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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Patrick Moss writes, in essence:
Q. Why isn't Saturday Night Live funny any more?
This is one of the great unsolved mysteries of my generation. It's not that what I found funny at 20 I no longer find funny. Samurai Hotel is still funny. As are the Bees sketches. As are the "wild and crazy guys." As is Roseanne Roseannadanna, may she rest in peace. As late as "Wayne's World" the jokes were pointed inwards.

To me the change seems to be in the kind of humor. The SNL I watched and loved was goofy absurdist humor. The SNL I occasionally click past seems to be mean-spirited embarrassment humor, e.g. the "buh-bye" routine, the "It's Pat" routine, etc.

Is it that the audience now wants that? Or is it that Lorne Michaels is hiring a different flavor of writer? There've gotta be people still writing goofy.

Does anyone have any insider knowledge about what happened here? Did Lorne's wife leave him, or something?


I've actually pondered this one a lot. In my opinion, the last great (regular) skit on SNL was the dozen or so "Celebrity Jeopardy" spoofs they did. They were friggin' hysterical, especially if you watch them one after the other.

Lately, I tune in just to nod off.

By Blogger Christina, at 4:11 PM  

The problem isn't the writing so much as the performing--Back in the day, there was a sense that anything could happen because the performers were often improvising, and rarely used cue cards. Now, what you end up seeing is 3 or 4 people in a sketch reading to you what their seeing on the cards and then occassionally breaking that to look directly at the people in the skit with them so we know they're "acting." If they would just learn their lines or even make it up as it went along, the show would probably be ten times funnier and as a bonus, the skits would probably be shorter.

By Blogger Quinn, at 6:21 PM  

Actualy Quinn they have always used cue cards(the show isn't finalized until saturday) and they have never allowed improvising. They have a very strict time schedule.

The fact is the show goes through lows and highs. Right now they have a bunch of new writers and no established characters to fall back on. It's no different than in 94 or in 85, and just like then next year will be better and the year after that it will start to be good.

And quite frankly Alex I don't think you can get much more absurdist than the Lonely Island boys, who are all on SNL right now.

If your interested in how SNL has worked over time since the beginning go to the library and pick up this. I found it a fascinating read.

By Blogger Whaledawg, at 6:47 PM  

Some possibilities...
1. Over the years, they've increasingly pandered to a younger and younger audience -- just look at the musical groups they choose.
2. The format has kind of been explored, to say the least.
3. Their best writers don't always get showcased. It's more political, dog-eat-dog, from what I understand.
4. When you hear the name Lorne Michaels, you don't exactly think cutting edge anymore. You think '70s-'80s. Where's the hunger to break ground when you're old and rich?

By Blogger Eric Williamson, at 10:35 PM  

1. Over the years, they've increasingly pandered to a younger and younger audience -- just look at the musical groups they choose.

They're not pandering younger and younger, your getting older and older. Their demographic has always been highschool/college.

2. The format has kind of been explored, to say the least.

As has every format. There are still plenty of places you can go with sketch comedy.

3. Their best writers don't always get showcased. It's more political, dog-eat-dog, from what I understand.

You could say that about any sketch show. What would make those better writers be overlooked of late?

4. When you hear the name Lorne Michaels, you don't exactly think cutting edge anymore. You think '70s-'80s. Where's the hunger to break ground when you're old and rich?

The show hasn't been breaking ground since about 1978. After Lorne left originaly it was about keeping it alive and when he came back he was about turning it into an institution. Ground breaking hasn't been the focus for a long time.

By Blogger Whaledawg, at 11:16 PM  

I think the early years were based on improv comedy, whereas the more recent years have the meaner, stand-up-style sense of humor.

Comedians today mostly want to make fun of other people. They are way too cool and ironic to dress up in bee costumes and say, "We want your pollen."

