Saturday Night Live has been a weekend staple for millions of households since the show first aired in 1975. However, the past months have been a tumultuous time for members of the entertainment industry, especially the writers. Many writers across the U.S. have been on strike, fighting for fair wages for their hard work, causing many movies and shows to halt production. Recently, the WGA (Writers Guild of America) has reached a tentative agreement with studio executives, allowing for some shows like SNL to make their return. The Saturday Night Live team anticipated a triumphant return to their studio routine. Instead, they found themselves crafting their first episode in six months amidst the unfolding Israel-Hamas conflict, a crisis so daunting that humor seemed impossible to find. It’s challenging for comedians to navigate such a dire situation, where saying the wrong thing could lead to backlash. How does one stage a comedy show in the midst of overwhelming human suffering? SNL faced this daunting task with resilience and a touch of humor.
Former cast member and first-time host Pete Davidson acknowledged the difficulty in the show’s semi-somber cold open, but he managed to strike an unusual balance between levity and empathy. Davidson opened by commenting, “This week, we saw the horrible images and stories from Israel and Gaza. And I know what you’re thinking: Who better to comment on it than Pete Davidson?” He then described his own experience of losing his father, a Staten Island Firefighter, during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York City. Davidson continues to reflect on the first time he laughed after losing his father, an Eddie Murphy stand-up special that his mother mistook for a Disney film. “Sometimes comedy is really the only way forward through tragedy,” Davidson said. “My heart is with everyone whose lives have been destroyed this week. But tonight, I’m going to do what I’ve always done in the face of tragedy, and that’s try to be funny. Remember, I said try.”The show then continued in its traditional format with a multitude of sketches, Weekend Update with Micheal Che and Colin Jost, and a parody of the viral “I’m Just Ken” song from the Barbie movie, poking fun at Davidson’s lucrative dating past with lyrics like “I’m just Pete. For anyone else, I’d be a three. But I guess I’m hot for dudes in comedy, ’cause it’s an ugly industry.” However, the most memorable moment of the night didn’t come from the comedy, but rather from the surprise guests, Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. Swift was there to announce musical guest, and friend, Ice Spice. Kelce had a brief cameo at the end of a sketch which poked fun at the sports broadcaster’s obsession with the relationship between the pop star and football star. The show had a powerful opening for its 49th season, and fans are anxiously awaiting the next episode.