SNL Remembers Prince With Music & Comedy

Photo: Dana Edelson/NBC/Getty Images.
Prince and Saturday Night Live have known each other for a long time. His first appearance was on February 21, 1981, serving as the musical guest. In the 35 years that have passed, Prince became permanently embedded in our collective unconscious. The world has had a purple hue since the artist’s untimely death and Saturday Night Live paid tribute with a heartfelt and heartbreaking retrospective.

“Goodnight, Sweet Prince” (a reference to Horatio’s final goodbye to Hamlet, fitting for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death) was an hour and half of musical performance and all things Prince from the last 35 years of SNL. Jimmy Fallon opened the show, reminding us all, “There was always something different about a Prince performance. It was special. It was Prince.” Fallon was working hard to hold it together while he talked about Prince’s importance and significance. “Prince has never not been cool,” he said. There was even a joke, even if it’s a sad one: “He owned the color purple.”

The first clip was that first performance from 1981. Prince was 22 years old, performing “Partyup” from Dirty Mind. Looking back, there is no way we could have known then the impact he would have, but watching it now, it is all there and it runs through all of the clips: the energy, the charisma, the presence.

Fallon points out the subtle wink from Prince to Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher character at the end of “Beautiful, Loved, and Blessed," from 2006. After the song has ended, he raises his arms in her signature move, “Superstar!”

The story goes that it was Chris Rock that convinced Lorne Michaels to give Prince an eight-minute block during Prince and Rock’s appearance together in 2014. If there was ever a musical guest who deserved this kind of unprecedented freedom, it was Prince. For the unusual appearance, he was backed by the all-female 3RDEYEGIRL and he flat-out shredded on guitar.

The never-before-aired footage from the SNL 40th Anniversary Special after-party lived up to its hype. Fallon tells the story of an all-star jam session after the big special. Fallon challenged Prince to make it to the stage. The crowd parted, as Fallon tells it, “Like he was Batman. You send a signal and he shows up.” Everyone rushed the stage. All of the A-listers clamored to get a closer look, many shooting video with their phones. The jam session that had opened with Paul McCartney ended with Prince and he, in Fallon’s words, “destroyed it.” It’s a version of “Let’s Go Crazy” like you’ve never heard: raw, dirty, and just what you’d want a private Prince concert at 4:30 in the morning to sound like.

Fred Armisen played Prince several times on Saturday Night Live alongside Maya Rudolph as Beyoncé. The sketches remind us of the universality of Prince’s appeal and the measure of his mystique. Even a Prince tantrum is beautiful and mysterious, with purple feathers and white roses.

Cue the organ and start the dance break. After all, “It’s The Prince Show.”

More from TV

The C.U.R.E. Institution Hospital is slimier, deadlier, and sexier than last week. And the closer we get to Halloween, we can surely expect things to ...
Between 2008 and 2012, all four Twilight books were made into movies. The last in the saga was even painfully stretched out into two films just so we ...
If you ask me, pretty much any role on American Horror Story is the creepiest role on American Horror Story. The show has made a name for itself having ...
The 2016 Emmy Awards were off to a great start when a surprising announcement came over the loudspeaker. A voiceover announced the next presenter: none ...
Winter is still a long ways' off, but we have some Game of Thrones selfies to keep us warm. Tormund Giantsbane and Lyanna Mormont, two of anyone's favorite...
In my mind, there is no denying it — the 2000s were the halcyon days of the Disney Channel. As a kid — especially one with younger siblings — it was always...
The American Horror Story cast isn't holding out on us when it comes to mysteries of the current Roanoke season. The actors' reticence to answering ...
Kimmy Schmidt lives in her own world. It's a cross between middle school, the year 1999, and present-day New York. Mix in the fact that she was held ...
Ryan Murphy is known for bringing stories about compelling gay characters to the small screen, from Kurt and Blaine on Glee to Ned Weeks in Murphy's ...
Mandy Moore's been out of the spotlight for a little while, but even she should know better than to share spoilers on social media. Luckily for her, no ...
Game of Thrones fans are going to be anxiously awaiting season 7 until it premieres next summer. In the meantime, we'll be hanging on to every scrap of ...
Is there any television debate more contentious than this one? It's the ultimate question for Gilmore Girls fans: Who should Rory Gilmore end up with in ...
Danielle Brooks is having an okay year. Between the hit Broadway show, the Tony nomination, the fashion campaign, and of course, Orange Is The New Black...
Modern Family will break new ground when it comes to transgender representation. The show will feature eight-year-old actor Jackson Millarker in a one-off ...