May 20, 2022

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Happy Birthday to the Best ‘Saturday Night Live’ Fake Commercial Yet

I’ve watched Saturday Night Live since the 1975 original cast, even though I was probably much too young for the show back then. The fake commercials have always been my favorite part. And I just realized, randomly, that Friday marks the fifth anniversary of what I think is the best fake commercial the show may have ever done. 

The ad ran on May 13, 2017 and it begins with Kenan Thompson dressed as an older man trying to use the Amazon smart speaker his kids gave him. 

“Alyssa, what time is it?” he queries. “AMANDA!” Seems the fault isn’t in the device, but in the fact that he can’t remember what to call the dang thing.

Never fear, the fake ad is hawking a new product from Amazon, “Amazon Echo Silver — for the Greatest Generation.”

It responds to any fairly Alexa-like name an older person might come up with (“Excedrin!”). It patiently repeats answers over and over, even after someone has forgotten the question. It dutifully reminds users that Satchel Paige died in the 1980s, fills them in on what the young people goofing off on the street corner are up to, and helps them find the phone they’ve lost (it’s in your right hand). 

When they shiver under a blanket and ask for the heat to be cranked, it uselessly points out the room is already at 100 degrees. It also has an “uh-huh” feature, which just keeps repeating that phrase when the owner goes off on a rambling, pointless story. 

The ad itself is designed impeccably. On Thompson’s mantelpiece, along with the Amazon Echo Silver, are ancestral photos, round glasses and a bottle of the kind of men’s cologne your grandpa or dad would use. Kate McKinnon shows up as a white-haired lady buried under a hand-crocheted afghan, and again, the props behind her are spot on — a  ceramic basket, Virgin Mary statues, black and white photos of young kids who are probably now about to retire.

The fake ad doesn’t insult older folks. I had GI Generation parents, and they’d have recognized themselves in the ad, and laughed. It’s a universal truth that technology that comes along after you’ve already lived a lot of your life can sometimes be a struggle to understand. 

And the SNL cast members in the skit all seem to be taking cues from beloved grandparents, and not mocking them so much as honoring them. I’d watch a whole 90-minute show with Thompson, McKinnon, Aidy Bryant and the rest playing these older folks struggling with modern tech.

When the ad first aired in 2017, I wrote a post about it, calling it “brilliant.” A cautious reader immediately warned that “brilliant” was a big word to be using for a sketch on a late-night show. Five years later, I stand by my assessment.

Sure, you can make a case for the old-school Bass-o-matic or even Colon Blow, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t rewatched any SNL sketch more times than I’ve watched the 2017 ad for Amazon Echo Silver. Check it out if you haven’t, it’s hilarious. Alexa would give that a big “uh-huh.”