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Aubrey Plaza and Amy Poehler reminded me of why I love SNL

Amy Poehler (in character as Leslie Knope), Aubrey Plaza (in character as April Ludgate), and Colin Jost (as Weekend Update co-anchor) sit behind the Weekend Update desk during a taping of SNL. Amy is smiling and excited, Aubrey has her arms folded and looks like she'd rather be anywhere else, and Colin is laughing.

SNL Twitter had worked itself into a frenzy by the time 11:30 rolled around on Saturday night: Aubrey Plaza was hosting the first show of the new year, which all but guaranteed a good overall showing, but it was an Instagram Story posted by Deux Moi that catapulted the fandom into sheer chaos: 

"parks and rec fans are going to be very happy with SNL tonight" with a GIF of Amy Poehler, posted on @deuxmoi's Instagram Story.

We were loosely expecting Amy Poehler, then, when she turned up during Aubrey’s monologue (not so much Pres. Joe Biden, whose appearance sparked confusion online over whether the video was a deepfake) — but the real treat came during Weekend Update. 

Maybe we were afraid to let ourselves hope for a revival of beloved Parks and Recreation characters, but no one on Twitter seemed to expect a joint April Ludgate-Leslie Knope appearance until the moment it happened: 

The entire sketch is worth a watch for Parks fans, and Aubrey knocks it out of the park as April, of course, but a specific line caught my attention. In character as Leslie, Amy asks Colin Jost what it’s like to work at SNL before dropping a fun bit of Parks backstory.

I want to pick your brain about this job, about this show, because I used to watch this when Seth Meyers did it by himself with no one else, and he made it look really easy.

That means that Amy either doesn’t exist or doesn’t join SNL in the Parks universe (I’ll go with the latter), but that SNL and Seth Meyers do exist — from which I extrapolated that Late Night with Seth Meyers does, too. (I have to assume that Leslie Knope would be a big fan of the friendly whimsy of “Corrections.”)

I made a mental note to re-watch Parks with this new Leslie knowledge in mind, then scrolled through the absolute chaos of SNL Twitter until my heart rate calmed down and the Avatar sketch was over. As I settled into the feeling of nostalgic coziness that I usually associate with new “Really!?” segments with Seth and Amy, I was thinking about how annoyed I was that Lorne Michaels was right. 

“Generally when people talk about the best cast I think, ‘Well, that’s when they were in high school,'” he told TODAY in 2015. “Because in high school you have the least amount of power you’re ever gonna have. … Staying up with friends later on a Saturday is great, and people attach to a cast.”

My high school cast actually was the best, though.

For me, watching SNL in high school meant Amy with Tina Fey and then Seth on Update, with Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson and Kristen Wiig among those providing my first real exposure to the world of comedy outside of the romcoms I was raised on.

That’s the SNL era that I’ll forever hold up as the gold standard against which subsequent eras will be measured. They’re the cast members whose careers I’ve cheered on from afar, whose work I’ve turned to for comfort, whose talent I’ve learned from in surprising ways. Getting to see characters I love one more time and seeing Amy at the Update desk once again was a one-two punch of nostalgia that I was unprepared for, but it reminded me of what SNL is, to me, at its best: people working together, having fun creating something that brings others joy. 

And that’s why I watch week after week regardless of how many variations on the same SportsCenter sketch I have to deal with. Because even when a sketch falls flat or a sponsorship is way overdone or they stumble into a blind spot that makes me want to pull my hair out, the show’s core is always there to bring moments of comfort and joy to a despairing world. SNL may not always get it right, but the fun for me — and the meaning — is in watching the cast try.