"Aaand... commercials! Two minutes to Forrest Trump sketch..."
December 28, 2017 9:39 AM   Subscribe

But the more of SNL I watched this year, the more I felt like I was watching a different show than everybody else was. I was tempted to call it the worst show of 2017, but I’m not sure that’s what I mean. It’s certainly made with a certain degree of love and affection that marks it as the work of talented people.

No, what SNL was was the emptiest show of 2017, and the fact that it was so over-praised makes me worry we’ll learn nothing at all from this particular moment in pop cultural history. And there’s no better way to talk about that emptiness than to consider just how poorly SNL handles the current occupant of the White House, even as it clearly wants to say something daring.
Saturday Night Live’s current cultural cachet is built on a mirage [Todd VanDerWerff, Vox]
posted by Atom Eyes (101 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is that why I’ve had their goddamned “I wish it was Christmas today” song stuck in my stupid head for the last 6 days? Please make it stop!
posted by Burhanistan at 9:41 AM on December 28, 2017


its a really funny mirage
posted by supermedusa at 9:46 AM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


The series’ default assumption is that Trump is dangerous not because he represents a nativist, nationalist ideology that is destroying lives, while leaving thousands more in flux, but because he’s a goofy, incompetent boob who might accidentally get us into nuclear war.

Por que no los dos?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:48 AM on December 28, 2017 [21 favorites]


Por que no los dos?

It could be both. What it can't be is *only* the one they think is easy to make funny.
posted by Sequence at 9:50 AM on December 28, 2017 [20 favorites]


I'd like to point out that the bottom half of the article links to a brilliant scene from Comedy Central's "The President Show" with the cast singing Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up" which really, really gets to the point.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:52 AM on December 28, 2017 [31 favorites]


I had been constantly remarking to my friends that all the recent Trump sketches, even the ones that make me chuckle, aren’t actually creating any thoughtful political humor, they’re just repeating verbatim what has actually been said by either the politicians themselves or the mainstream media. A big disappointment overall.
posted by Melismata at 9:55 AM on December 28, 2017 [13 favorites]


I heard Patton Oswalt say something like, "People tell me it must be nice to be in comedy in the time of Trump because the jokes just write themselves, but that's a problem because funny jokes don't just write themselves." I thought it summed up what's happening at SNL, they're just putting on some goofy impressions and letting the jokes write themselves.
posted by peeedro at 10:03 AM on December 28, 2017 [53 favorites]


SNL has been coasting for most of its run. It's very much the cool kids club, overseen by those who have a vested interest in the current order.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:03 AM on December 28, 2017 [18 favorites]


I’m sure that if they could find corporate sponsors whose politics aligned with deep, thoughtful criticisms of the Trump administration, then that’s what we’d be seeing. SNL has to avoid alienating their advertisers or there’s no show.
posted by corey flood at 10:09 AM on December 28, 2017 [5 favorites]


(Though ok I’ll admit, Steve Bannon as the grim reaper is pretty funny, I’ll give them that.)
posted by Melismata at 10:10 AM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


Which is not to say that I’m defending them, just that SNL doesn’t have a perfectly blank slate to work with.
posted by corey flood at 10:10 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


Saturday Night Live has been a cesspool of racism and misogyny for ages. Their normalization of the current clime only adds to their offensive resume. I would EXPECT it would be impossible for them to make funny out of the current sea of disgusting that is our government, particularly with their lazy, cookie-cutter, pure-promotion-for-companies-and-brands format.
posted by agregoli at 10:14 AM on December 28, 2017 [24 favorites]


It feels to me like satire and parody of our political atmosphere has been deliberately toned down this season on SNL. Considering everything we know about Trump, their treatment of him has been practically toothless. Imagine the kind of field day previous casts could have made of the whole Trump/Roy Moore stuff.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:16 AM on December 28, 2017 [8 favorites]


Court jesters are still part of the court.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:22 AM on December 28, 2017 [84 favorites]


I feel like the fact that the show has started airing way earlier on the West Coast has gotten them to tone down some jokes that would have been a lot more ribald back in the day.

