Saturday Night LiveThe last episode of the year was also one of the strangest, due to last-minute measures taken in the wake of the Omicron COVID variant wave in NYC.
On Saturday afternoon, NBC’s sketch comedy series announced it would be waiving its live studio audience, as well as limiting the number of cast and crew that would be on set for the production. (Shortly afterward, musical guest Charli XCX completely retired from her performance, declaring that the limited crew would prevent her team from “bringing the most amazing musical performance to life.”) New York Post went on to report that several SNL cast members had tested positive for COVID prior to Saturday’s show.
As a result, instead of a traditional cold opening, Saturday night’s show kicked off with an empty stage and comedy icon Tom Hanks showing up in his 5-Timers Club jacket. Tina Fey, another Five-Timer, then came out, which makes sense since she lives in New York. (You’d think a big star like Hanks could get his plane ticket back from Los Angeles, but we’re living in crazy times.)
Fortunately, this week’s host, Paul Rudd, was on hand to be inducted into the 5-Timers Club, and the legendary tuxedo jacket with a “5” on the chest was cast by Kenan Thompson (the only regular cast member in the studio).
“Congratulations on hosting the show four and a half times,” Thompson bursts out, though sadly it seems like they didn’t have time to replace the “5” with a “4-1/2.”
Steve Martin then agreed to a pre-recorded performance, in which he “accidentally” called Rudd “Tom Hanks” the whole way. Martin Short appeared next to Martin to hand him a drink, in a perfect callback to the OG 5-Timers Club bit from almost exactly 21 years ago, when Hanks himself joined the then…all elite ranks.
It was a wild situation, but SNL has a lot of experience with COVID and does what it can. What followed were new sketches that had already been recorded, and classic sketches (like Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake’s “D–k in a Box”) that were rebroadcast. As Rudd said, ‘It’s going to be a bit like that new Beatles documentary. Lots of old images, but plenty of new things that make you think, ‘Okay, mmm-yes, I’m going to look at that.’”