The specter of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her iconic dissent collar could still loom large over “Saturday Night Live,” according to creator and longtime Executive Producer Lorne Michaels.
When asked whether the Supreme Court justice’s death meant the end of Kate McKinnon’s mighty portrayal of her, Michaels succinctly told the New York Times, “I doubt it.”
McKinnon’s recurring impersonation of the affectionately dubbed “Notorious RBG” further popularized the justice in the pop culture zeitgeist.
“For so many of us, Justice Ginsburg was a real-life superhero: a beacon of hope, a warrior for justice, a robed crusader who saved the day time and again,” McKinnon said in a statement from NBC after Ginsburg’s death last week at 87. “Playing her on ‘SNL’ was a profound joy because I could always feel the overwhelming love and gratitude that the audience had for her. It was one of the great honors of my life to meet Justice Ginsburg, to shake her hand, and to thank her for her lifetime of service to this country.”
“SNL” returns with its 46th season on Oct. 3. Comedian Chris Rock will host the first episode in front of a slimmed down studio audience rather than remotely, as was the case with “SNL at Home” when the pandemic halted production on the last three episodes. “WAP” rapper Megan Thee Stallion will be the first musical guest of the season.
Actors Alec Baldwin and Maya Rudolph will reprise their roles as President Trump and Democratic vice presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris, respectively. Michaels also recruited actor-comedian Jim Carrey to play Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“We don’t know that we’re going to be able to pull it off,” Michaels added of the show’s new normal. “We’re going to be as surprised as everyone else when it actually goes on.”
He said that the show had to go on — even with cumbersome production-changing precautions in place — because it’s an election year.
“Everybody has just thrown themselves into it. It’s difficult, but we’ve done difficult a lot of times. Comedy, when there’s a little danger involved, it doesn’t necessarily suffer,” Michaels told the newspaper.
Everyone at the show, including performers, writers, behind-the-scenes staff and eventually the audience, will have to take rapid COVID-19 tests before the show, he added.
Michaels said Rock would likely address “SNL” alum Jimmy Fallon’s blackface controversy, which has also loomed large over the entertainers this summer. In an appearance on Thursday’s “Tonight Show,” Rock told Fallon that he too had “no idea” how “SNL” would proceed.
The creator said there was “no malice” in Fallon’s impression of Rock and noted that several of the show’s past sketches probably wouldn’t fly today, including Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannadanna, John Belushi’s Samurai, Garrett Morris’ “News for the Hard of Hearing,” and Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd’s Czech brothers bit, among others.
“That criteria is not the greatest soil for comedy to thrive on. I’m not saying comedy should be the dominant thing in our lives. I’m just saying it’s important it exists because, in addition to everything, it’s a safety valve,” Michaels said.