Saturday Night Live was last on the air on Dec. 19, and as you may have heard, a few things have happened since. The riot at the capitol and the Georgia senatorial races rated their own sketches later in the show, but for the cold open, rather than focus on any catastrophe in particular, SNL went broad. Kate McKinnon kicked off the show by shuffling the audience from disaster to disaster as part of an investigations into which American institutions still work. The answers will probably not surprise you:
On first glance, this relatively unfunny cold open might make it seem like Saturday Night Live is just one more American institution that no longer works. Just like you have to listen to the notes jazz musicians don’t play, though, you have to pay attention to what SNL is not doing, and in this cold open they’re not doing quite a lot. They didn’t draft Kristen Wiig or Amy Poehler or whoever to play fringe congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. They didn’t bring back Jim Carrey as Joe Biden or Maya Rudolph as Kamala Harris. Best of all, they made it through an entire cold open that didn’t revolve around Donald Trump.* It’s an amazing use of negative space, and with any luck heralds a new era in SNL, one where the cast members and host play people in the news instead of the rotating team of celebrity ringers that characterized the Trump years, one where Cecily Strong’s impression of Marjorie Taylor Greene becomes a popular recurring character, one where Strong inadvertently raises Greene’s public profile so much that NBC decides to let her host an episode, and one where before you know it, it’s 2025 and President Greene has canceled Saturday Night Live to free up the 11:30 time slot for more televised executions. It’s far too late to switch timelines, but there’s good news, too: Alex Moffat’s Mark Zuckerberg impression still works, and we’ll probably get to enjoy it for another four years.
Correction, Jan. 31, 2021: This piece originally misstated that the cold open did not mention Donald Trump. In fact, at the very end, Kate McKinnon asks John Krasinski, “It’s not like you’re a weird Trump guy or anything, right?”