It was perhaps the most anticipated “Saturday Night Live” season premiere in almost 20 years — the show’s first live broadcast in more than six months, hosted by Chris Rock, and its first to be produced under the new guidelines of the coronavirus era.
The last live episode of “S.N.L.” had been broadcast on March 7; it was hosted by Daniel Craig and featured a few segments in which the show tried to find what humor it could in the looming pandemic. Then the show announced it was suspending its season altogether, only to come back with three episodes of remotely produced sketches, filmed mostly at the homes of its cast members.
“S.N.L.” tends to generate its biggest audiences in presidential election years, and the series’s creator, Lorne Michaels, further stoked expectations by tapping Jim Carrey to play former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee.
— HSD (@hsdaily) October 4, 2020
But the show is also contending with a slew of new health and safety regulations, and as recently as a few days ago, Michaels wasn’t entirely sure that he and his cast and crew could stick the landing: “We’re going to be as surprised as everyone else when it actually goes on,” he told The New York Times in an interview. And questions lingered before Saturday as to whether a live audience would attend. (It did, under visible restrictions.)
SNL jokes about Pres. Trump’s COVID diagnosis for the first time during the opening skit with Jim Carrey as Joe Biden: pic.twitter.com/Sc4cX55iRA
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) October 4, 2020
That would have all been challenging enough. But then “S.N.L.” had to start its season by recapping a week in which President Trump was hospitalized for treatment of Covid-19 and in which the first lady, Melania Trump, along with several Republican senators and high-ranking Republican officials, tested positive for the coronavirus.
Perhaps the closest comparable moment in “S.N.L.” history was the season opener of Sept. 29, 2001, the show’s first new broadcast after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That episode began with a call for unity from Rudolph W. Giuliani, then the mayor of New York, who was flanked by police officers and firefighters as he told the audience, “Even as we grieve for our loved ones, it’s up to us to face the future with renewed determination.” Paul Simon played “The Boxer,” and Michaels famously asked Giuliani, “Can we be funny?” Giuliani answered, “Why start now?”
— Jillian Sederholm (@JillianSed) October 4, 2020
This time around, “S.N.L.” simply opened with a sendup of Tuesday’s chaotic debate between President Trump and Vice President Biden.
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