Has Saturday Night Live stopped even trying to be funny? Have the writers’ and producers’ political agenda transcended their ability to write humorous sketches and deliver cultural and political satire?
It would be easy to reach that conclusion by watching their cold open from this past, post-Trump victory episode.
Here is Kate McKinnon, Emmy Award-winning cast member, dressed in her Hillary Clinton character’s white pantsuit. Seated at a piano singing a somber version of the late Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah whose lyrics are supposed to evoke emotion from those who were #WithHer.
I found this lyric particularly rich and, frankly, hilarious:
I did my best, it wasn’t much / I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch / I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you / And even though it all went wrong / I’ll stand before the Lord of Song / With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
As someone who has covered the lies, obfuscation and lawlessness of the Clintons for many years, I thought this line was hilarious. But there was no laughter in the studio. They were serious. I kept waiting for the punchline, it never came.
At the end of the dramatically lit serenade, McKinnon/Clinton turned to the camera and, voice breaking with tears, said, “I’m not giving up and neither should you. LIVE FROM NEW YORK IT’S SATURDAY NIGHT!!!!”
Are you kidding me? What the hell is going on here?
It’s been said that Saturday Night Live hasn’t been funny since Dennis Miller sat at the Weekend Update desk. I happen to agree with this, but I am reluctant to jump on board because the argument smacks of a “get off my lawn” kind of “things were much better when I was a kid” sort of narrative. In fact, I remember my older brothers telling me during the Dana Carvey/Phil Hartman/Dennis Miller era that the original (Belushi/Ackroyd/Radner) era was superior. Whatever.
So if this generation of SNL viewers thinks this crew is funny, who am I to argue?
However, this artistic choice goes beyond one’s judgement of comedy. This was a deliberate choice to not be funny. I suppose the SNL team believed their audience would be so traumatized be the electoral results that they couldn’t possibly bring themselves to digest a humorous take on the election at the top of their show.
Perhaps. But compare the video above with how SNL approached their first broadcast after the terror attacks of September 11:
It was certainly a somber and serious opening with members of the NYPD and NYFD flanking then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani as they discussed the events and aftermath at the World Trade Center. Then, after Paul Simon sang an inspiring rendition of The Boxer, SNL Producer Lorne Michaels thanked the mayor for helping to open the show and he asked “Can we be funny?” Giuliani responded dryly, “Why start now?”
It was a cathartic moment as the studio audience erupted in laughter and the cops and firefighters laughed while standing on camera.
But in the aftermath of the Clinton loss, SNL couldn’t find a way to discover even one comedic moment in their cold opening? It’s fair to say that the creative staff at SNL, the writers, the actors and the producers, as well as the executives at NBC Universal who oversee the program, found more sorrow and despair and less humor in Hillary Clinton’s loss than in the loss of 3,000 lives at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists.
That statement speaks for itself, don’t you think?