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‘SNL’ Opens the Show With a Moving Performance by the Ukrainian Chorus

The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York sang “Prayer for Ukraine" in the show's cold open.

The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York on 'SNL'

Saturday Night Live returned from its Winter Olympics hiatus last night, replacing the show’s (usually) political cold open with a heartfelt performance by the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York. Introduced by cast members Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong, the chorus performed “Prayer for Ukraine,” a Ukrainian hymn and anthem. The chorus, dressed in traditional garb, stood behind a table filled with candles and sunflowers, the Ukrainian national flower.

At the end of the song, the camera zoomed out reveal that the candles spelled out “Kyiv,” the Ukraine’s capital, which is under invasion from the Russian forces. SNL rarely goes for the plaintive opening, which is reserved for the truly tragic, frightening moments in our history. The last one in recent memory was in the post-2016 election episode, which saw Kate McKinnon, dressed as Hillary Clinton, playing the piano and singing “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. At the end of the song, McKinnon turned to the camera and said, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”

Looking back, I remember so clearly watching that episode live. After the brutal, soul-crushing election that declared Donald Trump the next president, the world felt off its axis. Everything felt like a bad dream, and the despair was nearly choking. For the next four years, during every atrocity Trump committed, my mind kept returning to that phrase, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.”

I kept thinking about it throughout last night’s episode, which was hosted by five-timer John Mulaney. One of the best SNL hosts of the decade, Mulaney brought his signature self-effacing humor to every sketch, and spent his opening monologue discussing his intervention and his recent stint in rehab.

The show delivered some strong sketches, with the welcome return of the Five Timers club, which included appearances from Tina Fey, Elliot Gould, Steve Martin, Candice Bergen, and its most recent five timer Paul Rudd, whose entry into the club was derailed by an Omicron outbreak last year. Conan O’Brien crashed the sketch as well – not a five timer, but a beloved former writer for the show.

In addition to the five timers sketch, Mulaney reprised his white guy who can hang sketch with “Cupid Shuffle” and his Broadway medley based on New York weirdness, this time taking on subway churros. These sketches are some of my favorites, as they unleash the cast’s musical theater nerds to embrace all the gross oddities of the situation. If you’re not laughing at Kate McKinnon’s puddle of unidentifiable origin, you might be made of stone.

What did you think of last night’s episode?

(image: screencap/NBC)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, son, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.