Saturday Night Live‘s final episode of the year was also one of its strangest, due to last-minute measures taken in the wake of the Omicron COVID variant surge in NYC.
On Saturday afternoon, NBC’s sketch comedy series announced it was forgoing its live studio audience, as well as limiting the number of cast and crew that would be on set for the production. (Shortly after, musical guest Charli XCX bowed out of her performance entirely, stating that the limited crew would prevent her team from bringing “the most amazing musical performance to life.”) The New York Post went on to report that multiple SNL cast members had tested positive for COVID ahead of Saturday’s show.
As a result, rather than any traditional cold open, Saturday night’s show began with an empty stage and comedy icon Tom Hanks appearing in his 5-Timers Club coat. Tina Fey, another Five-Timer, then came out, which makes sense because she lives in New York. (You’d think a big star like Hanks would be able to get a refund on his plane ticket from Los Angeles, but we do live in crazy times.)
Fortunately, this week’s host, Paul Rudd, was on hand to get inducted into the 5-Timers Club, and the legendary smoking jacket with a “5” on the breast was brought out by Kenan Thompson (one of only two members of the regular cast in the studio).
“Congratulations on hosting the show four-and-a-half times,” Thompson cracks, though sadly it looks like they didn’t have time to replace the “5” with a “4-1/2.”
Steve Martin then chimed in with a pre-taped appearance, in which he “accidentally” called Rudd “Tom Hanks” the whole way through. Martin Short appeared alongside 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-very elite ranks.
Tom Hanks and Tina Fey welcome Paul Rudd to the Five-Timers Club! pic.twitter.com/tidzhofdtx
— Saturday Night Live – SNL (@nbcsnl) December 19, 2021
It was a wild situation, but SNL has had plenty of experience with COVID already, and is doing what it can. What followed were new sketches that were already taped, and classic sketches (such as Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake’s “D–k in a Box”) that got re-aired. Like Rudd said, “It’s gonna be a little like that new Beatles documentary. A lot of old footage, but enough new stuff that you’re like, ‘OK, mmm-yeah, I’ll watch that.’”
What did you think of the unusual opening, and Rudd’s “4 1/2-Timer” status?