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'SNL' Spoofs Kanye West, Welcomes Back Paul Simon

For the third week in a row, Saturday Night Live devoted significant time to Kanye West, opening the third episode of its 44th season with a re-enactment of the rapper's bizarre speech at the White House.

SNL cast member Chris Redd donned a Make America Great Again hat to portray West, who made headlines on Thursday when he gave a 10-minute, wide-ranging soliloquy during a meeting with President Trump.

The cold open began with a C-SPAN intro, which framed the meeting between West, Trump and football great Jim Brown as a discussion about "alternate universes, Superman and flying cars." Alec Baldwin made his frequent guest appearance as Trump, welcoming everyone to what was "in no way a publicity stunt. This is a serious, private conversation between three friends — plus 50 reporters with cameras."

With Kenan Thompson looking on as a skeptical Brown, Redd dove right into a parody of West's rambling, at times nonsensical speech: "First let me begin with the idea that time is a myth. ... infinite amounts of universe. ... and I'm a prisoner in a different dimension. Have I lost anyone so far?"

The rest of the cold open featured prerecorded thoughts by Trump and Brown as they react to West's unusual suggestions, such as abolishing the 13th Amendment and funding invisible planes.

"Maybe we should order your lunch from a pharmacy," Baldwin's Trump says at one point.

At the end of the skit, Redd's West gets up to "hug my new dad," and Baldwin's Trump says to himself, "Don't check to see if your wallet's still there" before patting his pocket.

SNL alum and late-night host Seth Meyers hosted the episode, while Paul Simon on his 77th birthday returned to his home away from home: the Saturday Night Live stage at 30 Rock.

Simon made his SNL-record ninth appearance as a musical guest on the late-night comedy staple, which he's hosted four times. He helmed the show's second episode ever in 1975, which also featured a three-song set with his former recording partner Art Garfunkel.

On this Saturday night, Simon performed two songs with New York chamber ensemble yMusic, which also backed him on his latest studio album, In The Blue Light. The first performance of the night was a song from that album: a version of "Can't Run But" arranged by The National's Bryce Dessner. The song, which touches on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, has taken on new meaning in Simon's quasi-retirement, as he turned attention away from songwriting and toward environmental conservation.

But it was the second song of the night that brought the house down. Surrounded by the members of yMusic and backed by a full band, Simon performed "Bridge Over Troubled Water," his Grammy-winning song from Simon & Garfunkel's 1970 album of the same name. At the song's conclusion, as the crowd erupted a second time and before the cameras zoomed out for commercial, an emotional Simon held his hand over his heart and thanked the audience.

("Bridge Over Troubled Water" is not available for embed but can be viewed here at the 52-minute mark.)

SNL returns Nov. 3 with host Jonah Hill and musical guest Maggie Rogers.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: October 13, 2018 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous version of this story stated Art Garfunkel was Paul Simon's songwriting partner. Garfunkel sang Simon's songs but did not co-write them.