chris rock and meg thee stallion hosting SNL
Photo Courtesy of Rosalind O'Connor / NBC

The Return of SNL: A Sense of Normalcy Within the Chaos

Saturday Night Live (SNL) made its return on Oct. 3 for the 46th season with Chris Rock as host and Megan Thee Stallion as the musical guest. The season premiere had the highest viewership in four years, proving its enduring popularity. 

In March, SNL abruptly ended in-person production due to COVID-19 and finished the rest of its 45th season with three bi-weekly videos filmed from the cast's homes. The cast did their best to keep the quality of the show up, however, the buzz of a live show was gone. Amidst a dearth of movie premieres and in-person talk shows, the return of SNL to its original in-studio format brings back a sense of familiarity and normalcy.

With the presidential election, there was much excitement garnered for the SNL political parodies. People look to SNL to make sense of the presidential elections via comedic recaps. In many instances, the performances on the show are many times more memorable than the actual politicians the actors are portraying. For example, Tina Fey as Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential election is as infamous as Palin herself, and Kate McKinnon made comic history by portraying Rudy Giuliani during Trump’s presidency.

Alec Baldwin returns once again to SNL with his iconic impersonation of Donald Trump, orange spray tan and all. With the hand gestures and squaring of the lips, Baldwin pulled the essence of Trump to create his persona. 

Maya Rudolph returns as the Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris. The comedian’s take on Harris puts a maternal spin on the politician. During the First Debate Cold Open, Rudolph steps out to interrupt the presidential debate as Baldwin as Trump continues to aggravate Carey as Biden using lasers and such. “Boys, boys, boys...” Rudolph said, walking out to a sea of applause. She is the cool mom breaking up a schoolyard fight, promising to make everyone “PB&J and apple slices” when the debate is over.

Jim Carey’s portrayal of Joe Biden has been highly animated and controversy has risen from his comedic choice. In a Vanity Fair article, writer Karen Valby says that Carey “gives a bad Joe Biden when the country has never needed a good Joe Biden more.” Some people believe that Carey’s take on Biden just misses the mark. Biden is known for his "nice guy" aura and ability to connect with a crowd emotionally, while Carey fills his impersonation with showman qualities like exaggerated facial expressions and physical comedy. On the other hand, some people believe that as a politician, Joe Biden’s standing should be stable enough to be able to take a jab; after all, it is sketch comedy.

These skits offer accessible ways for audiences to connect to politics instead of watching a two-hour long speech filled with bureaucratic language and edited attitudes. SNL strives to challenge perceptions and the status quo. The often provocative jokes both in the skits and Weekend Update are designed to ask people: “Are we really ok with this? Is this what we are settling for?"

With the new results in the election, there is much anticipation for how SNL will shed light on the stress and anxiety that was election week. With Trump’s term coming to a close, what will SNL do next?

SNL has done a good job of covering the first debate, the Town Hall debates, and the final debates, showing the central themes that appeared on those nights. Some highlights in SNL's take on the Final Debate include the comedians riffing on how the Commission on Presidential Debates had to make the decision to mute President Trump and former vice president Biden's microphones after they failed to allow each other to speak for their allotted time.

Accompanied by other enjoyable sketches and incredibly talented hosts and musical guests, SNL has not declined in quality despite the new COVID-19 restrictions. The skits are filmed with no face masks while following strict filming guidelines, so the pace and the feel of the show has not changed. 

While everything around us has felt like it is falling apart, it is nice to get back something from before the time of the coronavirus pandemic.