Saturday Night Live is an American institution. Like baseball, apple pie, and chevy, SNL is a staple of and a mirror of our way of life. Also like baseball, apple pie, and chevy, people all around our great nation (but mostly on blogs, and at the water cooler) trumpet the downward spiral of SNL. They say, “I don’t watch the show anymore, it’s just not the same since KristenWiig/Will Ferrell/Adam Sandler/Chris Farley/Dennis Miller/Eddie Murphy left.” We all have that cast, or that character, or that actor that we attach ourselves too. And when they are gone, it can be hard to forget them and try and accept new featured players and cast members. And last Saturday, we reached another end to another era. Leaving SNL this time around are Bill Hader and Fred Armisen. These two men have been on SNL for a very long time, and are exactly the types of treasures that you can miss out on if you don’t give this plucky show, or it’s new cast members, the chance they deserve.
Saturday Night Live (abbreviated as SNL) is an American late-night live television/sketch comedy and variety show created by Lorne Michaels and developed by Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title NBC’s Saturday Night. The show’s comedy sketches, which parody contemporary culture and politics, are performed by a large and varying cast of repertory and newer cast members. Each episode is hosted by a celebrity guest, who usually delivers an opening monologue and performs in sketches with the cast, and features performances by a musical guest. An episode normally begins with a cold open sketch that ends with someone breaking character and proclaiming, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”, beginning the show proper.
The above text is a portion of the first paragraph of SNL’s wiki page. It tells you everything and nothing. First of all, the show has been on the air for damn near 40 years. That’s insane, incredible, and lots of other IN-pressive in words. Can you imagine any other show running for that long and staying creative and relevant? What makes SNL so great is the revolving door that brings talent in and out so quickly. It’s a mini metaphor for life. Everything lasts but for a season (or if you are lucky, 11 seasons like Fred Armisen). That’s a scary thing for people and tv execs. In tv, when something is a hit, you want to milk it for all its worth, and for the love of God, don’t mess with it. SNL flies in the face of this idea constantly tweaking and playing with the formula. And one thing they have recently perfected is the send off show. Last night, two skits (out of a show full of pretty darn good stuff) really stuck out and they were both farewell pieces. One thing I love about comedy is the sense that anything goes. SNL will “go for it” on occasion and really push the boundary. That, accompanied by the time invested in watching cast members grow and mature, is what makes these farewell skits so great. It’s not just a skit, it’s love. And you can see it on the actors faces, and if you’ve been watching for any amount of time, you can feel it in your heart. First came Bill Hader’s most beloved character, Stefon. If you haven’t watched any of his bits, do yourself a favor and check them out. They are truly something unique and amazing to see. If you HAVE seen Stefon before, then by all means click the link to see his farewell.
This bit served as a good bye to Hader, one of the most versatile players ever on SNL. It also felt like an early farewell to Seth Meyers, who will be leaving after the fall run of shows. Meyers represented the audiences connection to Bill Hader. No matter how hard we tried, there was no denying his lovable goof ball charm. I’ll miss his antics and also look forward to seeing him in many more amazing small movie roles (has anyone ever been more awesome than Bill Hader in small movie roles? Superbad, Sarah Marshall, Year One, Pineapple Express).
The second farewell piece was for Fred Armisen, a totally underrated member of the SNL troupe. Fred is the weird guy, with strange quirks and bizarre interests. Of all the people at SNL, he may be the most interesting guy to grab a beer with because you just know he could talk about anything (imagine trying to talk to Jason Sudeikis about anything but sports or chicks?) And his send off was vintage Fred. Weird, and truly appreciated by only the nerdy, he brought back his Ian Rubbish character. In a skit that really wasn’t funny, but I was totally ok with it, we saw the last of Fred on Saturday Night. And to make things even more awesome, he invited a few of his punk friends up to jam. See Fred’s goodbye here. In a fitting move, Hader was by his side on guitar, along with the probably departing Jason Sudeikis on drums.
I’m excited to see what happens next. Lorne Michaels is losing a ton of firepower, but there are some stars still on the roster. And of course, they can always do what they always do – Bring in new talent to start another beginning to another era.