Laughing matters: 40th SNL season brings big changes


New York, NEW YORK -- “Saturday Night Live” turned 40 last weekend and kicked off its newest season with several unique surprises. Recurring staples like political parodies, fake advertisements and satirical news coverage are all part of the old family recipe, put forth by prime-time patriarch Lorne Michaels—but this season’s new faces, new voices and new sketch strategies might change the way New Yorkers, and Americans at large, view their Saturday nights. As the opening credits blasted off with jazz-infused fervor, something was noticeably missing from the introductions of the cast members: the voice of Don Pardo. Pardo served as the announcer of “Saturday Night Live” for 39 consecutive years and passed away in the summer of 2014, just months before the new season. Pardo’s extensive career in television was matched in size by his booming voice, which has become an unmistakable part of the show’s history.

Featured players, Michael Che and Pete Davidson are new cast members with interesting roles. Che served as a writer for “Saturday Night Live” before his 2014 debut as co-anchor of “Weekend Update.” He is the first African-American in this role. Last season, Cecily Strong co-hosted alongside both Seth Meyers and Colin Jost, who replaced Meyers mid-season.

King’s student Tim Perdew, who was in-studio during the show’s rehearsal, was surprised by Che’s promotion at the expense of Strong’s comedy.

“You can definitely tell [“Weekend Update”] is in its infancy stages because the two anchors don’t have that chemistry going on just yet, which is a little unfortunate," he said. "But I think it’s going to get better with time. More guests than usual appeared on 'Weekend Update,' perhaps in an attempt to add variety where this chemistry was lacking."

The past few seasons have left big shoes to fill, following the departure of notable players such as Seth Meyers, Bill Hader and Andy Samberg. But Perdew insists that a “new crop of talent” is ready to be harvested. He recalled, “[Pete Davidson], the young man in his twenties, is absolutely hilarious.” At age twenty, Davidson is the youngest player on the current roster, and the first ever to be born in the 1990s, according to the New York Post. He contributed his first joke as a guest on "Weekend Update."

Host of the first week, Chris Pratt stole the show in roles such as a psychotic veterinarian, a life-sized He-Man action figure and an adult member of a child gang. Though comedic moments abounded, Perdew thought that the regular players relied too heavily on the host instead of on their own strengths.

Furthermore, for a season premiere, the show lacked its usual presentation of celebrity cameos, apart from an appearance by Anna Faris during the the monologue. Last year’s season premiere featured veteran, Tina Fey and “Breaking Bad” star, Aaron Paul. These gaps in the picture are likely results of major recent cast transitions.

“As much as I’m sad that my favorite SNL alums have left, I think that’s kind of what the show is—it’s the offering of America’s newest talent," Perdew said. "Not in a hokey, Howie Mandel way, but in a very holistic experiment of comedy.”