Bill Hader’s ‘SNL’ Return Features Heartfelt Jan Hooks Tribute (Video)

Surprise guest Kristen Wiig also shines in poignant episode of NBC’s sketch comedy show

Bill Hader‘s first time hosting NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” went rather smoothly, but the highlight of his return episode was a touching homage to former cast member Jan Hooks, who died Thursday.

Hader and “Skeleton Twins” co-star Kristin Wiig paid tribute to their fellow “SNL” alum by introducing a sketch pulled from the vault called “Love Is a Dream.” The heartfelt musical number remains one of Hooks’ most memorable moments during her 102 episode tenure.

Also read: Jan Hooks, ‘Saturday Night Live’ Star, Dead at 57

The endearing short featured a tiara-clad Hooks in a Cinderella-like ball gown dancing with another late, great former cast member — Phil Hartman. The sketch contains no goofiness, no punchlines — just a beautiful requiem for a love never realized between characters played by two talented actors who are no longer with us. It’s little wonder this was one of Hooks most oft-cited sketches when fans took to Twitter after her death to remember her “SNL” contributions.

Another pleasant surprise from Saturday’s episode was the guest cameo from Wiig, who was a featured player on the NBC sketch show from 2005 to 2012.

The crowd went wild when she took the stage, and deservedly so. The comedic actress brought an energy to each of her sketches, which included a “Hollywood Game Night” send-off where she played a drunk Kathy Lee Gifford and the night’s opening monologue that admittedly wasn’t as funny as the one Sarah Silverman delivered last week.

See video: ‘SNL’ Host Sarah Silverman Channels Joan Rivers With Heavenly Tribute

In it, Hader confessed he had always wanted to sing during his eight seasons on “SNL” but had neither the opportunity nor courage. Wiig surprised the audience by appearing alongside him and serenading him with an encouraging song.

“I know you can sing it,” she sings. “Go ahead and wing it. They are going to love it.”

The host finally sings, but he’s predictably awful. The monologue wasn’t amazing, but it gave the writers a chance to bring out legendary comedian Harvey Fierstein – who also has an unusual singing voice – for an unexpected cameo.

See video: Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson Tackle Diversity Controversy in ‘SNL’ Promos

Hader drew the most applause as Stefon on “Weekend Update.” The flamboyant party correspondent is one of the former castmember’s most memorable recurring characters and his return was met with great enthusiasm, despite the fact that Hader kept breaking character and couldn’t seem to keep from laughing.

“How long have I been on anesthesia?” Stefon asked, looking at anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che.
“A lot has changed,” Jost replied.

Stefon smiled. “Mmm, one of each,” he said, referring to the handsome hosts’ different races.

See video: Remembering Jan Hooks: 5 Great On-Screen Moments

“Weekend Update” came under fire for its lack of female presence after Cecily Strong was ousted before the season, but that didn’t stop the segment from being one of the night’s funniest. Che, in particular, drew laughs for his edgy jokes. His heart went out to gay bachelors, who he said must feel so much pressure to get married now that it’s quickly becoming legal in so many states. He also touched upon a popular stereotype concerning tipping habits of different races,

“Black people tip,” he said. “I tip like 65 percent… of the time.”

The “Weekend Update” crew also touched upon the reported disappearance of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un and it wasn’t the only time his name came up that night. Bobby Moynihan played Jong-Un in the somewhat amusing cold open, which focused on how hard it must be for the country’s “supreme dictator” to maintain his myth of infallibility around his minions.

See video: Michael Che Debuts on ‘Weekend Update’ in Chris Pratt-Hosted ‘Saturday Night Live’ Season Opener

The weirdest sketch of the night starred Hader as a war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who aspires to be a puppeteer. At one point, the scene gives way to a battlefield flashback with an all-puppet cast.

Saturday’s musical guest was up-and-coming Irish rocker Hozier, who performed “Take Me to Church” and also “Angel of Small Death.” The songs are great and good, respectively, and both of his performances were solid, but it’s hard not to think Hozier was ultimately underutilized.

Who better to play the Edge to Hader’s Bono in a timely U2 skit about the Irish rock band’s ongoing iTunes controversy?

Also read: Jim Carrey to Host ‘Saturday Night Live’ Early This Season (Exclusive)

TheWrap was first to report comedian Jim Carrey would host an upcoming episode of “SNL” and NBC confirmed the news during a commercial break Saturday, announcing the “Dumb and Dumber To” star was to take over Studio 8H on Oct. 25.

Watch videos from the episode above and below: