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This week, news broke that longtime Saturday Night Live staffer Hal Willner had died at the relatively young age of 64 following complications that were seemingly related to Covid-19. The longtime musician and producer had worked on sketch adaptation music for the New-York based show and had kept that gig since the 1980s. He was a part of the current season, but he also saw other generations of SNL cast members come and go, including Jimmy Fallon and Adam Sandler's.
Following the announcement that Hal Willner had passed, Jimmy Fallon was heartbroken by the news. What normally probably would have come up in a small tribute moment on The Tonight Show became an even bigger presence on The Tonight Show: At Home Edition as many people across the globe have seen a loved one succumb to this horrible disease.
Jimmy Fallon started his video tribute to Hal Willner, noting Hal was “a good friend” and “a creative genius,” also noting at this point that a lot of people across the country are being affected similarly now because they know someone who has succumbed to Covid-19. For Jimmy Fallon, Hal Willner was the first person the now-late night host really knew who has died, likely due to complications that arose from having the coronavirus in New York.
Other Saturday Night Live alum Adam Sandler -- who recently made his own The Tonight Show At Home appearance --made his own tribute online. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and others echoed with similar sentiments, with Louis-Dreyfus calling Willner "weird" and "lovely."
It should be noted that Hal Willner had the symptoms of the novel coronavirus at the time of his death, but various reports have indicated he may not have been tested in an official capacity. A March 28 tweet showed some gumption at facing his then-current circumstances.
Hal Willner was a notable music producer in his own right. The producer worked with Lucinda Williams on her 2007 album West and had worked with other big names, including Marianne Faithfull and the late Lou Reed. It has been confirmed that Marianne Faithfull has also been hospitalized and is dealing directly with the complications that can arise from Covid-19.
We’re all living a new normal right now. Jimmy Fallon is creating his own content for The Tonight Show, often borrowing his daughters markers and paper to bring awareness to charities and other organizations providing relief during the coronavirus. So far, New York has been very heavily hit, and Hal Willner’s death only stands to illustrate that point.
Our thoughts go out to Hal Willner’s family and friends and everyone who worked with the producer during his long and winding career, including those that knew him from the decades he spent working on NBC's longtime late night sketch comedy series.