The second article from Sunday’s NY Times was on everyone’s favorite comedy punching bag, Saturday Night Live and it’s recent fascination with celeb-focused sketches. I don’t say “punching bag” because they don’t deserve being slammed. They do. But reading this article reminded me how good a producer Lorne Michaels is. A producer keeps his show on the air, period. It chills me to think of teen stars doing sketch comedy, but Michaels knows that they’ll get an audience. Particularly when he’s got the fractured network audience he describes (“a big tent show”). For a producer, he’s got his priorities in order. Ratings before funny.
The NY Times story laments the lack of quality political material on the show. It’s rather strange, because if anyone understand politics (at least of the office variety) it’s an SNL writer. The immense pressure to get on air is so big, it’s no wonder SNL writers begin to act like network executives… as soon as sketches about X start working, they’ll make as many sketches of X as possible. I caught an episode of “Dinner for Five” when David Cross asked Molly Shannon how she could stand working in such a poltical place. He argued that anything political between co-workers simply just gets in the way of creating funny stuff and he’s right.
Even more disheartening was to hear was the self-censoring writers did themselves… cutting poltical sketches because they feared the backlash from 9/11 patriotism. To hear SNL really run away from any sort of satirical bent means it’s become the establishment show it was meant to buck 30 years ago. It’s “Carol Burnett” with better fart jokes.
When I first read E! had gotten the rerun rights for SNL instead of Comedy Central a few years ago, I questioned the change. It didn’t make sense. Now it does. SNL is just part of the tabloid spectacle… a “funny” version of “Celebrities Uncensored.”