SNL stars paid tribute to Hal Willner during the first-ever Saturday Night Live at Home

By Georgia Slater
April 12, 2020 01:15 PM
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Saturday Night Live made sure to honor their beloved music producer Hal Willner during its first-ever at-home episode this weekend, just days after he died of complications related to the coronavirus.

At the end of Saturday’s remote episode, SNL cast members from the past and of the current season virtually came together to remember the longtime producer, who joined the NBC comedy show in 1980.

In the three-minute clip, stars including Kate McKinnon, Bill Hader, Kenan Thompson, Fred Armisen, Adam Sandler, and Pete Davidson shared stories about the 64-year-old maestro and remembered him as not only a musical wiz, but a “wonderful friend,” “great person” and “great man.”

McKinnon kicked off the clip explaining how important Willner’s role was to the show, noting that their sketches need to be “scored more like a movie in order for them to make sense and make the jokes land.”

“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,” she said as her voice began to crack. “On SNL, the guy who scores it only has a few hours. The guy’s name is Hal Willner and we lost him this week.”

Following McKinnon, the other stars came on screen from their homes to share their memories of Willner.

“We are going to miss you so damn much,” said Sandler, while Thompson said, “We’re going to miss his presence and passing him in the hallways.”

Armisen and Hader remembered Willner for his love and passion for music.

“When I was at SNL he used to come up to my dressing room and share music with me,” said Armisen.

Chelsea Lauren/WireImage

While Davidson was going through hard times, he recalled Willner as someone who “treated [him] with open arms, warm smile and just was always the funniest dude.”

As the tributes went on, SNL alums including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer appeared on-screen to sing a rendition of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”

The clip also played old videos of Willner talking about his love for working at SNL.

Willner described his fast-paced job as “an amazing gig” and found the live segments to be “really exciting.”

Willner’s rep Blake Zidell told PEOPLE that the music producer died on April 7 at his home in New York. “He had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, though he hadn’t/hasn’t been diagnosed,” Zidell said.

Willner is survived by his wife Sheila Rogers and his 15-year-old son Arlo.

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