciate ‘SNL’ always having my back and allowing me to work on myself and grow. And thank you to Lorne [Michaels] for never giving up on me or judging me even when everyone else was, and for believing in me and allowing me to have a place that I can call home with memories that will last a lifetime.”
Davidson truly did grow up on the show, beginning as a cast member when he was 20-years old, one of the youngest ever on the long-running show and got to experience very public ups-and-downs along the way that have endeared him to me and caused eye-rolling from many others. Davidson was always at his best on the show when doing these personal Update appearances.
Mooney didn’t really receive the same farewell as his fellow cast members saying goodbye after many years on the show, which doesn’t really bother me any. Mooney has been one of my least favorite cast members throughout the show’s history and honestly him leaving the show is a long time coming for me. His fame on the show came mostly doing digital short, filmed pieces, which disappeared in his final season as they were replaced by the Please Don’t Destroy trio, which have been massively popular for many fans of the show, but not my cup of tea.
Mooney did appear in most of the finale’s sketches in various roles and appeared alongside McKinnon and Bryant in the season’s final sketch about gray ponytails being all the rage with a certain segment of aging folk.
Overall, the finale was one of the better episodes of what was truly a mostly forgettable ‘SNL’ season. My problem all along with ‘SNL’ lately has been the writing staff providing many lifeless sketches that just have few laughs and are just “out there” in ways I either don’t get or aren’t for me. I’d hate to think that at only 34 the show’s humor has passed me by, but maybe that’s the way the show is going. Or maybe they just need to clean house a bit on the writing side of things because I genuinely think the cast is top-notch quality. We’ll see what’s in store for season 48 come September.