A funny thing happened on the way to last night’s SNL: There was a massive, terrifying spike in COVID cases in New York City and State, thanks to the new Omicron variant. Live events, including Broadway shows, have already been postponed or cancelled. It even wreaked havoc on what was supposed to be a joyous occasion: the last SNL of 2021 that was also Paul Rudd’s fifth time as host. (Well, at least people are still going out to see Spider-Man in droves.)
The show still went on, sort of. Hours before last night’s episode went live, it was announced that, out of an abundance of caution, much of the cast and crew had been sent home and no audience would be present. Musical guest Charli XCX also had to cancel. And so instead of some lavish “cold open” making fun of Lauren Boebert or someone, we got a bittersweet bit where Rudd was welcomed into the fabled “Five Timers Club” — for those who’ve hosted five times or more — in front of a very sparse crowd.
He had a little help from his friends. Tom Hanks — the originator of the FTC — was there, as was longtime cast member/writer Tina Fey. “Tonight everyone at SNL planned to do our big Christmas show, and induct a new member into the Five Timers Club,” Hanks said. “But COVID came early this year.” Why was Hanks, a non-cast member, there? “I came here from California, and if you think I was going to fly 3,000 miles and not be on TV, you got another thing coming.”
Eventually Rudd came out to receive his “Five Timers Club” robe. “I’m extremely disappointed!” a chipper Rudd told Hanks and Fey and what was left of the crew. “There was a whole show planned,” he said, preparing viewers at home for the show’s Plan B: The rest of the episode would be whatever pre-taped sketches they filmed over the week plus some random old bits, like the classic “Dick in a Box.” Why not! What else were you expecting from a live show that had to deep six pretty much everything mere hours before going on air?
But at least Rudd got his “Five Timers” robe — even if, as Keenan Thompson pointed out, it’s really “4 ½.” You can see the grand occasion in the video above.