Some of this year's sketches have been amazing, and some have been lazy. I have not felt super drawn to it.

My stance on the show this year is the same as it was last year though: the writers and especially performers are stoned, and obviously stoned, too often. They are not sharp. And it's not in the cute way of Bill Hader constantly breaking during sketches. It's in a 'that's good enough, and *we*'re having a good time' way.
posted by taterpie at 10:22 AM on December 28, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm not a comedy professional, but I don't know how you'd make recoiling in horror for months at a time funny.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:27 AM on December 28, 2017 [34 favorites]


I think they should cut the number of shows they do each year. It's obvious they are running through the development of the material. If you listen to professional comics talk about how they work, they may take months to develop material for the public. SNL is developing whole sketches in two days and trying to shoehorn in a guest star on top of that.
posted by Justin Case at 10:33 AM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


I personally believe that The Simpsons went off the rails after about season 9. After that it's just celebrity cameos and hamfisted jokes about technology.
posted by Donald Trump Sex Nightmare at 10:37 AM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


"the writers and especially performers are stoned, and obviously stoned, too often."

I would love to hear more about who is "obviously stoned" in your opinion.
posted by komara at 10:37 AM on December 28, 2017 [13 favorites]


SNL is just a hoary old comedy show. AT this point it occupies a position not terribly dissimilar from what, say, the Carol Burnett show did in my childhood. Mildly funny, might as well watch it if it's on. But expectations are low and they are definitely phoning it in. (What's with all the game show sketches? Who the hell thinks a game show is a funny premise?)
posted by Miko at 10:39 AM on December 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


Every criticism of this season (and every other) is valid. But I will give them this: Kellywise the Clown was hilarious
posted by Ber at 10:39 AM on December 28, 2017 [23 favorites]


I've been thinking about how Trump in the White House has all these effects into comedy and who gets jobs in comedy. A horrible racist staffs his White House with a bunch of racist white men like him. They are repugnant to most and ripe for mockery. So a show like The President Show happens, and since they are spoofing a room of white dudes, they hire onto their show a room of white dudes. See also Jordan Klepper's Comedy Central Show, The Opposition. It is a spoof on Alex Jones, so again, lots of room for white male comedians who are pretending to be conservative. Klepper himself did some good work making field pieces for The Daily Show, where he would go to Trump rallies. He could fit in there because again, white guy pretending to be conservative.

I get the sense that the spoof shows are trying to shoehorn in their non-white guy talent but that's the nature of a spoof show. They could go Hamilton and do more gender and race bending but there doesn't seem to be much of that except occasionally Kate McKinnon on SNL. For a long time (even pre-Trump, if you can remember back that far) I have been much more drawn to female-led commentary like stand-up. These spoof type of shows often feel like they are simply recreating a room I am already locked out of.

Generally with SNL, I have always found it to be playing out of its league when you look at its guests and popularity. It makes more sense as a practice area and launch pad for young comedians, not the main event.
posted by Emmy Rae at 10:41 AM on December 28, 2017 [10 favorites]


In other news, Generalísimo Francisco Franco is still dead.
posted by chavenet at 10:43 AM on December 28, 2017 [32 favorites]


I like how VanDerWerff, after acknowledging at the beginning of this piece that SNL "is always chasing the news of the day in order to find laughs in it", then forgets that essential truth about the show and faults it for not providing a canny and deep assessment of American life today, in all its magnificent perversity and self-annihilatory glory. That would be a great show--a sort of anti-West Wing--and I would watch the hell out of it, probably. But it's not what I really expect out of a show that's always been a showcase for various stand-up and improv comics to bolt their respective shticks together into something that's usually but not inevitably watchable. Even the much-venerated original cast didn't really do that; they had a few laughs at the post-Watergate revelations about Nixon, but Chevy Chase's ham-fisted Ford slapstick? Jimmy Carter dealing with a caller on his stunt hotline having a bad trip? The latter was pretty funny, but it was one sketch. It's easy to look back on the greatest hits of forty-odd years and think that SNL was way better at politics than it really was at any given point in time. (Phil Hartman's "Reagan Mastermind" is over thirty years old.) VanDerWerff, like many of the writers at Vox, should consider whether this emptiness that they perceive is maybe just a reflection of their own burnout.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:54 AM on December 28, 2017 [20 favorites]


