VIDEO: On ‘SNL,’ Sarah Silverman plays a savage Joan Rivers
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Returning to “Saturday Night Live,” the show that employed her and quickly fired her 20 years ago, Sarah Silverman devoted some airtime tonight to a Joan Rivers tribute that wasn’t exactly reverent.
Portraying the late comedian, Silverman had her arriving in heaven and proceeding to hurl insults to a flock of historic figures, from Ben Franklin (Bobby Moynihan) to Freddie Mercury (musical guest Adam Levine). To Lucille Ball, she recalled the candy factory scene from “I Love Lucy” and snarked, “You stuffed more chocolate down your throat than the Kardashians.” Lucy (Kate McKinnon) stared in disbelief.
Silverman was an unabashed Rivers fan, and the homage fit right in on an episode largely tailored to the host’s sensibility. It’s as though Silverman, now a success on the stand-up circuit, wanted finally to put her stamp on the show that once rejected her.
In a clever monologue sequence, Silverman took questions from herself, seen in clips from her 1993-94 “SNL” run where she played inquiring audience members. She oozed affection for the young Sarah piping up about dinosaurs and Wilson Phillips, and after the third clip quipped, “What is this, pretty girl in the audience week?”
Perhaps not coincidentally, it was a stronger week than most for female-oriented comedy. A TV flashback showed a soap opera called “Supportive Women,” where the seemingly scheming characters actually were doing each other favors. The joke (hammered home by Kenan Thompson as the segment’s host) was that we’re so used to seeing sniping women that the nice ones came off as off-putting.
Silverman also shared funny scenes with Sasheer Zamata and Cecily Strong (as riverboat singers lamenting their status between verses of “Proud Mary”), Kate McKinnon (as a self-righteous lesbian folk duo) and Vanessa Bayer (in a fake Vitamix commercial demonstrating how friendships can collapse over the blender’s outrageous price).
Elsewhere in Saturday’s show:
• A jovial commercial encouraged white people to live it up while they can, until they cease to be in charge in a few decades. (Among those dancing to “Hey Soul Sister” was Chicago-trained Mike O’Brien, who lost featured-player status his season but remains on the writers’ roster.)
RELATED: Comedian Joan Rivers dies at 81
• Like last week’s Marvel movies spoof, a faux trailer was one of the night’s highlights, this one for a “Fault in Your Stars” sequel in which the ailing girlfriend has not cancer, but Ebola. It’s the film the World Health Organization called “plausible.”
• Weekend Update briefly suspended the one-liners for a pleasant bit of anchor interplay: Colin Jost getting advice from Michael Che about what slang he can say. (“In da club?” No.) Good move toward establishing a dynamic for these dudes.
• A sketch about a botched proposal had a lot in common with the opening scene of NBC’s “Marry Me,” debuting Oct. 14. Except “SNL’s” was in a car, with Adam Levine.
• Not too weird this time, the Beck Bennett-Kyle Mooney short film was one of the better ones, supposing that a bully and his victim can finish each other’s sentences as readily as new lovers can.
• The show opened limply, with Jay Pharaoh playing Barack Obama taking more questions from Steve Kroft and touching on Isis and the Secret Service with played-out gags. Low concept and low impact.
• Bill Hader, riding good notices for his semi-dramatic work in “The Skeleton Twins” and “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” returns to host next week, a year and a half after his exit from the “SNL” cast.