When we talk about something being in the wake of something else, we’re alluding to the waves behind a ship moving along the sea. To be in the wake of the ship is to be left behind, to be caught up in the disruption of its passage.
Of course wake can mean other things. It’s also the ritual of putting someone or something to rest. Or it’s the rising from a dream, or a nightmare.
So the election is over. I’m still at a loss trying to make sense of it, still piecing things together like a lot of other people. There are plenty of questions to be answered. The question of how SNL would approach the election results wasn’t really an important one, but still, Abbe and I wondered about it. Would they make a joke out of it? It was hard to imagine how that could come across as anything other than cheap and opportunistic. And SNL, for all its flaws, still has a platform, and still, maybe, has a responsibility to say something about what’s going on in the world.
I’ve watched SNL since I was a kid in the 80s. I was too young to see the first few seasons live, but I remember Chevy and Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy. I’ve seen some great monologues and some unforgettable sketches, and a whole lot of mediocre or awful ones. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as perfect, and as appropriate, as what SNL did this past Saturday night with its cold open.
Kate McKinnon playing and singing “Hallelujah” was achingly beautiful. It wasn’t funny, or satirical, or anything except a tribute to the songwriter (Cohen) who had just died, and to the politician who had spent a career in public service, only to come up terribly and unexpectedly short at the end. It was what I needed, I think, even without knowing that I needed it. And I’m grateful the show thought of it, and — most important of all — that the show had someone, the only person, who could pull it off and make it work.
It’ll take a lot to move on from this election. I have no illusions that it’ll be an easy four years. But I think that many years from now, when the country has moved on and, I hope, recovered from this decision, that SNL opening is something I’ll keep with me. Whatever else I may want to forget, that’s something I want to remember.