Rent Bob Roberts:
In the beginning, our great company provided appliances for the neighborhood. We heated your home, we refrigerated your food, and improved the quality of your life. We prospered, and you loved us. And we grew into a large multinational corporation. In fact, we own this very network. Our chief source of income, however, is... the arms industry! Yes, we rely heavily on those fat government contracts, to make these useless weapons of mass destruction. And even though we have been indicted and convicted for fraud several times, you don't hear too much about our bad side, because, well, we own our own news division. Chances are pretty slim that you'll hear reports of our environmental mishaps, or the way we bust those unions. We even have a highly-rated Saturday night show that the public buys as entertainment with a leftist slant.
posted by WCityMike at 10:54 AM on December 28, 2017 [35 favorites]


Some of this year's sketches have been amazing, and some have been lazy. I have not felt super drawn to it.

back in my day, all the sketches were lazy! and toothless! that's the way it was, and we liked it!
posted by entropicamericana at 10:55 AM on December 28, 2017 [30 favorites]


Every criticism of this season (and every other) is valid. But I will give them this: Kellywise the Clown was hilarious


Lots of good wheat in the chaff of SNL shows. People like to focus on the chaff and have their coffee shop voice opinions about the show, mainly because at one point in their youth they fancied themselves working on it but took different career paths instead.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:56 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


“I wish it was Christmas today”

I wished it was Christmas today, but then I clicked and remembered I'm second class in this conversation: "The uploader has not made this video available in your country." This whole thread will be full of that crap. I'll just crawl back into my corner now..
posted by Chuckles at 11:01 AM on December 28, 2017 [9 favorites]


Oh, good, I was hoping to read an article confirming my existing anti-SNL bias today.

(The best thing about 30 Rock is the running gag that TGS is fucking dreadful and unfunny yet also full of unearned self-seriousness -- just like SNL.)
posted by tobascodagama at 11:03 AM on December 28, 2017 [14 favorites]


I had been constantly remarking to my friends that all the recent Trump sketches, even the ones that make me chuckle, aren’t actually creating any thoughtful political humor, they’re just repeating verbatim what has actually been said by either the politicians themselves or the mainstream media.

Which was also covered by 30 Rock, actually.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:05 AM on December 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


Funny? Occasionally.
Scathing? Never.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:06 AM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


People like to focus on the chaff and have their coffee shop voice opinions about the show, mainly because at one point in their youth they fancied themselves working on it but took different career paths instead.

That is a partial truth, in my view. People also talk about the chaff because it is an influential show. People watch it. People talk about it. Ol President Asterisk was supposedly letting it influence his staffing decisions. Plus, its alums often go on to be even bigger influencers. It's worth critiquing SNL just like it's worth critiquing all pop culture.
posted by Emmy Rae at 11:07 AM on December 28, 2017 [8 favorites]


The situation with SNL kind of reminds me of the undeserved praise heaped upon Eminem after his BET Awards freestyle. Apparently peoples' dislike of Trump causes them to forgive some really tepid material. Baldwin and McCarthy's impressions were amazing when you first saw them, but they returned to the well too many times without there being solid writing to back it up. Criticizing Bush in the post-9/11 era was actually brave (see The Dixie Chicks) but we're not really in the same place this time around.
posted by gngstrMNKY at 11:08 AM on December 28, 2017 [8 favorites]


"Boy, they're really socking it to that Donald trump guy! He must work there or something..."
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:17 AM on December 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


Having the presidential candidates guest host the show was kind of a cultural norm, weirdly enough. There really is no true public forum besides the debates for the candidates to show some skin, so SNL and late night talk shows serve as a stunted stand-in. Too bad they didn't get trump to sing. He looks like he practiced for that number (unlike his appearance on SNL or the debates).
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 AM on December 28, 2017


"There's too many farts in the fart machine!"
posted by Artw at 11:23 AM on December 28, 2017 [15 favorites]


2017 has been a year where I've pulled back from a lot of political satire. Even the best of political satire (Last Week Tonight, Seth Meyers A Closer Look Segments) have felt exhausting at times. I realize that this type of humour is necessary for a lot of people, it helps them get through it and endure. But so much of the satire comes off as ridicule or meanness to me these days and that feels counter-productive to the type of change that we need in order to be better as humans and as a society. I'm just tired.
posted by Fizz at 11:33 AM on December 28, 2017 [12 favorites]


Too bad they didn't get trump to sing.

