Minutes before “Saturday Night Live” was set to kick off Season 49 inside Studio 8H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the show’s production team — led, of course, by executive producer Lorne Michaels — received word that two special guests were on their way. According to a source, that was when they learned that Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who were in New York City, wanted to drop by the show.
“No one knew they were coming, and they contacted a few minutes before arrival at air time,” said one source. Coincidentally, the very first sketch of the night — after host Pete Davidson’s cold open, which addressed Israel and Gaza, and monologue — was a parody of the NFL’s current obsession with all things Taylor Swift. In the sketch, “Fox NFL Sunday” anchor Curt Menefee, played by Kenan Thompson, grows increasingly frustrated as his co-anchors Terry Bradshaw (Molly Kearney), Howie Long (Mikey Day), Michael Strahan (Devon Walker) and Jimmy Johnson (James Austin Johnson) reveal their love of the pop icon.
In the sketch Menefee refers to “Bad Blood,” and then his co-anchors break into the Swift song, but Thompson-as-Menefee has had enough: “You know what, I’m done. When we get back, we’re going to speak to someone who actually wants to talk football,” he says. That’s when the camera flipped to Kelce.
“The second [Kelce] walked in, they mentioned the sketch and he said he was happy to join,” the insider said. (That last-minute add probably explains why Kelce didn’t actually say anything in his cameo — there was likely no time to script anything out.) “They were happy to jump into some parts of the show when asked.”
That also included Swift’s on-camera appearance to introduce the second number by her pal and “SNL” musical guest Ice Spice. This all came about on the spot — long after dress rehearsal, when there was no expectation of the Swift/Kelce surprise.
“The audience was shocked when both appeared separately,” noted one insider — and that was even clear to viewers at home, who heard the in-studio crowd audibly gasp when Kelce first made his cameo early in the episode. That’s also when viewers started speculating that Swift was also in the building and might make her own cameo, which she of course did later on.
Kelce and Swift didn’t appear on stage at the close of the show with Davidson, Ice Spice and the cast — although stars who make cameos frequently do. (Davidson did thank both of them in his farewells, however). Nonetheless, the couple did come to the “SNL” afterparty.
According to an insider, Kelce — who had hosted an “SNL” episode last year — was seen hugging the cast and producers when he saw them, while Swift was seen sitting with Ice Spice at the party, where the two took photos together.
“It was a fun, celebratory night,” one insider said.
The next day, Kelce watched his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, take on the New York Jets. Swift was not in attendance.
On Thursday, she had traveled back to Kansas City for the Chiefs’ NFL game against the Denver Broncos, one day after the premiere of her “Eras Tour” film Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Since Swift was first rumored to be dating Kelce, she has now appeared at three of tight end’s last four games — giving the NFL a major boost in ratings and sparking a media craze, with color commentators even weighing in on the trend during the game.