It was a strange night for Saturday Night Live. The big Christmas episode was set to induct Paul Rudd into the Five Timers Club — an elite group of folks who have hosted the show at least five times. But a reported COVID-19 outbreak among the cast forced the show to piece together an episode with only two of the current cast — Kenan Thompson and Michael Che.
That meant no live sketches, a very stripped-down Weekend Update segment with Che and former cast member Tina Fey, and a lot of old holiday sketches being re-aired. But even with all that, SNL did manage to present three new pieces, all shot earlier in the week. And maybe it was the melancholy tone hanging over the entire jury-rigged episode or the somber image of a plucky little show trying its best to struggle on despite adversity, but the standout of the three may have been the least straightforwardly funny.
Shot in black and white, “An Evening With Pete” imagines a sad, washed-up Pete Davidson 33 years in the future. Like a lounge singer working a dingy club decades past his prime, old Pete does a faux Weekend Update with a robot Colin Jost. A bored patron heckles him to “Do Chad!” his most well-known recurring character. He does a Warren Beatty-themed parody of Eminem’s “My Name Is” complete with showgirls carrying cutouts of the Oscar-winning star, prompting a server to remark, “Who exactly is the audience for this?”
Rudd plays Pete’s old estranged writing partner, Eddie Corbin, who gives Pete a Christmas gift. Pete throws him out into the snow, but soon realizes how empty his life is doing old jokes and trying to impress people at the bar. It’s like the Good Book says: Charm is deceptive and BDE is fleeting.
Pete opens the present and decides to reconnect with his old friend. Naturally, this all doesn’t get too sappy; the gift is an enormous bag of weed. The pair share laughs and regale people with old SNL war stories as the black and white sketch becomes full color. Pete sings a farewell song that is both terrible and sweet in equal measure.
There aren’t many hard jokes in the piece, but it’s a lovely send-up of the kind of old black and white films that always seem a little more sincere around this time of year. In his introduction, host Rudd says they finished shooting the sketch at five that morning. That means that either they had to push to get it done knowing that they were going to get shut down later that day or that’s the normal shooting schedule for a weekly live sketch show. Either way, a group of people who work that hard to keep the laughter going through the dark times is a wonderful thing.
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