The Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary special was a surreal and nostalgic night, hiccups and creative choices aside. But the anniversary show existed on a completely different level for those involved with it.
Macdonald’s length Wednesday night Twitter narrative began with a simple statement that soon expanded in to so much more.
Things started out calmly when Macdonald began working on the 40th anniversary special the Monday before it aired. People were exhausted but relaxed. He mainly worked with Steve Higgins—who people will recognize as Fallon’s sidekick on The Tonight Show.
Things got interesting when Macdonald began discussing the expectations for the show’s Celebrity Jeopardy sketch. In case you forgot what that looked like, here it is.
That sketch ended up as one of the show’s most discussed moments, but it took a lot of work to get there, as Macdonald explained over the course of several hours.
Celebrity Jeopardy usually worked because it was limited to Alex Trebek, Sean Connery, Burt Reynolds, and one other celebrity impression (the best was Tom Hanks’ dumb Tom Hanks, who understood that it was more than an impression). For last Sunday’s supersized SNL, however, the showrunners wanted even more celebrities.
Macdonald and Higgins struggled with how to make it work, until finally it hit them. With the special being Eddie Murphy’s first SNL appearance in 30 years, they wanted to get him involved. During the five years that Lorne Michaels left SNL, Murphy held the entire show together. His triumphant return came to them in a bout of pure genius.
Meanwhile, Macdonald tried helping Mike Myers and Dana Carvey write the “Wayne’s World” sketch, and during that time Rolling Stone’s ultimate SNL ranking article came out. Macdonald kept asking who was writing “Weekend Update” and worried about the possibility of Bill Murray not showing up. On Twitter, he noted that “it was just like the old days.”
In the hours leading up to the show, Macdonald and his son ended up in the middle of a jam session with Sir Paul McCartney when Murphy showed up. He needed no introduction.
This insight into the 40th anniversary special makes its awkward tribute to Murphy feel even more jilted. But it was, as Macdonald noted again, “quite a week.”
Screengrab via Norm Macdonald/YouTube