At the end of the very first “At Home” edition of “Saturday Night Live”, some special guests joined the cast to pay tribute to a longtime member of the show’s behind-the-scenes team: Hal Willner, the show’s music supervisor since 1980. According to Rolling Stone, Wilner passed away on April 7 of complications consistent with COVID-19.
In addition to his role on “SNL”, Willner was a renowned music producer, producing albums for such artists as Lou Reed, Lucinda Williams and Marianne Faithful.
“Everything at ‘SNL’ happens really quickly, except some of the sketches the writers write are more cinematic in quality, and so they need to be scored more like a movie in order for them to make sense and make the jokes land,” said Kate McKinnon of Wilner’s role on the show. “The music becomes such an integral part of the sketch that you kind of don’t notice it, but without it, it wouldn’t make any sense. But on ‘SNL’, the guy who scores it only has a few hours. The guy who scores it is Hal Willner, and we lost him this week.”
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“SNL” alums Adam Sandler, John Mulaney, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer and others shared their memories of Willner during the segment, which also included clips of Willner speaking about his work on the show.
“When it’s all working, there’s nothing like it,” said Willner in one clip. “I kind of get off on the danger: ‘Hey, this could really f**k up, or this is gonna be so magical.”
Pete Davidson shared, “I’ve been through a lot of the last six years, especially as being part of the show, and Hal always treated me [with] open arms and warm smile, and was always just the funniest dude.”
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“I don’t know why someone who was already friends with Miles Davis had a big enough heart to include me in their life, but he did,” added John Mulaney, who worked for years as an “SNL” writer.
The “Saturday Night Live” tribute to Willner can be seen below.