Hey, Saturday Night Live is coming back! Go ahead and gripe your accurate but irrelevant gripes about a now 46-year-old TV show’s reliance on stunt casting, watery politics, then occasional racist dirtbag host, recycled characters, and a steadfast unwillingness to stop adding featured players to an already overstuffed and underused cast. We’re at the point in this pandemic shutdown where even the pale, thin, sparsely attended ghost of something we’ve grown up with (see: all sports) is cause for disproportionate celebration. With SNL’s Season 46 kicking off at least partly in-studio after three Zoom-ed patchwork episodes and an extended hiatus, Weekend Update anchors, human mismatched buddy comedy, and now co- co- co-head writers Colin Jost and Michael Che (with the very worthy Anna Drezen joining the already three-headed top job alongside Jost, Che, and Kent Sublette), sat down to talk shop with former SNL star Jimmy Fallon.
That’s right, “sat down.” As in “in person,” “in the same room at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and everything.” Not that Jost was enjoying The Tonight Show’s return to semi-normalcy (there are still what sounds like 10 people in the audience) quite as much as Che, since his guest chair was socially distanced essentially to the wings. Che and Fallon were [checks measuring tape] approximately the expert-recommended six feet from each other, while Jost deadpanned the sort of “Aw, you guys,” chagrin he puts on when reading out one of Che’s deliberately Jost-mocking joke-swaps on Update. (“I don’t . . . feel far away,” is how Jost expertly sold his loneliness when Fallon asked him if he, indeed, felt far away.) Hey, you take your COVID-19 laughs where you can find them.
Apart from the Jost-mocking fun, the three SNL hands talked shop about Saturday’s Chris Rock-hosted premiere, with the current stars playing cagey about just what we’re going to see from this new-normal SNL. They wouldn’t even confirm that Jim Carrey’s newly ordained (and hopefully long-running, for all our sakes) Joe Biden would be in attendance, although the recent promo clip of Carrey and the ever-pitch-perfect Maya Rudolph’s Kamala Harris getting into makeup seems to undermine the suspense a bit. As for Rock, the pair explained how their pitch for the SNL alum and comedy superstar to host the first of episode of this who-the-hell-knows new season involved them traveling to Rock’s house and doing some Godfather-style ring-kissing. (Presumably that’s just an analogy—seriously, don’t kiss anyone’s hands, people.)
Speaking of Saturday’s host, each anchor had their own Chris Rock story to prime us for Rock’s third hosting gig. Jost told about the time he and Bobby Moynihan were scheduled to do a “Drunk Uncle” bit in between two musical acts at the sold-out Madison Square Garden benefit for victims of Hurricane Sandy. (Those bands: The Who and The Rolling Stones.) According to Jost, Rock—no stranger to tough rooms—offered up a devastatingly deadpan, “Good luck.” Che’s signature Rock moment came on the set of the Rock written-and-directed starrer Top Five, where co-star Che’s attempt to play it cool around female lead Rosario Dawson was, unfortunately for Che, overheard by Rock. “You’re not sure if you’ve met Rosario Dawson or not?!,” Che imitated Rock blowing up Che’s attempted game with mocking incredulity. “Have you met Beyoncé?,” Rock followed up, ending once and for all whatever hopes Che had had to sound smooth.
Saturday Night Live, Season 46, returns on Saturday, along with the A.V. Club’s coverage thereof.