Things I Loved This Year: An “SNL” Oops

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: a tiny SNL moment only eagle-eyed viewers would remember.

No one would agree that the moment I’ve chosen to highlight from this year’s unusually high-profile run of Saturday Night Live episodes is the most iconic, or the most influential. It’s certainly not the funniest, the sharpest or the wittiest. It’s not even a sketch, or a pre-ordained bit. It’s a slip-up.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that Larry David butchered Ariana Grande’s name in that clip. That would imply that he touched it at all. No, Larry David gingerly gestured his knife towards that slab of meat, took a brief and halfhearted stab, then tossed his knife aside and walked away with a shrug.

And it was great! For many viewers, The introduction of the SNL guest performer signals an opportunity to hit the restroom or grab a snack. For an avid viewer like me, it’s a brief stopgap before the next piece of the action, the performance itself. But on that night, it was an art form all its own — an innocent, charming, human mistake.

So charming, in fact, that the audience erupted into an unusual burst of laughter, the kind that’s trying to send a message of support and generosity to the person onstage. Larry David, ever the professional, shrugged it off, and nailed it on the second take.

Even though he did his accidental best to upstage her, Ariana Grande still came out on top, though. She could barely contain her laughter before “Dangerous Woman” begins, but as soon as it was time for her first verse, she straightened up and knocked out a complicated vocal. The same is true for “Be Alright” — a moment of giggling, then complete polish. That’s professionalism.

Ariana Grande had plenty of that throughout her SNL episode, one of the year’s start-to-finish best. David already got his spotlight a few weeks earlier when he hosted, also to glorious effect. But for some reason, this moment of slip-up between colleagues has stuck with me. It’s an example of what SNL offers that few other shows on television can — spontaneity, and mistakes from which to recover.

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