Saturday Night Live

Lil Nas X Rocks ‘SNL' Finale as Chris Rock and Cast Reflect on Pandemic

"SNL" wrapped up their 46th season in spectacular fashion, from a highlight reel of 2020 to a memorable Lil Nas X performance

"Saturday Night Live" Season 46 Finale - Pictured (L-R) are cast members Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson.

The season finale of “Saturday Night Live” began with a look back at one of the strangest years in the history of the show. The cold open acted as a roundtable for the cast members to reminisce on high points, lowlights and obstacles overcome.

As relative newcomer Bowen Yang put it, “We went from doing very weird shows at home to terrifying shows in person.”

When “SNL” returned to the studio, they welcomed an audience that consisted mostly of medical workers. Though grateful, the cast “realized that a doctor who just left the E.R. after a 36-hour shift is maybe not the best audience for comedy.”

“One time, and this is true, in the middle of our show a guy in the audience was just reading a medical textbook,” said Cecily Strong, and backed it up with a picture to prove it.

In a surprise cameo, Chris Rock made his first appearance since the first episode of the season and reminded the audience of how different things were last October.

“Here's how messed up the world was then. When I hosted, Kanye West was going to be the musical guest,” said Rock. “He couldn’t do it because he was running for President.”

On a somber note, Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson remembered those who died in the past year, including “beloved music producer Hal Willner.”

The spectacle of the four, teary-eyed "SNL" veterans fueled speculation that this may be their last season, though no official announcement has been made on next season's cast.

“SNL” welcomed enigmatic pop star Lil Nas X to the show for his debut as musical guest. The social media-savvy rapper, who shot to fame with “Old Town Road,” performed two songs from his upcoming album “Montero," including the recently released "Sun Goes Down." 

True to form, Lil Nas X dazzled on the “SNL” stage but also stole the eyes of Twitter with a wardrobe malfunction, splitting his pants while pole-dancing during his performance of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).”

Actress Anya Taylor-Joy hosted the show and announced that this was the first time this year “SNL” has had a “completely full audience, fully vaccinated.” 

The “Queen’s Gambit” star touched on her quarantine-fueled success, asking the audience “If you haven’t seen it, what were you doing all quarantine?”

“It was “Tiger King” and “Queen’s Gambit. That was the only new TV for months.”

Pairing up for the final time this season, Michael Che and Colin Jost kicked off the last “Weekend Update” by taking aim at the GOP and their obstinance regarding the Jan 6 Capitol Riot. 

"Republicans just want to forget the riots ever happened and focus on the future of their party. And the future of their party, is of course, yikes,” said Colin Jost, next to a picture of embattled Republican congressman Matt Gaetz. Gaetz is currently being investigated by the Justice Department over allegations that include sex trafficking and prostitution.

In an end-of-season gift to each other (and the audience), Che and Jost once again decided to “swap jokes,” an end-of-season ritual that involves writing jokes for the other to deliver live without letting them read it prior.  

The sketch, compounded with the dynamic of Che being a Black man and Jost being white, has produced some of the most daring punchlines “SNL” offers. The two often write personal digs, racially charged jokes and generally try to embarrass the other.

The duo did not shirk their duties this time as Jost started off by grimacing through a joke involving an obese monkey from Thailand and “a bunch of black guys.”

“That’s pretty racist, Colin,” giggled a giddy Che as the audience howled with laughter. 

Jost made sure to get his own back, giving his partner a tongue-in-cheek punchline that ended with Che reading off “I know I’m probably the only Black man brave enough to say this on live TV, but blue lives matter more.”

In this notorious comedy pact, the two will read whatever the other has written, no matter how outrageous.

Pete Davidson made his final "SNL" appearance of the season on “Weekend Update,” and first reminded the audience that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. 

“You wouldn’t know this because your life is perfect, but it’s Mental Health Awareness Month," he said to Jost. "My therapist said it’s important to practice self-care, which is why she stopped taking my calls.”

Davidson, never shy of a risk, also used the time to poke fun at the show itself.

“AIDS is a lot like “SNL.” It’s still here, it’s just no one’s gotten excited about it since the 90’s,” he said with a sly grin. “Lorne actually wrote that,” he added, referring to Lorne Michaels, creator and producer of the show. 

After some identity theft and Florida quips, Davidson inevitably arrived at a melancholic moment, reflecting on the pandemic and hinting at what may be a departure from the show.

“The pandemic taught me that we never really know what the future holds. It’s also taught me to be grateful, and I’m very grateful to be here. It’s been an honor to grow up in front of you guys. So, thanks.”

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