“Taped from my home one last time, it’s Saturday Night,” Alec Baldwin says, closing out the cold open in the latest quarantined SNL.
It’s a mite optimistic to predict the show will return to the studio when it resumes in the fall. Fingers crossed that Baldwin just means he’s retiring his stale Trump impression forever.
But considering how nimble and innovative the cast has been in its three “At Home” episodes, I’m only hoping SNL gets back to normal because that will mean good news for humanity, rather than for the sake of the show itself.
Over the past six weeks, the cast and crew handily figured out how to translate tricky staples like game shows to the remote format, and even revived old favorites like What’s Up With That?, while accurately reflecting America’s growing cooped-up madness and over-reliance on apps right back at us. Imagine what else they’ll do if they keep going this way.
Here are Fast Company’s suggestions for what SNL should take from its remote format back to the studio.
Keep it short and sweet
Saturday Night Live has a mostly well-earned reputation for sketches going on way too long. One of the reasons the show has felt punchier in recent weeks is that creative limitations have forced all the sketches down to between one-and-a-half and four minutes.
Where they belong!
Obviously, there should be exceptions when a sketch truly calls for it, but short and sweet should be the name of the game going forward.
More kids on the show, please
It looks like John Mulaney had the right idea with his gonzo Sack Lunch Bunch kids variety special on Netflix. Who knew that having the cast and crew of SNL trapped at home with their kids would pay off creatively? Rather than pretend the kids aren’t there, or just make jokes about them on Weekend Update, recent episodes have thrown the next generation of SNL stars (especially Mikey Day’s son) into the mix and wrung plenty of laughs out of them. Maybe don’t hire those babysitters back just yet!
Hire Pete Davidson’s mom as a remote location director
Speaking of limitations, as I noted after the first quarantine episode, Pete Davidson’s mom is doing great work as a guest director. At this point, by mere virtue of indulging her son’s extended audition for a rap career each week, she’s earned herself a continued spot on the team.
Don’t restrict high-voltage guest stars to political sketches
Remember a thousand years ago, back in early February, when SNL responded to the endless primary season with so many star-studded debate recap sketches? And how that moment followed a couple years of bringing on big names like Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, and Melissa McCarthy to play Michael Cohen, Robert Mueller, and Sean Spicer? For better or worse, those days are now over, and it’s been refreshing to see high-voltage guest stars like Martin Short and Adam Sandler pop in to the show just for the hell of it, not because they slightly resemble an affiliate of the Trumpiverse and have the desire to chime in.
While we’re at it, SNL should consider having more hosts on who aren’t there to promote anything in particular. It shouldn’t just be John Mulaney who gets to do that. (But please keep having John Mulaney do that.)
It’s an ensemble show, but it doesn’t have to be for every sketch
The limitations of these remote episodes have brought about more solo showcases. Back in the Before Time, these spotlight moments were often just restricted to Weekend Update desk pieces. Now that we’ve seen some more (awesomely weird) possibilities, though, there may be no going back.
Less emphasis on perfect makeup in impressions
One thing Chloe Fineman’s standout turn as SNL’s head impressionista has proven is that one does not need state-of-the art makeup to achieve verisimilitude. Just let these performers pretend to be whoever tickles their fancy, visual resemblance be damned.
Don’t be afraid to get sentimental
One of the last earnest moments from SNL, and admittedly I could be missing something here, is the female cast members singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to Robert Mueller, a moment thankfully not well-remembered enough to live in infamy. The gravity of the pandemic, however, has brought out a sentimental streak in the show, whether it’s bringing out Boyz II Men to sing “A Song for Mama” on Mother’s Day, or the excellent “Dreams” sketch below, which made me tear up from how much I miss a functioning New York City but did not skimp on the jokes either.
No matter how soon the quarantine lifts, we’re all going to be reeling from the psychological effects of this pandemic for a long time, so we’re gonna need all the jokes infused with heart that we can get.