Poor Megan Mullally. I'll bet that clip haunts her dreams.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:33 AM on December 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


ctrl-F "lorne" - "0 results"

SNL has never been and will never be a hotbed of liberal comedy while Lorne Michaels is running it. Cheap digs at men in power are okay but critical humor is not. Those two rules, and Michaels, have been the only constants on the show since it first aired. Whether it's because Michaels wants to keep the show from skewing leftist, or whether he's just mortally afraid that anything heavier than clowning will lose viewership, it's hard to tell but the result is the same.

After he retires, see what happens.
posted by at by at 11:34 AM on December 28, 2017 [12 favorites]


SNL is never going to go all in (yes, it's old and clunky, but it's all in,) on something like The Ronnie Horror Picture Show. Imagine if current SNL would do a Buckwheat Is Dead episode where Trump declares them fake news and starts censoring the show from his twitter feed. Just something, anything, more subversive than these increasingly tepid cold openings.
posted by Catblack at 11:38 AM on December 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


SNL has never been and will never be a hotbed of liberal comedy while Lorne Michaels is running it.

So this is what I don't get - Lorne Michaels is EP of Seth Meyers' show, right? So why the difference? Or is he not actually doing any work and it just comes down to the people he hires to make the show?
posted by Emmy Rae at 11:40 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


ctrl-F "lorne" - "0 results"

More like ctrl-F "Comcast" - "0 results"
posted by edeezy at 11:54 AM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think Lorne just demands a cut of the projects of SNL alum, Mafia-style. It's basically a factory that creates investment vehicles for Lorne.
posted by bleep at 11:56 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


So this is what I don't get - Lorne Michaels is EP of Seth Meyers' show, right? So why the difference?

I don't think he necessarily has problems with biting political material, but he absolutely does not think SNL should be a "risky" show. His job takes precedent over his personal beliefs, and he sees his job as tailoring each show to the audience as he sees it, so SNL is the Broad Inoffensive Comedy Product with a calculated allowance for slight (and only slight) edginess to keep with its branding, and Seth Meyers' show is the Political Comedy Late Night Product and if he had his hands on some right wing comedy it would be the Red State Comedy Product and he'd rigidly enforce the boundaries of those products without taking his personal beliefs into the equation. He's the archetypal Network Suit. He also produced Kids in the Hall, and his boundaries for that show were looser and the show thrived creatively in its niche, but that's not the product he sees SNL as being. And I think his rigidity in defining the boundaries of his shows is to SNL's detriment, and he's lost touch with what that audience wants and it also stifles the potential of the show.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:59 AM on December 28, 2017 [8 favorites]


(The problem with the Ctrl+F gag is that sometimes something has been mentioned and called out but not by the name you searched for.)
posted by tobascodagama at 12:02 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


ctrl-F "Ctrl-F" - 3-5 results!!
posted by sylvanshine at 12:14 PM on December 28, 2017 [14 favorites]


SNL are the same people who thought there was nothing funny about Obama. Meanwhile, conservatives were just as lazy in mocking Obama as SNL is now in mocking Trump, and they got rightly called on it. SNL continues to rake in the ad bux though so they're not going to listen.
posted by Infinity_8 at 12:16 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Ctrl+F, I'm annoyed that neither the article nor this thread have brought up the bothsidesism brought to the show by Michael Che. Other sketches and cast members have been bad about this, too. But lately, Che's whole "liberals are bad too, no point in voting" shtick is neither funny nor helpful. Same with Tina Fey and her bit about the protest cake. It's not just tepid jokes about low-hanging fruit, it's actively hurting the cause of anti-Trumpism/fascism.
posted by witchen at 12:31 PM on December 28, 2017 [15 favorites]


I mentioned racism and misogyny, but forgot to add that SNL has a horrible history of transphobic shit too. Why do people still watch this pile of garbage?
posted by agregoli at 12:37 PM on December 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


back in my day, all the sketches were lazy! and toothless! that's the way it was, and we liked it!

