“Saturday Night Live” had its share of great episodes this season, but few delivered more laughs than Maya Rudolph’s turn as host in February, which Emmy voters surely will consider before nomination polls close on June 28.
The former “SNL” cast member broke down a few of the night’s best sketches with us during a recent interview.
Jay-Z and Beyonce’s Baby
Rudolph had played Beyoncé before on “SNL,” appearing opposite cast mate Fred Armisen on “The Prince Show.” Armisen reprised Prince here, one of many visiting celebrities welcoming the arrival of baby Blue Ivy.
Rudolph: “Like anything you do on ‘SNL,’ if you do it for a while, it becomes more of a character than an impression. Because there’s no way in hell I look or seem anything like Beyoncé. She’s super-human and extraordinary. But that’s the dirty secret of impressions like that. They’re really love letters to people you think are amazing and you idolize.”
Best moment: Beyoncé recalls her birth in song.
“Yeah, all of my births were sung. [Rudolph has three children.] Can you imagine if it was that lovely? No, there was no singing involved in that experience for me.”
Maya Angelou Prank Show
Taking a page from “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” Rudolph imagines a “Punk’d”-style show run by an even more unlikely host.
Rudolph: “It was just so great that the message of it was about honor. I don’t do her justice, but I was trying. Once again, here you are trying to imitate one of these people you love. She’s so incredibly regal and beautiful and smart. She’s magical to me.”
Best moment: Angelou tampers with the briefcase of Dr. Cornel West (Kenan Thompson). “Sister Maya. Was this an act of malice?” asks a bewildered West. “No, Brother West,” she replies. “It was an act of whimsy.”
“I get a lot of people quoting that line to me now,” Rudolph says. For proper effect, just make sure to draw out the two syllables in “whimsy.”
Rudolph and Kristen Wiig play game show models Shonda and Vonda. Trouble comes when they try to showcase the prizes. Wiig and Bill Hader find it impossible to keep it together.
Rudolph: “There was something crazy about that sketch from the beginning. It tickled a funny bone where Kristen got the giggles -– even in rehearsal. When we were coming out in the golf cart, I looked at her and I knew. I heard it, this laugh of hers that comes from the throat. It tripped some sort of wire in her where she couldn’t stop. Something about that voice … it’s a voice we do when we’re joking around with each other in life. It’s just a stupid, dumb voice, but it gets her every time.”
Best moment: Shonda and Vonda highlight the benefits of a lifetime supply of chicken.
“She was crying. And Bill, biting his lip. Look at him: He’s trying really hard.”
The first lady’s effort to call attention to childhood obesity incorporates a new half-hour family comedy. Rudolph plays Michelle Obama by way of Phylicia Rashad.
Rudolph: “I’m a huge ‘Cosby Show’ fan. Doing that dance like she did during the opening credits was one of the most exciting life moments. [Rudolph starts singing ‘The Cosby Show’ theme song.] It goes: My children’s births, ‘Cosby.’ No. Just kidding. But it was really exciting and fun. I genuinely felt joyful.”
Best moment: The smile on Rudolph’s face as she dances with Armisen’s Obama while the “Cosby” theme music plays.
What Up With That? (Presidents’ Day Edition)
Kenan Thompson had retired this popular, recurring sketch, but Rudolph asked if he’d play the BET talk show host one last time for her. Channeling Carmen Miranda, Rudolph plays Sabrina Spotlight, “Brazil’s answer to LeAnn Rimes.” Bill O’Reilly, Kate Upton and, of course, Bill Hader’s Lindsey Buckingham joined her as guests.
Rudolph: “The first time I saw Kenan do this, I thought something was going to pop inside of me, I was laughing so hard. I love everything about it, but there’s something aboutJason [Sudeikis] dancing in that red track suit that’s just pure perfection. It tickles me every time I see him make that jump onto the stage.”
Best moment: O’Reilly’s confused expression when Thompson interrupts him in song mid-interview.
“ ‘SNL’ is such a crazy place where things that do not belong together come together. [Bill O’Reilly] came up to me and said, ‘We love you.’ And we high-fived. That was super-weird. Where else in life would that happen?”