Jonah Hill will be hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend, which makes us wonder: Will he mention the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh?
Short answer: He should.
Long answer: He probably won’t.
Let us explain. Saturday Night Live is a very funny show. (Or very unfunny, depending on who you’re talking to.) The comedy show, in its 44th season, has been around for a long time. Inevitably, it’s had to air in times when no one was feeling very funny, and when it seems like no jokes can be made.
After September 11th, the show’s season premiered two weeks later with the cold open as a 9/11 tribute, featuring Rudy Giuliani (mayor of NYC at the time) and New York firefighters and policemen, declaring that the show would go on.
Following the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, Saturday Night Live‘s cold open was a choir of children from The New York Children’s Chorus singing “Silent Night.” The show aired just two days after the massacre, and many praised SNL for its awareness. As Rolling Stone wrote, “Regardless of whether the performance was written as a last-minute salute to the youngsters lost on Friday, or a pre-planned bit meant to bring cheer to the show’s Christmas episode, the tone was pitch perfect.”
Three years later, a day after the horrific Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130 people, SNL once again forwent its typical cold open. Cecily Strong, a cast member, delivered this message: “Paris is the city of light, and here in New York City, we know that light will never go out. Our love and support is with everyone there tonight. We stand with you.” She then repeated her message in French.
The week of the Las Vegas shooting, Jason Aldean, who was performing at the Route 91 Harvest Festival when the gunman opened fire, opened SNL with a moving message and musical performance.
Aldean started by speaking into the camera: “This week, we witnessed one of the worst tragedies in American history. Like everyone, I’m struggling to understand what happened that night, and how to pick up the pieces and start to heal.” He then launched into a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”
These are the four moments that come to our mind when thinking of how SNL has dealt with tragedy.
As Washington Post wrote, “When you run a comedy show for more than 40 seasons, you’re bound to confront moments like these. When the news is unfunny, raw and emotional, any attempt at making light of the situation can be taken as distasteful. Choosing to ignore what’s happening outside of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, however, could make the show seem out of touch.”
Notably, Sandy Hook and Paris occurred a day or two before the next SNL episode aired; with other horrific tragedies in recent years, like Parkland, more time elapsed between the tragedy and the episode.
Which brings us to this week.
Jonah Hill, noted Jewish actor, director, and brother of Beanie Feldstein, is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend. The show is coming off of a three-week hiatus (the last episode was on October 13), and this is the fourth episode of the season. It will have been a week since the tragedy in Pittsburgh. (The Las Vegas tribute, we should note, was a full week later.) This is Jonah’s fifth time hosting, joining the “Five-Timers Club,” something SNL social media keeps emphasizing.
Based on all that, we don’t think SNL will forgo its cold open to address Pittsburgh. Other places have moved on, even though that feels insane to us.
It’s still possible that Jonah Hill will use his monologue to address Pittsburgh. Hill is Jewish (he was born Jonah Hill Feldstein, and, fun fact, grew up best friends with Maroon 5’s frontman and fellow Jew Adam Levine). But, he rarely addresses his Jewish identity.
While the Pittsburgh tragedy has led many Jewish celebrities to send messages of solidarity, Jonah Hill — who is rarely active on social media — has only shared posts about his new film, Mid90s. This is no knock on Hill (we do not judge what people post or do not post), but we do wonder if he feels like he can speak out about Judaism, when he has not in the past. Which like, yes, Jonah, you can! And it would mean a lot to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and beyond.
Jonah, I hope you surprise us.