I didn't. I did all my teen years in those golden years of the 1970s and honestly came to genuinely NOT like SNL at all. Part of this was a simple situation of "it's Saturday night, what the f*** are you doing home watching TV when you should be out tearing down the suburb!?!?" But it also just seldom felt up to the hype. Maybe if I wasn't already a fan of Monty Python's superior mucking about ...

Anyway, long story short -- not much has changed. I'm almost sixty now but I still feel I've somehow blown it if I'm at home on a Saturday night watching TV. Nothing wrong with home per say, there are just way better things to be doing than watching goofy impressions etc.
posted by philip-random at 12:39 PM on December 28, 2017


Agree with everyone re: the gross tepidness of SNL's response to Trump/fascism, but I have to say that there have been some #MeToo sketches lately that I have found to be both hilarious and cathartic, in particular Welcome to Hell and Claire from HR.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:42 PM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


@the return of the thin white sock The ladies of SNL have amazing musical shorts! Love them.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:57 PM on December 28, 2017


Lots of good wheat in the chaff of SNL shows.
It would be much better as half-hour show instead of 90 minutes... depending on where they cut. And it always has been. I remember when they used to syndicate old episodes in a one-hour format and the guidelines for editing-out were more 'what's gotten dated years later' than anything else, limiting the entertainment value of what's left.

The Bob Roberts quote was apt, but no longer accurate, since NBC is no longer a division of GE, but rather a division of Comcast, one of the main beneficiaries of the end of Net Neutrality, and if they really pissed off Trump too much, he'd have told his FCC "wait a minute..."

And always remember that Trump was once "NBC's Biggest Star" with the original flavor Apprentice show displacing an hour of 'Must See TV' sitcoms on Thursdays... an injustice almost rivaling some of the awfulness he's done as President.

Anyway, I still can't watch Kenan Thompson without remembering he used to do the exact same thing as a teenager on a Nickelodeon show... being the token chubby black male goes a LONG way.

It just hurts to be a getting-old-but-still-having-a-decent-memory guy.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:03 PM on December 28, 2017 [5 favorites]


ageroli, when is the last time you watched SNL?
posted by mellow seas at 1:08 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think a big problem is Baldwin’s impression, which is just a grumbling grimace. Trump is actually very dynamic, and Baldwin is missing completely his vindictiveness, his vanity, really anything except his stupidity. (And the whole theme of the Hartman Reagan sketches was that treating a vile man like a buffoon is far too kind.)

I almost always watch it commercial free on Hulu, which can make even a bad episode watchable. The commercials in the live broadcasts are just suffocating.
posted by mellow seas at 1:17 PM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don’t get a sense of Trump’s *fragility* from Baldwin - he just seems too thick to be fragile - and it is probably the most vital part of the man’s personality. (And also best reflects his voters.)
posted by mellow seas at 1:19 PM on December 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


mellow seas, when a show presents garbage views for literally decades, a few "woke" sketches do not win it over for me. Hell, a high percentage of the jokes I still do see, despite having not watched the full show recently, seem to revolve around "stupid/pathetic woman." They have a dismal record of hiring minorities and women, the culture backstage is known to be shit (as in endless allegations of harassment within cast members/guests and poor treatment of cast), and they've treated Trump with a light touch, in my opinion.

My point is, a whole heck of a lot of people who have delightfully progressive views still watch SNL, and it doesn't make much sense. I've seen shows rejected for much less.
posted by agregoli at 1:19 PM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


> (The problem with the Ctrl+F gag is that sometimes something has been mentioned and called out but not by the name you searched for.)

I hadn't searched this thread, I searched the article after reading it to make sure I hadn't missed anything.
posted by at by at 1:27 PM on December 28, 2017


SNL are the same people who thought there was nothing funny about Obama.

