‘It Could Have Been Much Worse,’ Says the Rabbi from the SNL Season 49 Finale

Hey Alma spoke to Rabbi Jill Hausman about her iconic appearance at the Weekend Update desk with Colin Jost and Michael Che.

“Saturday Night Live” got the rabbi!

This past weekend marked the 49th season finale of SNL — hosted by Jake Gyllenhaal — and the return of the Weekend Update joke swap. As the title suggests, in this segment Weekend Update co-anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che write each other’s jokes. The only catch is that neither is able to vet their jokes before reading them live on-air. It’s a tradition that hails back to 2018, and usually falls into the familiar rhythm of Jost telling jokes which imply he’s a racist millionaire and Che telling jokes which imply he’s a misogynistic womanizer.

After last year’s gag wherein faux civil rights activist Dr. Hattie Davis sat next to Jost as he read his jokes, Che upped the ante. This year, “SNL” got real-life Rabbi and Cantor Jill Hausman to join in the segment. Rabbi Jill currently leads the Actors’ Temple in New York City and is also a classical singer, having studied at HB Studios in Manhattan.

Rabbi Jill sat at the Weekend Update desk in her kippah and tallit as Colin Jost read intentionally offensive jokes about Jews. In one, Jost suggested he’s supporting Jews in this moment by specifically supporting Harvey Weinstein. “Free Weinstein! Keep fighting Harvey, am I right, bubeleh?” Jost laughed in shock before his face fell into his hands.

Later, he unwillingly asked Rabbi Jill, “Wait if you’re here, who’s controlling the weather?” and made a gag about Jewish space lasers while holding a puppet meant to look like an Orthodox Jewish man. The entire segment drew uproarious laughter from the studio audience, but not all of it was directed at the Weekend Update co-hosts. Rabbi Jill drew her own laughter on a couple occasions when the camera panned to see her reaction.

“It could have been much worse,” Rabbi Jill laughed to me on the phone this afternoon. “I have an acting background, so I didn’t have a problem with [the segment], but I was just hoping the jokes weren’t too offensive, and they were really OK.”

Earlier in the day on Saturday, Rabbi Hausman streamed a Shabbat service, lead a memorial service in Massachusetts and then drove the four hours back to New York in time to make the dress rehearsal and show. Beforehand, “SNL” producers had told her to dress how she would dress to lead a service so she did just that, bringing her regular kippah and tallit to 30 Rock. Then, a couple hours before air, “SNL” producers prepped Rabbi Jill for the segment by sharing some of the jokes with her (including the puppet) and telling her that she was there “to make one of the hosts uncomfortable.” Despite this in-and-of-itself uncomfortable task, Rabbi Jill feels comfortable on the stage and still had fun. “Everyone was so nice,” she said. “Everyone was really, really wonderful.”

When “SNL” producers emailed the Actors’ Temple earlier in the week, Rabbi Hausman was game to do the segment, but aware of the possibility that she might be offended. However, she tells me she ultimately decided to do the segment because of Jewish representation. “I also feel that people in the Jewish community need to show up. We’re part of the cultural landscape, we have to be there,” she said. “We have to be visible.”

Evelyn Frick

Evelyn Frick (she/they) is a writer and associate editor at Hey Alma. She graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. In her spare time, she's a comedian and contributor for Reductress and The Onion.

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