11 Moments Where "Saturday Night Live" Got Serious

Saturday Night Live premiered in 1975, which means that in the 47 years that it's been on, the show has covered countless current events — from the lighthearted to the more somber and serious. Here are 11 examples of the latter.

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1.The first show after the events of September 11, 2001.

Top: Rudy Giuliani stands in front of 9/11 first responders in "Saturday Night Live" Middle: Paul Simon plays the guitar in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: Lorne Michaels and Rudy Giuliani face each other in "Saturday Night Live"

The season premiere of Saturday Night Live was set to go live on September 29, 2001, just 18 days after the events of September 11, 2001. However, cast and crew alike described an uncertainty over whether the show could or even should continue on, with producer and creator Lorne Michaels actually going to then-mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, for permission to begin the show.

In place of a traditional opening, Rudy Giuliani and several New York City police officers and firefighters, all of whom had spent the past number of days at ground zero for recovery work, were invited to stand on the stage. The opening was used to honor the first responders as Giuliani encouraged the crowd and viewers at home not to live in fear.

The opening also featured a performance by musician Paul Simon, who performed his song, "The Boxer." Then, Mayor Giuliani, accompanied by Lorne Michaels, called Saturday Night Live one of New York's great institutions. Lorne Michaels asks, "But, can we be funny?" To which Giuliani replies, "Why start now?" before opening the show with the signature line, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!"

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You can watch the actual opening on NBC's website here, or Lorne Michaels' and Paul Simon's recount of the event on the Sundance Channel's Inconoclasts, below.

2.Steve Martin's tribute to Gilda Radner, who had died of cancer earlier that same day.

Top: Gilda Radner and Steve Martin dance together in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: Steve Martin says that he misses Gilda in "Saturday Night Live"

On May 20, 1989, Steve Martin was set to host Saturday Night Live for the 11th time. On the afternoon that the episode was set to premiere, it was announced that Gilda Radner, one of the original Saturday Night Live cast members, had died of ovarian cancer.

In place of a traditional monologue, a visibly upset Martin, who had become friends with Radner after hosting the show a number of times, introduced a sketch from a previous show in which Radner and Martin parodied the dance routine of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse from The Band Wagon.

After the sketch had concluded, Martin said, "You know, when I look at that tape, I can't help but think about how great she was, and how young I looked," before saying, "Gilda, we miss you." At the end of the clip, bandleader G. E. Smith, who was Radner's ex-husband, can also be seen wearing a black armband.

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You can watch the entire episode here, as well as Martin and Radner's dancing sketch below:

3.The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York sings "Prayer For Ukraine" after Russia begins its invasion of Ukraine.

Top: The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York stand on stage in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: Candles on a table spell out "Kyiv" in "Saturday Night Live"

On February 24, 2022, Russia began deploying troops into Ukraine, indicating the beginning of an invasion. These troops entered varied positions in Ukraine, including the nation's capital Kyiv.

Two days later, Saturday Night Live opened its show with castmates Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon introducing the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York performing "Prayer for Ukraine." After the performance, Strong and McKinnon return to say the show's signature phrase before the camera pans above a table between two bundles of sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. The table holds lit candles, some of which spell out "Kyiv."

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You can watch the entire opening below:

4.Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton, sings "Hallelujah" after the 2016 election.

Top: Kate McKinnon as Hilary Clinton plays the piano and sings in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: Kate McKinnon as Hilary Clinton says "I'm not giving up, and neither should you" in "Saturday Night Live"

After Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016, Kate McKinnon, a frequent impressionist of Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, opened Saturday Night Live's November 12th show on a somber note. Wearing her full Clinton costume, she performed "Hallelujah," a song originally written and performed by the late Leonard Cohen, who had passed away on November 7th of that year.

At the end of her performance, McKinnon turned to the camera and said, "I'm not giving up, and neither should you."

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You can watch the entire performance below:

5.Adam Sandler sings a tribute to his friend and fellow cast member, Chris Farley.

Top: Adam Sandler plays guitar while a television behind him shows Chris Farley in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom Adam Sandler plays guitar and sings about burying his friend in "Saturday Night Live"

During his time hosting the show in 2019, Adam Sandler took time to pay musical tribute to his former fellow SNL cast member and late friend, Chris Farley. The two friends shared an office together during their time on the show, and were even fired at the same time in 1995. Even after the show, the two worked together in each other's films before Farley sadly passed away in 1997.

The song originally appears on Adam Sandler's comedy special, 100% Fresh, though it seems fitting that he perform a song that celebrates his friend in the same place they formed their friendship.

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You can watch the performance below:

6.The New York City Children's Chorus sings "Silent Night" after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.

