A crowd filled with famous faces gathered on Saturday to witness a momentous union — and in other news, Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. For its 43rd season finale, “Saturday Night Live” brought together two powerful entertainers: Tina Fey, who hosted the episode, and the rapper Nicki Minaj, its musical guest. Among the stars who made cameos were Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert De Niro, Donald Glover, John Goodman, Anne Hathaway, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jerry Seinfeld.
When “S.N.L.” alums return as hosts, they tend to reprise their most beloved characters from the show. For Fey, that character is unquestionably her rendition of the 2008 vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin. Palin didn’t show up until the final half-hour, in a sketch set in the Oval Office. It was the highlight of the evening.
“It’s me, the ghost of Sarah Palin,” Fey said as if speaking to Palin’s fans, before clarifying that she was just kidding. “I’m still alive,” she said. “But you had to think about it, didn’t ya?” Clad in a leather motorcycle jacket, Fey explained, “One minute you’re on top, and then you’re gone in the blink of a Scaramucci.” Then she sang a few bars of “What I Did for Love,” from the musical “A Chorus Line.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, played by Aidy Bryant, soon popped in to puzzle over her relatively lengthy tenure as White House press secretary. Speculating on what the future would hold for her, she put her own spin on “What I Did for Love”: “Kiss White House goodbye, and point me toward Fox News,” Bryant sang. “I did what he said to do, and I might regret what I did for Trump.”
Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon), Stormy Daniels (Cecily Strong) and Omarosa Manigault Newman (Leslie Jones) took their turns recounting what they had done for — or, in the case of Daniels, “with” — President Trump. Fred Armisen, the “S.N.L.” alum and “Portlandia” star, joined the production number as Michael Wolff, the White House reporter behind the book “Fire and Fury.” His verse included the line, “The truth was mine to borrow.”
The sketch’s other surprise guest was Goodman, who delivered an impression of Trump’s former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. “I’m the only man ever to go into a situation scathed and come out unscathed,” he joked. “Trump was the biggest mess I’ve ever dealt with, and I worked for Exxon Mobil.”
Too Many Cameos?
About an hour earlier, Fey’s opening monologue poked fun at the reliance by “S.N.L.” on well-known actors like De Niro, Alec Baldwin and Ben Stiller, all of whom had just appeared in the opening sketch. After announcing that she would take questions from the audience, she called on Seinfeld, who asked, “Do you think the show has too many celebrity cameos these days?”
Fey also fielded throwaway questions from Cumberbatch, Hathaway, De Niro, Armisen and Chris Rock. Glover, who hosted the show earlier this month and worked with Fey as a writer on “30 Rock,” asked whether Fey had seen a hat he had left backstage. “I have this system in place where I’ll be able to tell if you wore it or not,” he warned her.
The sweetest cameo of the night came at the end of the monologue, when Fey’s “30 Rock” co-star Tracy Morgan took the stage to wish her a happy birthday. (She joked that she was now 60 but had, in fact, just turned 48 on Friday.) “If your man isn’t making you feel special today, I will,” he offered.
It was probably inevitable that the episode would feature a sketch about the royal wedding, which took place earlier that morning. But what was really impressive was how quickly the “S.N.L.” costume department was able to throw together copies of clothing as distinctive as Queen Elizabeth’s chartreuse suit and Kate Middleton’s flowery white hat.
Prince Harry, played by Mikey Day, offered a guided tour of the posh reception. “The past six years I’ve been pregnant, so I’m goin’ hard tonight,” Strong, as Middleton, proclaimed. Playing a great-uncle of Markle’s, Kenan Thompson attempted to convince the queen to watch “The Crown.” Alex Moffat’s Prince William drank what he called a “virgin hot toddy” (otherwise known as tea) and cut loose on the dance floor with baby Prince Louis strapped to his chest.
But the party really got going when Harry ventured into the room reserved for the wedding’s less distinguished guests, such as one of Markle’s fellow “briefcase girls” from her stint on “Deal or No Deal” and the comedian Russell Brand (played by Pete Davidson). It was a bit surprising to see Princess Diana’s close friend Elton John (Aidy Bryant) relegated to the B-list, but at least he had Leslie Jones, who played herself, for company.
Fey rounded out that guest list — and got the biggest laugh lines — as the dentally challenged Duchess of Devonshire-Upon-Cump, who, among other things, had been kicked in the face by a horse and had a complicated family history. “I am both your aunt and your niece,” she explained to Harry, who said he’d known her better as “Auntie Creepy.”
A ‘Sopranos’-Style Open
Alec Baldwin is basically an “S.N.L.” cast member at this point, so the show had to up the ante on guest stars in the last opening sketch of the season. The A-listers filtered in slowly, over the course of a sketch that spoofed the famously cryptic series finale of “The Sopranos.” Baldwin’s Trump strode into Holsten’s Restaurant in Bloomfield, N.J., cued up Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” on the jukebox and asked the waitress, “Is HPV different from H.I.V.?”
The first Trump associate to bluster in was Rudy Giuliani, played by McKinnon, who gave a boastful play-by-play of his puzzling appearance on Fox News earlier this month. “I told them you were openly colluding with Russia,” McKinnon bragged, “and then I said, ‘So what?’”
The “S.N.L.” staples Donald Jr. (Mikey Day) and Eric Trump (Alex Moffat) joined the reunion, although Eric took his time parallel parking his tricycle first. But the marquee names at the diner were De Niro and Stiller as Robert Mueller and Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen — roles they played earlier in the season. Asked what he had been up to since his dismissal from the president’s inner circle, Cohen said, “Mostly just preparing for jail and stuff.”
Mueller had slipped in, unnoticed by everyone but Trump, and was listening in from a nearby table. When he made for the bathroom, he signaled that he had his eyes on the president. But, just as on “The Sopranos,” viewers didn’t get to see what happened next.
‘Weekend Update’ Joke of the Week
Amid jokes about the Mueller investigation, Giuliani and the royal wedding, the co-anchor Michael Che took issue with a study that found that black and Latino suspects made up the overwhelming majority of marijuana arrests in New York City. “Well, duh — we’re the only ones they search,” he said. “That’s like saying the only people that have S.T.D.s are the people that take tests for S.T.D.s.”
Che added: “If cops searched white dudes in cargo shorts as much as they search black dudes in hoodies, prison would look like a Dave Matthews concert. People are always talking about needing diversity in Hollywood. Know where we really need diversity? Jail.”
‘Weekend Update’ Deskside Gag of the Week
The breakout star of the royal wedding was the American Episcopal bishop Michael Curry, who gave a lengthy speech on the power of love. In a deskside interview, Thompson joined Che and his co-host, Colin Jost, with an impression of Curry that he must have put together in just a few hours. Recounting his appearance at the wedding, he complained, “I’m up there giving my all, and a sea of white faces is just looking back at me, and I thought, ‘Oh, Lord help me, this must be what it’s like to be Darius Rucker.’”