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 11:57 PM  

OK, Whaledawg MUST know someone on the show, you sound like a studio flack. The show sucks. The writing is weak, the writers/actors/comedians are from this incestuous LA/Groundlings/NY club scene and spend half their time snarking over insider jokes, and their political commentary is nowhere near as funny or as relevant as it should be, the studio audience sounds trapped, the "musical" guests are a freaking joke, and waaaay more than half the time, the celebrity host isn't funny. At all. There are some funny shows, but honestly, the show sucks. Period. End of story. If there was anything else to watch on Saturday Night, that show would go under.... Maybe somebody should pitch another sketch comedy show, with some actually funny comedians, for that time slot and put it out of its misery. Free the funny people who do work on the show to go out into the world on their own and prosper. And the DVD's aren't funny either! They must be hoping to do more than one for each of the cast member, so they are holding back funny skits so they can spread them out. 1-2 per DVD barely merits a communal rental let alone a purchase.

By Blogger Hoff, at 2:09 AM  

I actually used to work at SNL. It's a fascinating place. This place is dripping with so much comedy history and brilliance that it's almost suffocating.

That being said, I have to admit that I haven't regularly watched the show since the Mike Myers/Dana Carvey years. With the exception of the occasional flashes of brilliance by Will Ferrell, that was about the last time I felt like there was any consistent quality to the show.

(If I see Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz laughing at each other through one more sketch, I'm going put my fist through the TV.)

But SNL always has, and always will, go in cycles. As long as they keep churning out comedy mega-stars every few years, I think they'll be around forever.

Just when you think they're dead, they pump out a Mike Myers. Without him, the show starts to sink, but then lo-and-behold, Adam Sandler becomes the biggest comedy star in America. It sinks another couple notches, and BAM! Will Ferrell hits a few out of the park.

They've been trying to make Jimmy Fallon their next wonder boy for the last 5 years, but um ... he sucks. I haven't seen much of the new season, but if I had to put my money on a horse, it would be Adam Samburg.

I'd recommend reading Saturday Night if you want an amazing backstage take on the show. Lorne's an old guy now, but it's amazing to read about him at the beginning, tripping on peyote in the desert and dreaming up sketch ideas. Amazing.

By Blogger Warren Benedetto, at 4:39 AM  

AAHHHHHHH! Finally we get to the bottom of it.


I knew something had changed.

Lorne definitely needs to start taking peyote again.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 9:11 AM  

This year you can feel they are moving back into an upswing. Indeed, I think the hiring of the Lonely Island dudes helps this, especially since two of them our writers. They have a very talented cast. We've had the Chronicles of Narnia rap video, this last week we saw Young Chuck Norris video, and watch this and tell me it's not funny:

By Blogger Unknown, at 4:12 PM  

i mean, try this link:
Pirate Sketch

By Blogger Unknown, at 4:14 PM  

Just watched the Pirate Convention. NOT FUNNY. Didn’t even smile. And I really, really wanted to laugh, but, in fact, I became incensed. I wrote that same sketch 20 years ago in the 6th grade, right down to the “it’s rated RRRRRR” joke.

Maybe it would be funnier if we were on peyote.

By Blogger Adam Renfro, at 7:52 PM  

well, it's all subjective.

By Blogger Unknown, at 3:36 AM  

Sorry, I was a bit harsh, and it showed in the formatting. I want to love the show. It's been with us (me)too long. It's working its way into the American archetypal thing.

By Blogger Adam Renfro, at 11:29 AM  

I guess I'm one of the few people who still finds a lot to like about SNL. I think in many ways the early shows have been idealized a bit too much (and I say this as someone who has been watching faithfully since the first show with George Carlin.) What kind of criticism would we be reading now if the Muppets were on the show?

The show does go through cycles, but I think the Hartman-Myers years were among the funniest. And Rachel Dratch, Fred Armisen, Will Ferrell and Ceri Oteri have been brilliant in recent seasons. Celebrity Jeopardy was great, but I thought Dog Show was as cutting edge as anything they've done.

Part of the problem is that the original show was groundbreaking in a way that is hard to duplicate. Belushi on the news talking about he and his college roommate gave each other a joint for Christmas -- let's just say we hadn't seen a lot of that before, so there was a sense that this was a show for a new generation.

Christopher Walken is regularly as funny as any guest host they've had. And from everything I've read, the cast despised doing the Killer Bees sketches.

By Blogger ChrisO, at 9:43 PM  

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