“Saturday Night Live” outlasted the omicron variant just long enough for one final show of 2021, a year that started with hope and ended with a new pandemic wave impacting weekend laughs again.
“SNL” aired with a limited cast and crew, no live audience, and absent the sounds of scheduled musical guest Charli XCX, who tweeted that her planned performances were not possible with the “limited crew” available.
“Due to the recent spike in the Omicron variant and out of an abundance of caution, there will be no live audience for tonight’s taping of ‘Saturday Night Live’ and the show will have limited cast and crew,” “SNL” tweeted.
The show had echoes of spring 2020, when “Saturday Night Live” was produced, at times, remotely, with sketches taped at cast members’ homes in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Once again there were no live sketches from the studios of 30 Rock, but perennial host Tom Hanks and former cast member and head writer Tina Fey came to the rescue.
The night’s entertainment included previously recorded sketches mixed in with some classics, like that holiday music video about a gift box performed by Justin Timberlake and former cast member Andy Samberg.
Hanks opened by saying, “Thank you, surviving crew members.”
Host Paul Rudd was to be inducted into “SNL’s” Five Timers Club, which Hanks said he started to honor celebrities who have hosted five shows. Fey said he started the club “like he started Covid.”
The achievement often includes a club smoking jacket and the acknowledgement that the host is still inferior to those who have hosted more, including Hanks and Steve Martin.
Rudd took center stage and said, “Thank you for coming. Thanks for coming. I’m extremely disappointed.”
Cast member Kenan Thompson came on-stage and said, “Where is everybody?”
Thompson congratulated Rudd on “hosting the show 4 1/2 times.”
Steve Martin sent in a video in which he also recognized the night’s five-timer, with the name Paul Rudd patched into the audio as an afterthought.
The first sketch, “Holiday Gifts,” had Rudd as the director of a Home Goods commercial trying to get two graying moms, played by Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant, to say what they “really want” for Christmas.
“Grandchildren” was their answer, every time.
“The thing about Home Goods is we can’t really sell children,” Rudd said.
“Can you check in the back?” Bryant said.
The pair’s insistence ultimately had Rudd thinking seriously about the prospect of grandchildren.
“Oh my God,” he said, “I want grandchildren.”
He continued: “They don’t blame you for anything. They just play clarinet and get into college.”
News segment “Weekend Update” carried on without co-host Colin Jost. Tiny Fey stepped in as his temporary replacement, joining regular Michael Che onstage, surrounded by poinsettias.
Regarding Jost, Fey said, “It’s not what you think. He’s having work done.”
The two then went joke-for-joke, with Che quipping about O.J. Simpson’s recent discharge from parole, which stemmed from a 2008 robbery conviction.
“Said O.J., ‘I can’t believe I got out of parole early, but I did it. I did it,” Che said.
Fey noted that Tesla CEO Elon Musk was chosen as Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
“You can read more about it on your phone while your Tesla is self driving you into a lake,” she said.
Che wondered aloud why he and Thompson, both Black, were “the only cast members here” amid strict Covid-19 precautions.
Fey referenced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to allow abortion pills to be sent my mail anywhere in the United States, including to states that have severely restricted the right.
But with the U.S. Postal Service’s sluggish delivery times, she said, “Your pills should arrive just in time for your child’s first birthday.”
Che said a cannabis products and retail company recently claimed to have created the world’s largest pot brownie, 850 pounds’ worth.
“They came up with the idea after eating the world’s second-largest pot brownie,” he said.
“Saturday Night Live is a product of NBC, which is owned by parent company Comcast. Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.
Rudd closed out the show by encouraging Americans to see the best in things.
“Like life,” he said, “SNL” is “unpredictable.”