That would be on the basis of an article in the right-wing NY Post, written by a guy whose more recent works include "The GOP tax plan is not the apocalypse liberals think it is", "Unhinged coverage of Trump is hurting the media", and "Sad millennials have ruined Halloween." The potential bon mots that SNL wouldn't touch allegedly included "shared a middle name with one of the most hated dictators on earth" and being a "phony who tells everyone he’s from Chicago, though he didn’t live there until his 20s". My goodness, how could they have passed up all those knee-slappers. (Part of the problem may have been that Obama himself had a pretty good sense of humor, as witness his own SNL appearance and his performances at the White House Correspondents Dinners; it's harder to make fun of someone who's got a really good sense of humor, particularly about himself. Or maybe SNL just needed the right person--or persons.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:28 PM on December 28, 2017 [11 favorites]


The Ronnie Horror Picture Show.

Oh my god, it is Christmas after all! Fantastic!
posted by Chuckles at 2:04 PM on December 28, 2017 [4 favorites]


Anyway, I still can't watch Kenan Thompson without remembering he used to do the exact same thing as a teenager on a Nickelodeon show... being the token chubby black male goes a LONG way.


Today I learned that Kenan Thompson isn't the longest serving cast member in the history of SNL, because he is funny or talented or frequently the funniest person on the show but because of affirmative action.

Speaking of Ctrl+F, I'm annoyed that neither the article nor this thread have brought up the bothsidesism brought to the show by Michael Che. Other sketches and cast members have been bad about this, too. But lately, Che's whole "liberals are bad too, no point in voting" shtick is neither funny nor helpful. Same with Tina Fey and her bit about the protest cake. It's not just tepid jokes about low-hanging fruit, it's actively hurting the cause of anti-Trumpism/fascism.

Between the many articles about Black and minority women talking about problems with the predominantly white Women's March, the fact that #metoo took off when it became about famous, beautiful white women or the many articles about Black Alabamians complaining that Democrats take their votes for granted and that Doug Jones' prosecution of the church bombers wasn't the only issue that they cared about you would think that white progressives might listen to a prominent minority voice instead of telling him to pipe down.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:25 PM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


Clarification: I think Kenan IS "frequently (but not always) the funniest person on the show" but that is faint praise. The reason he's the longest serving cast member in the history of SNL is because he can't get a better gig. Hollywood doesn't accept a chubby black male as possibly carrying a movie or TV series...
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:42 PM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


I've linked this piece in FanFare before but everyone should read it: "‘If You Take Out Kenan Thompson, The Studio Will Explode’: Insiders at SNL consider Kenan Thompson to be one of the greatest sketch comics ever. As he approaches a record 15th season on the show, maybe you should, too."
posted by lalex at 2:49 PM on December 28, 2017 [26 favorites]


(tl;dr you are wrong about Kenan Thompson)
posted by lalex at 2:50 PM on December 28, 2017 [20 favorites]


Hollywood doesn't accept a chubby black male as possibly carrying a movie or TV series...

Uhh... Tyler Perry exists. Ice Cube exists. Martin Lawrence exists. LL Cool J exists.

Hollywood says they are each worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:01 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


Kenan is usually one of the only enjoyable things about SNL
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:04 PM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


Tragedy is when I stub my toe; comedy is when SNL brings back Dennis Miller and makes him do Weekend Update naked while prodding him with hot pokers.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:08 PM on December 28, 2017 [5 favorites]


you would think that white progressives might listen to a prominent minority voice instead of telling him to pipe down.

Part of respecting someone is being able to disagree with them. And, for what it's worth, I am listening--which is why I'm frustrated--and I'm not over here sending strongly worded letters to Che's mailbox at work. I'm not telling him to pipe down, just lamenting that he's using his platform to encourage voter apathy.
posted by witchen at 3:18 PM on December 28, 2017 [5 favorites]


I love Michael Che.

