This week, SNL was in the unique — and, we imagine, rather difficult — position of airing a show just one day after the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The sketch comedy show usually parodies the major events from the past week — but, conundrum: what do you do when the week’s major events have been horrifying, chilling and in no way ripe for satire?
And so the SNL crew decided to take the opening scene — a slot usually reserved for irreverent sendups of news and politics — and use it to pay a brief but touching tribute to the 20 children and seven adults who died in the massacre. The New York City Children’s Chorus, dressed in matching red robes, sang the popular Christmas hymn “Silent Night,” with the particularly apropos refrain, “Sleep in heavenly peace.”
(PHOTOS: Grief in Newtown: Photos from the Scene)
Although this opening scene made no explicit reference to the shooting or the victims, the intention was clear, and the acknowledgement felt appropriately solemn. When the choir completed the song, the screen quickly faded to black, and then the children returned to shout the show’s classic introduction: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”
And then the show carried on as usual — with host Martin Short delivering a characteristically zany, over-the-top performance. No other references were made to the Connecticut shooting, but that was probably for the best. The somber opening scene served its purpose, and then the rest of the show made way for what many viewers probably needed: laughter.