Many years ago, this comedy team I know, Bullock & Brioux, worked a funeral. A friend's father had passed away, and the family had gathered, and they needed to laugh. So a set was performed in a crowded living room.
Bullock & Brioux never got bigger laughs, or put on a more rewarding show.
People, as has often been said, grieve in different ways. But I was reminded about that long ago show while watching Saturday Night Live's last live episode of 2012. Martin Short was host, always a crowd-pleaser. Paul McCartney was the musical guest; he's had some success with audiences, too.
Yet the horror in Connecticut the day before changed everything. Even for entertainment icons, how do you perform jokes in the wake of the worst crime imaginable, the slaughter of innocent children? Do you go dark and plug in a rerun, as was considered?
Whoever had the idea to open the show with the New York Children's Choir singing Silent Night deserves an Emmy. That's how you respond, with class, with comfort and joy. The rest of the show was a notch above the usual uneven mix, with Sam Jackson dropping the F-Bomb during a "What's Up With That" sketch was a "hell yes" moment. If NBC gets fined, make it a big one and donate the money to those families.
The episode was packed with SNL cameos. Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Paul Schaffer and Lorne Michaels all got into the act.
70-year-old wonder McCartney and his kooky shoe box guitar laid down a killer set with his new Nirvana pal Dave Grohl. Most musical guests would have cracked up next to Short, on fire in a later sketch, but McCartney played his triangle to a T. He must have worked straight man to a pretty good comedian once before.
Even his encore, the coma-inducing muzakal ditty "Wonderful Christmas Time," worked for the first occasion ever as the choir of children came back to sing their song, ding dong, ding dong.
It was a beautiful show, everyone gave their all and the laughter was healing. Merry Christmas to all involved.