We've discussed this a bit in FanFare but I think Che's WU persona is in the spirit of last year's Election Night skit where Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock aren't thrilled at the outcome, but are sort of jaded and bemused by everyone's shock because as black men they're used to the unfairness and injustice of American society. (And certainly similar in sentiment to some of the discussions we've had recently, sparked by the AL-Sen election, about the ongoing unpaid debt Democrats owe to black voters. )

I like the place he's carved out; unflinchingly critical of Trump/Republicans, but also expressing imo affectionate, and fair, bemusement and frustration with specifically white liberals. I find it to be pretty on point and I don't think it's bad to have this perspective on the show. (If it matters, I am a white liberal woman.)
posted by lalex at 3:29 PM on December 28, 2017 [13 favorites]


Comedy Central's "The President Show" with the cast singing Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up" which really, really gets to the point.

wow... just.... wow. that's the most existentially dreadful comedy bit this year, maybe of the decade. the layers to unpack.. man. good thing i'm going to happy hour right now because i need a goddamn drink.
posted by numaner at 3:30 PM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


it's actively hurting the cause of anti-Trumpism/fascism.

I see this sentiment a non-trivial amount, so certainly not intending to pick on this one comment but it does seem to imply that black Americans should ONCE AGAIN put aside concerns they have because it is never the right time.
posted by lalex at 3:33 PM on December 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


it's actively hurting the cause of anti-Trumpism/fascism.

I find this very unlikely. OTOH, I find gags about not voting about as clever and funny as chestnuts like “Don’t vote; it only encourages them.” But as always, YMMV. Maybe that’s brilliant and I’m just not getting it.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:46 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


Who the hell thinks a game show is a funny premise?
Well I liked Jackie Rodgers Jr.'s $100,000 Jackpot Wad.
posted by MtDewd at 4:59 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


And Black Jeopardy is a classic.
posted by lalex at 5:02 PM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


Black Jeopardy is indeed a classic. But the Sean Connery schtick was mildly cute the first time, and torture every time after that.
posted by Melismata at 5:30 PM on December 28, 2017


Hard disagree.
posted by Artw at 5:58 PM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


Need a skit with coneheads in bee costumes shouting cheeseburger cheeseburger cheeseburger!
posted by sammyo at 6:22 PM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think the bit on Update when they make fun of the Trump brothers is kind of funny.
posted by 4ster at 6:25 PM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


I think the bit on Update when they make fun of the Trump brothers is kind of funny.

Any appearance of the Trump brothers is a highlight for me!

Baldwin has long outlived his usefulness and I really, really wish they would get rid of the cold opens where he just like, says the bad things Trump has said that week. SNL does much better when they focus on the other players in this clusterfuck: Kellyanne, the brothers, Sessions, Ivanka, Spicer and now Huckabee Sanders, Putin, etc.
posted by lalex at 6:29 PM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


The writer starts out by saying that SNL hasn't changed, he's just never liked it, and how he really hates it because it's not the pointed cerebral satire it never was.

I'm really sick of this infighting schtick. I like SNL. It warms my heart. When Jon Stewart was on point, I'd go watch the Daily Show for the pointed satire, and go to SNL for fun and buffoonery, and sometimes a female viewpoint from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's Weekend Update.

Blaming SNL for a lack of a current-day Jon Stewart is straight up unfair. And writing an article tearing down SNL isn't going to make one appear out of thin air.
posted by svenni at 6:39 PM on December 28, 2017 [8 favorites]


After [Lorne Michaels] retires, see what happens.

I can see Tina Fey taking the reins ...
posted by New Frontier at 6:51 PM on December 28, 2017


Hmm. Like Tina Fey as i do she's weird on ethnic stuff and also does this dodgy both-siding thing.

