Saturday Night Live’s remote show: What to watch for tonight

Mikey Day and Idris Elba (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)
Mikey Day and Idris Elba (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC) /

Saturday Night Live will make history with the show’s first remote episode tonight on NBC.

Saturday Night Live fans will see something tonight never before seen in the show’s history. Due to social distancing and quarantining efforts, the episode will be completely remote.

It took some time but SNL finally figured out whether it should return to the air and how to do it. The solution is to bring cast members together online to produce sketches and other bits to be broadcast at the show’s normal time on NBC.

The task tonight certainly won’t be easy as other late night shows have discovered. It took The Tonight ShowLate Night, and others some time to determine the best way to make at-home editions of the program. And those shows don’t have the same challenges facing Saturday Night Live with its unique format.

But the show must go on. The country needs an escape and entertainment now more than ever it seems and SNL is ready to step up. Here are five things to watch for tonight:

The audience factor

“Live” is the most important part of Saturday Night Live. The show airs live and in front of a live studio audience. Obviously this remote episode eliminates the studio audience which should result in an interesting product for the viewers at home.

We have seen time and time again how audience reaction can make or break a sketch in real time. Performers can usually tell if things are going well or bombing based on how the audience is reacting right in front of them. Will playing to a camera set up in their house affect how cast members perform? Late night viewers have seen other hosts have to adjust to delivering jokes in a quiet place.

The live audience also enhances the viewing experience at home. Loud laughs or deafening silence from the studio audience can also influence people watching from the couch. Without it, will Saturday Night Live feel like its landing if there is no safety net?

Weekend Update

The easiest recurring segment to write and produce remotely is “Weekend Update.” Co-anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che can take inspiration from Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah and others how on to run through jokes from home rather than at Studio 8H.

With that in mind, fans may be treated to an extended edition of “Weekend Update” or one that takes up a bigger segment of the episode. And while the absence of a full crew of costume and make-up artists make it impossible to pull off some characters, there are a few that could call in for a video chat with Jost and Che. You can see Last Night On’s picks, including two from Cecily Strong, right here.

Comedy in the time of coronavirus

All of late night has had to navigate how to make comedy during a pandemic. By waiting this long to return to the air, Saturday Night Live should have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

The last time fans saw new material from SNL, the show took on the novel coronavirus story head-on with host Daniel Craig. A number of sketches and “Weekend Update” jokes were dedicated to the circumstances brought on by the pandemic.

Fans shouldn’t be surprised to hear jokes at the expense of President Donald Trump or Fox News. Beyond that, the jokes should lean more towards parodying life in quarantine, like binging Tiger King, taking Zoom calls, and homeschooling. It’s also worth noting that on Instagram, Michael Che observed that most novel coronavirus jokes aren’t funny. He also recently lost his grandmother to COVID-19. This could certainly inform how SNL handles the sensitive situation we’re all in together.

Surprise guests

Season 45 of Saturday Night Live has been marked by a number of special guest appearances and cameos. The list includes Alec Baldwin, Larry David, Maya Rudolph, Jason Momoa, Billy Porter, Rachel Dratch, Jon Hamm, Jason Sudeikis, Paul Rudd, and many, many more.

Some fans have loved these visits and others have preferred the attention stay on the cast. Tonight’s remote episode would increase the likelihood of a cameo considering most actors’ schedules are wide open and nobody has to be in New York City on a Saturday night. And with no host, the show may be looking to add some unexpected face into the mix.

Contenders include Larry David returning as Senator Bernie Sanders one more time to say goodbye to his campaign. SNL alumni like Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, and Kristen Wiig have also figured out how to perform in a sketch from home.

If this was a typical week, SNL’s cold open would most likely parody President Trump’s press briefings. That means someone would have to play Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx. Former cast member David Spade already nominated someone for Dr. Fauci:

Who would you pick? And what about Dr. Birx? Anna Gasteyer comes to mind for us. Tonight SNL could imagine the White House task force meeting via Zoom if it wants to take on these briefings on the show. Calling in some help from alumni would certainly help.

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What are your expectations for Saturday Night Live‘s remote episode? How do you think things will go on the air? Let us know in the comment section and be sure to check back with Last Night On for all the highlights.