Mick Jagger isn’t exactly known for his comedy stylings. But the man knows a little bit about performing, and he was an extremely game host for tonight’s 37th season finale of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. He didn’t have much to do, though, with the night’s highlights.
The highest of those was the sweet, teary farewell to Kristen Wiig after 7 years on SNL, which began as a final “sketch” with Jagger bringing Wiig to the stage of a high school graduation, but quickly became a series of brief dances (with Arcade Fire playing) for each member of the cast (and Lorne Michaels) to have a last few moments on camera with her. Everyone seemed genuinely emotional (especially Jason Sudeikis, also reportedly exiting the show), and there’s no question that Wiig has a place in the SNL Hall of Fame. Unusually, some former cast members who didn’t even appear on the show itself showed up just for Wiig’s goodnights, including Amy Poehler and Rachel Dratch.
Not unexpectedly, the episode included some–although not as many as you might have expected–of Wiig’s signature characters, including the first actually funny version of the Lawrence Welk Show sketch in many iterations. This was the cold open, so Jagger didn’t appear, but Jon Hamm (not just an SNL favorite, but Wiig’s co-star in Bridesmaids and Friends With Kids) was on hand as an Italian guest singer who finally provided Wiig’s deformed performer with some sick romance.
The truly hilarious bit of the night–and isn’t it always?–was Stefon’s appearance on Update. At this point, Bill Hader can barely get through a single sentence of these pieces without breaking, but who can blame him, when the clubs he recommends include one with “Jewish fireworks,” another that features “a woman with nowhere to turn,” and a third “written and directed by James L. Brooks.” Even Seth Myers, usually better at holding things together, started to lose it at one point.
Jagger’s monologue wasn’t much (he answered Mick Jagger FAQs), but he delivered it enthusiastically. He had more to do in a (final?) return of Secret Word, which of course was another of Wiig’s oft-repeated characters and featured him as a barely-closeted 1960s action star. He was also quite good as a melancholy insurance agent who had to endure people doing Mick Jagger karaoke songs, which ended with his own sad in-character rendition of “Satisfaction.” Although the “So You Think You Can Dance At An Outdoor Music Festival” was one of the night’s better sketches, that was mostly due to the dances–Jagger’s Steven Tyler didn’t get any funnier after the first glimpse of him in the outfit and wig.
The show’s dead spots included an Al Sharpton sketch (with Jagger briefly featured as a J.P. Morgan exec) that seemed to be based on Sharpton screwing up his cue cards on MSNBC–surely there are funnier jokes to make about Al Sharpton than that?–and for our sins, the return of “The Californians,” an endless rehash of the same jokes about Valley Girl accents and freeway directions, this time unaccountably with a brief cameo by Steve Martin.
Also of potentially historic note tonight: what may have been, if Andy Samberg is also leaving the show, the last of the Digital Shorts, at least in their current form, a sequel to “Lazy Sunday” that was fun but couldn’t compete with the original (Sister Act just isn’t as funny a topic as The Chronicles of Narnia), let alone last week’s epic 100th. Also it certainly seemed like Jagger’s 3rd musical number, a wan piece of political satire, included an unbleeped (at least on the East Coast feed) use of the word “shit.”
So 37 years and counting for SNL. The series now out-rates almost everything on NBC’s primetime schedule, so it’s not going anywhere, and people seem a lot calmer about the show than they used to be. In the first decade or so after the legendary first 5 years, there was constant sulking and resentment about the series not being what it used to be, and an insistence that it have something important to say about contemporary politics and society. Now it’s just a TV show, some weeks better than others, some sketches better than others, some casts better than others. If Wiig, Sudeikis and Samberg are all leaving, that will be one of the heavier recent blows the show has had to weather in a single season. But SNL is the Old Man River of television at this point–it just keeps rolling along.