Credit: NBC

Are you a huge fan of Saturday Night Live‘s current cast? Too bad—because they decidedly were not the focus of Sunday night’s huge, celebrity-stuffed, three-and-a-half-hour-long celebration of SNL‘s 40 years on air. The event featured a laundry list of famous people, both onstage and in the audience (hello, Whoopi Goldberg, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas…berg), shining its spotlight most brightly on the series’ past (especially its first five years) rather than its present. Which, of course, is exactly how it should have been.

210 minutes of show—not to mention NBC’s hourlong preliminary red carpet special—gives a lot of time for highs and lows… and, in true SNL fashion, the special was uneven at best, marked by overlong sketches, head-scratching recurring characters (do they really expect us to believe Pete Twinkle and Greg Stink are as beloved as Alex Trebek and Sean Connery or Wayne and Garth?), and occasional gaffes. It was also, on the whole, pretty damn great. For proof, see this rundown of peaks and valleys:

Most Awkward Red Carpet Moment

Needed a reminder that this was a live event? Three-time SNL host Jim Carrey gave you one before the real show even began, good-naturedly asking Today‘s Matt Lauer where NBC was hiding Brian Williams. A visibly irked Lauer responded by nervously pretending to look at his watch, then sending off Carrey with a curt “thank you, Jim.”

The “Still Crazy” Medal

Longtime SNL guest—and Lorne Michaels pal—Paul SImon concluded the show on a sentimental note. Yes, he sang “Still Crazy After All These Years;” no, he didn’t do it while dressed in a turkey suit. It was, perhaps, the sort of naked emotion that the original Not Ready for Primetime Players would have scoffed at—but for a rebellious sensation that’s gradually become televised comedy’s most hallowed, stable institution? For that, it was an ending that hit all the right notes.

Episode Recaps

Saturday Night Live - Season 42
Saturday Night Live

The original late-night comedy sketch show from the one and only Lorne Michaels.

  • TV Show
  • 47
  • TV-14
  • Saturdays at 11:30 PM
  • Lorne Michaels
  • NBC
stream service