Saturday Night Live hasn’t been running for my entire life, but sometimes it feels that way. When the show debuted I was still in high school, as hard as that is to believe today. I’ll definitely confess to being a fan of SNL early on, particularly when Belushi was still with them, though I sort of lost track of the show in the 80s and 90s. But after all these years, is the seemingly eternal Saturday night offering from NBC finally on its last legs?
Christian Toto seems to think it’s possible. Not for a lack of advertising revenue or even ratings, but simply because even some of the shows most liberal fans seem to be growing tired of the schtick. It’s all gotten too predictable. As Toto points out, while everyone knew that producer Lorne Michaels was a liberal at heart, there used to be an unpredictable edginess to the writing. You couldn’t be sure who they would go after on any given week and they would frequently surprise us. But not anymore, and even some well known leftists from the entertainment community are growing tired of it.
“SNL” alum Rob Schneider made waves recently by saying the show’s liberal crusade is hurting the laughs. Comedy demands empathy and surprise, two elements in short supply on “SNL” circa 2018.
“The fun of ‘Saturday Night Live’ was always you never knew which way they leaned politically,” he told the Daily News. “You kind of assumed they would lean more left and liberal, but now the cat’s out of the bag they are completely against Trump, which I think makes it less interesting because you know the direction the piece is going.”
Schneider added “SNL” player Alec Baldwin’s take on President Trump is another problem.
“To me, the genius of Dana Carvey was Dana always had empathy for the people he played, and Alec Baldwin has nothing but a fuming, seething anger toward the person he plays.”
In short, SNL traded in their edge for an echo chamber. Good natured ribbing, such as Chevy Chase playing a bumbling Gerald Ford, has been replaced by the anger and debasement of Baldwin’s Trump persona. Weekend update basically covers no news unless it’s something that can be used to mock Trump. At this point, even Vice is getting sick of it.
Toto goes on to offer a series of seven moves that SNL could use to bring back the funny and possibly something of a more ideologically diverse audience. These include having Lorne Michaels go on a national apology tour, dumping the cold open, reading some conservative satirists to see what they find funny these days and – possibly the boldest and most outrageous suggestion – replacing Alec Baldwin with Darrell Hammond.
Would that breath fresh life into the show? Maybe. I can’t see how it could get more offensive to at least half the country and, frankly, boring at this point. Putting last night’s show in context with Toto’s article, I found myself wondering today whether SNL was already noticing the same thing. I’ll let you be the judge, but check out the video of the strange Mothers Day skit they put on where the mothers of some of the cast members complain about all the Trump bashing and politics. It was clearly scripted, but why include that theme?