Current Saturday Night Live season refreshing, humble

Live from New York, Saturday Night Live is on top of its game.

The 39th season of SNL is fresh and vibrant. New cast members mixed with well-selected hosts are enhancing the show.

That said, there are some kinks in the show. At times, it seems as though half of the sketches are redundant talk shows. Too many times, sketches go on two minutes too long.

But there is something unique about this season that overshadows these drawbacks.

Last week, Jonah Hill hosted. In his opening monologue, he paired with Leonardo DiCaprio to recreate the scene between Jack and Rose on the bow of the ship in “Titanic.”

Hill and DiCaprio recently starred together in “The Wolf of Wall Street” together. “Wolf” is full of profanity and not-so-fully-clothed actors. The vulgarity in “Wolf” is far from the sappy, timeless love story that is “Titanic.” Recreating the scene where Rose says she feels like she is flying has nothing to do with “Wolf.”

But the monologue between Hill and DiCaprio touched on a scene familiar to many people. It allowed two famous actors to mock themselves on national television. By drawing on a famous scene, Hill and DiCaprio captivated a wide audience that was already familiar with the scene prior to their monologue. 

It provided common ground for a large audience, allowing their joke to appeal to more people, even if they hadn’t seen both movies — or just one or the other.

What makes Hill’s and DiCaprio’s approaches to their monologues funny is that they allowed themselves to be in on the joke. The hosts are not selected just because of their popularity. They are allowing their personal lives and careers to become the butt of a joke. 

They are not just guest actors; they become comedians.

In addition to the successes of Hill and DiCaprio, SNL hit it out of the park by signing on Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake to host the show’s Christmas special.

The fact that SNL recognized how well Fallon and Timberlake work with each other, as well as their appeal to a wide audience, exhibits the show’s ability to fuel its viewers’ interests. 

Viewers are not going to tune in every week if SNL is writing obscure material that audiences have never heard of before. Instead, SNL recognizes what is prominent in pop culture and incorporates these references into their creativity.

While the hosts headline each episode, the success of the hosts would be lost without the recurring cast. Part of what makes this season remarkable is the originality emanated from newer castmates.

SNL head writer Seth Meyers has worn the crown of Weekend Update for years. However, don’t fret over who will fill his shoes when he leaves for Late Night: Cecily Strong has the same shoe size.

In just her second season, she keeps up with Meyers. She delivers quick, witty lines in a flat, reporter-like voice to shock viewers about the quirkiness in world news. She is continuing the legacy of Weekend Update set by well-known names like Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

Spot-on impersonations by newer cast members carry the rest of the show. 

Presidential impersonations are another theme of SNL. Jay Pharoah does a spot-on impersonation of President Barack Obama. Being able to impersonate a president who was so popular with younger generations in the 2008 and 2012 elections acts as an incentive to draw in younger viewers.

Kate McKinnon does such a good impersonation of Ellen DeGeneres that it would scare the prankster talk show host herself. She does not just master the voice of the person she impersonates, but she transforms herself into the character physically, like when she became Justin Bieber.

Impersonations are not unfamiliar territory for SNL, and neither are digital skits. Noel Wells built on both of these comedic outlets in her role in the spoof of “Girls.” Cast members like Wells prove that SNL can stick to popular, familiar territory, but evolve with new members with various pasts.

In his past, Mike O’Brien hosted a web series, 7 Minutes in Heaven, where he created awkward scenarios with celebrities in a closet. Sasheer Zamata showcased her talents by dancing during her Rihanna impersonation and singing in her New Year’s resolution skit.

New cast members are merging their pasts with SNL’s past to create new success with fresh faces.

This season of SNL is exhilarating. It makes the humbleness of its hosts funny. It recreates the past with new, talented faces. It showcases what viewers think is funny, not what SNL wants to make funny.

It is a hit.

And there are plenty of Saturdays still to go.

Rebecca is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected].