Tom Hanks, Larry David and Alec Baldwin join the ‘SNL’ cast for the first ‘Saturday Night Live at Home’

Live from New York… it’s Saturday Night at Home! With Studio 8H, and the rest of New York’s famed Rockefeller Plaza, on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the current crop of Not Ready for Primetime Players put on a show from their own domiciles. They also had some help from celebrity guest stars, led by host — and coronavirus survivor — Tom Hanks. “It’s very weird to be here hosting Saturday Night Live from home,” Hanks said, putting into words what was already on everyone’s mind. “It’s a strange time trying to be funny, but trying to be funny is SNL’s whole thing, so we thought ‘What the heck! Let’s give it a shot.’”

Working from his kitchen, Hanks explained why this Saturday Night Live was going to be different from all other Saturday Night Lives. “For one thing, it has been filmed entirely by the SNL cast in their homes,” Hanks said. “Also, there’s no such thing as Saturdays anymore. Everyday is today!” More importantly, the Live portion of the title wasn’t applicable to this particular telecast, since all of the material was recorded ahead of time. “We’re trying to make this like the SNL you know,” Hanks nevertheless promised, pointing out that he was following the normal host routine of reading jokes from cue cards. One of those jokes was at the expense of his own coronavirus diagnosis. “Ever since being diagnosed, I have been more like America’s dad than ever before since no one wants to be around me very long and I make people uncomfortable.”

Twitter, at least, found Hanks an entirely comforting presence on a totally atypical SNL.

Hanks’s hosting duties didn’t really extend beyond the opening monologue, but other celebrities dropped by to pick up the slack. Larry David reprised his role as Bernie Sanders answering questions about what he was going to do after dropping out of the presidential race. Questions like, will he endorse presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden? “It’s not if I’m going to endorse, it’s about how I endorse,” David-as-Sanders said, rating his endorsement enthusiasm level at a “halfie.” Twitter had much more enthusiasm for David’s cameo, particularly his insistence at not even trying to dress up for the occasion.

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin literally phoned in his latest appearance as President Trump, hopping on the phone to chat with Colin Jost and Michael Che during Weekend Update. “I’m happy to report that America is number one in the world with coronavirus,” Baldwin said, before going on to dismiss most of their queries as “nasty questions,” and once again weigh in on Tiger King.

Netflix’s hit true crime series was also referenced in another well-received sketch, which featured Chloe Fineman playing Carol Baskin as a MasterClass bike instructor. Prior to the show, Fineman had been test-driving her Baskin impression on Instagram, winning raves from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Mandy Moore. Fineman also channeled Timothée Chalamet and JoJo in the sketch, but viewers only had eyes for the queen of Tiger King.

Interestingly, SNL superstar Kate McKinnon will be playing Baskin in a planned TV series, but declined to give us a preview of her portrayal here. She did bring back her ever-popular Ruth Bader Ginsburg, though, showing off the Notorious RGB’s home-fitness regimen during the pandemic. “These are my punching bags: Kavanaugh and Gorsuch,” McKinnon said, taking aim at Ginsburg’s two conservative-minded Supreme Court colleagues.

While Chris Martin was the night’s main musical guest — and covered Bob Dylan’s classic “Shelter From the Storm” — Pete Davidson contributed not just one, but two fresh tracks: “This Is a Drake Song,” which featured the comedian channeling the hip-hop superstar, and another about a rapper who boasted to having the grand sum of… $2000. Davidson’s musical chops got a thumbs up, but Pete’s mom, who directed the Drake parody, is the person people wanted to see more of.

Rather than a final sketch, the episode closed with a moving tribute to Hal Willner, the show’s longtime music coordinator who died of coronavirus complications earlier this week. SNL players past and present — including Davidson, McKinnon, Adam Sandler and Bill Hader — taped testimonials about Willner’s passion for music and his job.

Next week’s SNL will be a repeat, but with generally positive feedback expect more at-home episodes as the quarantine continues into April and possibly beyond. And next time, let’s try to get Pete’s mom on camera where she belongs.

Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:30 on NBC

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