Top: A close-up of a lit candle in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: The New York City Children's Chorus sings on stage in "Saturday Night Live"

The Newtown, Connecticut, shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School left 28 people dead, 20 of them children. The next day, Saturday Night Live began their show with a performance from the New York City Children's Chorus singing "Silent Night," as the show aired on December 15, 2012.

After the performance concluded, the screen faded to black before fading back in as together, the children said: "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night."

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You can watch the performance below:

7.The cast celebrates Kristen Wiig in a sketch during her final episode.

Top: Mick Jagger hugs Kristen Wiig in "Saturday Night Live" Middle: A group of castmates kiss Kristen Wiig on the cheek in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader dance in "Saturday Night Live"

A cast member's final show is sure to be a special one, but Kristen's final sketch as an SNL cast member really takes it to the next level. One of the final sketches of the night loosely takes the premise of a graduation ceremony, with cast members ready to depart the show wearing caps and gowns before musical guest Mick Jagger leads band Arcade Fire in a rendition of "She's a Rainbow" and "Ruby Tuesday" as Kristen dances with her fellow cast members before the show closes.

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You can watch Kristen Wiig revisit the experience on The Howard Stern Show below:

8.Brad Pitt honors Dr. Fauci during the opening of a Saturday Night Live At Home episode.

Top: Brad Pitt as Dr. Fauci sits at a desk in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: Brad Pitt as Dr. Fauci thanks the real Dr. Fauci in "Saturday Night Live"

After Dr. Anthony Fauci joked that he'd like to be played by Brad Pitt on Saturday Night Live, the actor was quick to deliver during the opening of the show's second episode of SNL At Home, a series of SNL shows that were performed entirely remotely during the first lockdown.

The skit starts off humorous, with Pitt as Dr. Fauci attempting to combat COVID-19 misinformation. He finishes by removing his wig and glasses, and addressing the camera to thank the actual Dr. Fauci, as well as first responders and medical providers.

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You can watch it below:

9.Cecily Strong as Claire from HR gives "Weekend Update" their annual sexual harassment guidelines seminar.

Top: Cecily Strong as Claire from H.R sits at a desk with a receipt in her shirt in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: Cecily Strong as Claire from H.R says that this "didn't start this week, it's a reality for half of the population" in "Saturday Night Live"

Saturday Night Live is known for addressing more serious topics through comedy, though even comedic sketches may take a moment to address the serious reality of the situation, like in this "Weekend Update" moment. Cecily Strong plays the character Claire From HR, who has been dispatched for an annual sexual harassment guidelines seminar to quiz anchor Colin Jost on appropriate workplace behavior.

The sketch aired in 2017, amidst a series of sexual abuse and harassment allegations against Hollywood creatives, politicians, and many more. While it remains relatively funny for a majority of the bit, Strong takes a moment to get a bit serious, reminding everyone that although these allegations are recent, sexual abuse and harassment is and has been an ongoing problem that is nothing new for women.

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You can watch the sketch below:

10.Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis say goodbye in a musical performance as Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros.

Top: Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Jason Sudekis, and Taran Killam play as a band in "Saturday Night Live" Middle: Fred Armisen as Ian Rubbish sings in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: Musicians join the stage in "Saturday Night Live"

Season 38 marked the final show of cast members Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis, who used their final show to perform as Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros, a punk band that had made an appearance in a previous episode. The band's performance begins with Fred Armisen, as Ian Rubbish, announcing that this will be their last show for a while, but they'll still play music together before the band begins a performance of "It's a Lovely Day."

As the song plays, Armisen is joined by fellow Portlandia creator, Carrie Brownstein, as well as musicians including Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols.

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You can watch the full performance here:

11.Phil Hartman says "Goodnight" to Saturday Night Live

Top: Castmates dance on stage in "Saturday Night Live" Bottom: Phil Hartman holds Chris Farley and looks into the camera in "Saturday Night Live"

Cast member Phil Hartman was often referred to as "The Glue" in the Saturday Night Live cast because of the way he held a sketch together, so it's no wonder that he'd be missed by his fellow castmates, who appear in what many consider to be his goodbye sketch. During Hartman's last sketch, fellow cast members close out the season by performing "So Long, Farewell" from The Sound of Music as popular recurring characters on the show.

The sketch ends with Phil Hartman holding a tearful Chris Farley as a spotlight holds on the two of them before he bids the audience goodnight, clearly emotional himself. It's an emotional moment for sure, even more so when you know that both of these actors would be taken from us too soon, as Hartman was murdered in 1998, while Farley died of an overdose in 1997.

You can watch the sketch here.

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What's a serious SNL moment that's stood out to you over the years? Let me know in the comments.