WASHINGTON, May 18, 2013 — Tonight on “Saturday Night Live,” Ben Affleck will join the show’s elite five-time hosting club. His name will be added to a roll that includes some of the greatest actors and comedians of our time. Along with Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Christopher Walken, Justin Timberlake, Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Drew Barrymore, Candice Bergen, John Goodman and Danny Devito, Affleck will find himself listed on one of the most exclusive lists in Hollywood.
Big name hosts almost always bring with them big name musical guests, and tonight is no exception. Along with Affleck, tonight’s season finale boasts special musical guest Kanye West. Winning 21 Grammy Awards and being named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by “Time” magazine are just a few of the accolades West brings with him to tonight’s 38th season wrap.
“SNL’s” list of musical guests over the years reminds us that this long-running entertainment series is not only a showcase for budding comedic talents. It’s also served as a reflection of our evolving taste in popular music as well. A quick glance at the list reads like a roster of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees. While “SNL” has long excelled in reflecting the mindset of popular culture through its comedic skits, the show’s musical guests have consistently numbered among the top entertainers in the pop music industry.
If Affleck and West aren’t compelling enough to draw tonight’s late-night viewers, the exit of regular cast members Fred Armisen, Jason Sudeikis, and Bill Hader should be reason enough to watch this evening’s season-ender. All three long time “SNL” cast members have decided to pursue other career avenues after tonight’s episode and will not be returning for the 39th season of “SNL.”
Long time cast member and head writer Seth Meyers will also be exiting next spring to host “Late Night” on NBC. He will replace previous “SNL” cast member Jimmy Fallon who is replacing Jay Leno as the host of “The Tonight Show” as the NBC late night marathon rounds another generational turn.
The big changes in store for “SNL” are just a part of the natural, ongoing evolution of this show. From John Belushi to Will Ferrell, a majority of “SNL’s” cast members have left the show over the years to pursue career possibilities elsewhere. But, almost uncannily, no one has proven so key to the show’s vitality that their respective exits would signal the end of “SNL” forever. Instead, the revolving cast door just means that long time executive producer Lorne Michaels will have to reach into his bag of tricks yet again to come up with tomorrow’s comic geniuses.
During its long run on NBC, “SNL” has had its share of critics, and many of their negative observations have been justified. But in the end, 38 years of broadcasts are the best testament to the show’s success. There have been good seasons and bad seasons, but no live TV show with a 90-minute format is entirely devoid of a few less-than-entertaining moments.
In the end, the sheer spontaneous topicality of “SNL” generally comes out on top. There’s also that one character that arrives on the scene to make the entire show worth watching, regardless of the amount of ups and downs and less-than-inspired filler in between.
Recently, that one character for me has been Bill Hader doing his hilarious club scene character “Stephon.” Hader’s presence on the show as the go-to guy for imitations has more than made up for the numerous, lackluster moments that can cause this show to drag. Regardless of who is hosting and how well the show goes, I’ll be watching in hopes of catching Stephon’s club update one last time.
Tonight when “SNL” ends its 38th season on the air, keep in mind that the first president to be imitated on the show was Gerald Ford, who was famously lampooned as a stumblebum by Chevy Chase way back in 1975. While Chase’s parody of the nation’s only accidental President was actually unjust—the younger Ford had been a superb college athlete—it seemed to capture the nation’s post-Nixon mood. Plus, it was funny anyway.
The Presidential parody tradition has continued ever since. When current cast member Jay Pharaoh does his spot-on Obama imitation tonight, the current Chief Exec will be the seventh president “SNL” has parodied.
Now if that doesn’t impress you, nothing will.
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