A look at ‘Saturday Night Live!’ season 47

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Did you miss out on the latest season of America’s beloved sketch comedy show “SNL?” Looking ahead to the next year of laughs, reflect on the series’ place in the nation’s cultural and artistic context (Courtesy of Creative Commons).

There’s something timeless about “Saturday Night Live,” NBC’s Emmy Award-winning late-night comedy show, which specializes in sketch comedy, digital shorts and satirical news. Perhaps it’s the show’s longevity, since it’s been running for over four decades, marking this past season its 47th continuous year. 

It’s no secret that the beloved comedy television show began to falter in the eyes of fans in recent seasons; this is demonstrated best by season 46’s Rotten Tomatoes score of 70% and its accompanying audience score of 32%. Yet it appears the show is regaining its spark, one that was perhaps demolished by the easy comedy offered by the dramatic political world of Trump’s presidency. USA Today remarked that “[SNL’s] cast, though still large and unwieldy (with 15 regulars and six featured players), has rarely been so well deployed.” Simply put, season 47 put the historic show back on track for its true purpose: to achieve unique and solid comedy. 

Although the head writers remained stagnant from the previous season, with Michael Che, Colin Jost and Ken Sublette continuing to run the writers’ room and maintaining the traditional sketchwriting format, there were also some notable “new kids on the block.” 

Ten new writers joined the roster with talent from all corners of the comedy scope, including former writer for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” Mike DiCenzo and stand-up comedian Alex English. The most notable addition was the viral comedy team known as Please Don’t Destroy, which comprises John Higgins, Martin Herlihy and Ben Marshall. Preceding its time on “SNL,” the group specialized in creating videos with absurd premises with gradually rising stakes that bordered on an insane “resolution,” that were shared on social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube and Twitter. Some of their most successful video sketches include “Hard Seltzer,” which comments on the increase in hard seltzers available and their music video collaboration with Pete Davidson and Taylor Swift, “Three Sad Virgins (ft. Taylor Swift).”

This season also ushered in three new featured players to the cast: comedian and filmmaker Aristotle Athari, impressionist James Austin Johnson and surrealist comedian Sarah Sherman (also known by her stage name, Sarah Squirm). Although the returning cast members, such as Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon, continued to provide a reliable, hilarious backbone to the show, the new members were no strangers to stealing the spotlight more than enough times. Sherman excelled in her “Weekend Update,” flexing her stand-up comedy chops, in which she acted as a field correspondent but would often turn headlines on their head to poke fun at Colin Jost, all while donning a whimsical outfit. On the other end of the comedy spectrum, Johnson hit the ground running, appearing in the season’s first cold open with his stellar impression of Donald Trump. 

A significant component of the show, of course, is its celebrity hosts. This season featured stars from every walks of entertainment life, from Kim Kardashian to Ariana DeBose to Jerrod Carmichael. The guests that assisted in creating the strongest episodes include comedian John Mulaney, actor Jason Sudeikis, actor Simu Liu and artist Billie Eilish. 

On Mulaney’s episode, his monologue was deeply vulnerable yet funny, as he utilized material from his current tour, with the strongest sketches being his collaboration with Please Don’t Destroy with “Good Variant” and the musical-style sketch, “Subway Churro.” Sudeikis, an “SNL” alumni himself, killed in “Parent-Teacher Conference,” alongside cast members Kyle Mooney and Ego Nwodim. Liu, following his role in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” was a natural in his hosting debut, shining particularly in “Karaoke All-Stars.” Perhaps the most shocking success, given her tendency to gravitate towards haunting melodies, was Billie Eilish; the most impressive sketch, highlighting both her musical and acting capabilities, featured an old Hollywood and holiday vibe, “Santa Song.”

Of course, the musical guests, the bi-appearance of a particular artist or band during the show act as a palette cleanser from the preceding and following comedic acts. Some of the strongest songs were from female artists. Host and musical guest extraordinaire Billie Eilish stunned audiences with her emotional performances of her songs “Happier Than Ever” and “Male Fantasy,” Taylor Swift gave an emotional rendition of “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) (10 Minute Version),” and The Bleachers, with music genius Jack Antonoff, returned with songs “How Dare You Want More” and “Chinatown.” However, one of the strongest aesthetic performances was demonstrated with Arcade Fire, which featured gas station inflatable dancers. 

The season was the final one for many stellar cast members. The last episode featured many send-offs to exiting actors: Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney and Pete Davidson. McKinnon reprised her role as alien abductee Colleen Rafferty in “Close Encounters” during the show’s cold open. However, at the end of the sketch, she joined the extraterrestrial life, teary-eyed while bidding her farewells to the audience. Davidson chose to close his tenure out on “Weekend Update” as himself, giving a sincere thanks to the show, saying “I appreciate SNL for always having my back, for allowing me to work on myself and grow.” Similarly, Bryant took to the “Weekend Update” desk with fellow cast member Bowen Yang as trend forecasters. She ended the segment with goodbye pecks to Che and Yang. However, Mooney did not receive the same treatment during the show but was featured in a handful of sketches.  

Season 47 was fresh, finally returning to meet the show’s long-standing standards. After years of politically-heavy content that more often than not drew strictly from actual events rather than finding the satire in them (given the fact that life at times felt satirical), “SNL” returned to its lighthearted, escapist roots. Audiences were able to lose themselves into the late hours of the night and laugh, a necessary component to survive in these trying times. 

However, they did not fall short of social commentary, but achieved such in an original way. This past season was a hopeful gain in the comedy sphere and it is clear that SNL fans can once again be proud of their beloved show. Although this season saw the departure of several comedy giants, given the new members’ breakout performances throughout the year, the show is ensured to explore new faucets of comedy, dealing with politically charged, plain goofy and surrealist content.