TV Review: Saturday Night Live (Live) – Andy Samberg, St. Vincent (Season Finale)

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Last night, for the first time ever, I saw Saturday Night Live in person. My girlfriend and I entered the random lottery back in August and she miraculously won a pair of tickets. It was literally a dream come true. I have watched this show since I was a little kid and always wondered what it would be like to see it in person. Simply being there is honestly an incredible experience in itself. However, thanks to some extra luck, my girlfriend and I managed to get us into the floor section. This meant we were literally right in the action. Cameras were flying around us at all times and skits unfolded only a mere feet away. The energy in the room was palpable, and it made the whole thing so surreal.

Pop-Break's Assignment Editor Lauren Stern and TV Editor Luke Kalamar live at last night's SNL taping.
Pop-Break’s Assignment Editor Lauren Stern and TV Editor Luke Kalamar live at last night’s SNL taping.

That being said, my personal experience doesn’t exactly allow me to write a conventional review. You simply cannot compare seeing it in person and watching it air live on television. The differences get even greater when you’re actually in the action. It’s not simple to get tired when people are running around you behind-the-scenes. The upside to this is that it’s unbelievably easy to get sucked into the experience. From my vantage point, there wasn’t a weak moment at all during the night. Sure there were some better skits than others, but everything made me laugh so hard my face hurt. It’s probably the first time all season I can say that, and I’m totally knowledgeable that actually being there contributed.

Rest assured, that’s not me saying that the show wasn’t absolutely hilarious on its own. Bringing Andy Samberg in to host the Season Finale was an incredibly wise move. His rising popularity thanks to Brooklyn Nine-Nine proves he has exactly what is necessary to be a legitimate comedic star. It also helped that he brought with him the rest of The Lonely Island crew Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. This meant we got two absolutely amazing Digital Shorts, segments that producers are clearly trying to re-create with Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney. While Bennett and Mooney have succeeded in making some endearingly weird bits, last night reminded us that the Digital Shorts will always reign supreme.

Since last night was the Season Finale, plenty of special guests came by. The list is really extensive: SNL veterans Maya Rudolph, Seth Meyers, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Martin Short, three-time host Paul Rudd, and rap superstar 2-Chainz. The Digital Shorts also featured Lil’ Jon, Pharrell, and Tatiana Maslany. It was easily the most packed the show has been in quite some time. While I’m sure this doesn’t require any mentioning, we lost it every single time these guests appeared. You can probably guess how well Kissing Family went over for the crowd. That skit was definitely a stand-out moment of the night.

All the special guests did have an unfortunate side-effect though. It left plenty of cast members off the cameras, especially a good amount of the featured players. Even some of the main cast was pushed to the wayside. Bobby Moynihan had one role with actual dialogue, which was a delightful rendering of Gimli from Lord of the Rings, but that was only a few seconds. Perhaps not surprisingly, John Milhiser, Mike O’Brien, Brooks Wheelan, and Noël Wells were nowhere to be seen. Normally there is at least one ensemble sketch to give everyone as much airtime as possible, but nothing of the sort was planned. If anything, this is likely a sign that the cast needs to get cut down. I can’t imagine it boding well when cast members of SNL past get precedence over the people who currently work on the show.

Though I am clearly biased on this front, Andy Samberg’s first time hosting is my favorite episode of the season. I’m still on a high by seeing it and it’s not something I will ever forget. St. Vincent was also as spectacular live as you can possibly imagine. Her latest self-titled release is incredible and playing her two lead singles was a brilliant decision. My favorite performance of the two was “Birth in Reverse,” but “Digital Witness” is still my top track off the entire album. If there is one episode all season that you must watch, I’d say this one is a strong contender.

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Getting tickets to see SNL is honestly all about luck. The lottery you enter is only open for a few weeks in August and your name is randomly chosen from a pile for a random episode. Simply getting picked out of the seemingly massive numbers that enter is definitely an accomplishment. If you cannot go on your selected date, then you’re completely screwed. You’ll have to wait until the lottery opens again to enter. The fact that my girlfriend and I were available to go, just happened to get picked for the Season Finale, and were able to get floor seats is still unbelievable to me. If you ever get a chance to see SNL in person, I cannot recommend it any higher.

For the sake of giving this episode a numerical value: 9/10

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