Probably a shoe-in really.
posted by Artw at 6:54 PM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


I've been assuming john Oliver has been doing all the Jon Stewarty stuff, I just haven't been watching it because I started feeling like satire was worthless in the face of whats going on. I don't want to laugh at these fucks, I want them to disappear from the plane of existence, and without the possibility of that humour isn't very fun.
posted by Artw at 6:59 PM on December 28, 2017 [9 favorites]


John Oliver does a bit of satire, but his show is structured very differently from Stewart’s: no guests, and typically devoted to a single, very deeply-researched topic once the opening news recap is out of the way. Here’s an episode on gerrymandering from this past year. Since it’s sort of my topic these days I can confirm the research is solid!
posted by migurski at 7:51 PM on December 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


Ah, the cyclical SNL discussion. I seem to remember the first one we had on the site back in 1978, but maybe they all just feel that way? Yeah, it never was that glorious incisive political satire that people have in their minds as the memory of what it always ways and always should be. It is safe middlebrow corporate comedy for a somewhat sloshed weekend audience too jaded and either too young or too old to be out actually carousing. Perhaps it's better as YouTubes the next morning on the blog circuit, the way I've had to experience it for a while now. (I can skip the ads AND the sketches I suspect I'll hate AND the musical artists I have no interest in even keeping up with for appearances' sake.) So yeah, it's easy to dunk on.

I respect the craft, though. Comparing it to Monty Python is weird since that was, after all, a grand total of four seasons/series totalling around 25 minutes of actual humor material for a grand sum of 45 episodes (less than 22 hours). SNL has to do around 60-65 minutes of comedy almost weekly and we're coming up on the fourth decade. Every once in a while they have some fresh, appealing cast members who steal half the show for a while, as McKinnon and Strong have been recently. (And I agree on Thompson being a terrifically versatile and reliable performer, even when his impressions are fairly wan given that's the main schtick of the show. You can put him in almost any sketch as the KENAN REACTS script go-to shows, and leave it up to him. And SNL may be his best possible gig but that's also true for 90% of the people who have an SNL credit, so so what?) This year they've clearly spread out responsibility to more of the cast with appreciably variable results.

I don't think the real problem with comedy and Trump and the Trump era of politics is that the people trying to make funny once a week are pulling their punches. It's more like Poe's Law -- these crazies are so crazy that you just can't out-crazy them. For a sketch show based on reliable theory of picking a couple of memorable character notes and taking them to an extreme -- the Del Close approach that is now pretty venerable -- this just isn't working as well. Baldwin's impersonation isn't wrong, it's more about what you do with it when you've got it, and some sort of grand guignol Nazi-esque bloodbath on the order of Cabaret might do the trick, but I don't see anybody in any paid-media capacity really doing that either. (The audience is clearly loving that Fridays Ronny Horror sketch, but more out of how it's sticking mild, fairly obvious political parody into a loving recreation of what was already a cult favorite than anything in the jokes.) Imagine trying to get biting, pit-in-your-tummy political satire that leaves the audience shaken and disturbed when they want to go to bed, every week, and how many times they come back for that. Yeah, me neither.

We're also in a different era when the jokes are all thought of on Twitter in the first 20 minutes after something breaks, and anything they turn into dialog is going to sound less fresh and even just stolen by the time it gets to air. I don't envy 21st century comedy writers.

Again, what people seem to want this show to be, or do, are things that it isn't the show's job to do. If we're to be made angry enough for revolution, well, a comedic approach might be called for, but expectations for a literal institution to start waving that flag Les Mis style is a bit misplaced.
posted by dhartung at 11:03 PM on December 28, 2017 [9 favorites]


(What's with all the game show sketches? Who the hell thinks a game show is a funny premise?)

Oh, meant to answer this. Because it's a very convenient format for the writers and performers to throw in a bunch of otherwise random impressions or characters, who don't obviously lend themselves to a complete sketch. (See What Up With That as described in the Kenan piece.) They can't all be Black Jeopardy or Meet Your Second Wife, after all. The ones that can be fleshed out a little more end up on Weekend Update.
posted by dhartung at 11:52 PM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]


The idea that SNL was ever anything but politically centrist and deeply conservative (in the old sense) is pretty silly. The previous three decades brought us: "Isn't Regan cute when he orders illegal arms deals? What a silly guy." "Look, Jerry Ford fell down. Isn't that funny!" "Clinton! Sex! Laugh!" Toothless, headlines-only, double boxing-gloves air punches in the general direction of topics ripe for actual satire.

SNL has indirectly funded some pretty interesting projects. But you'd be hard pressed to find a community theater in the US as timid and unwilling to take risks as the cowards who write for SNL.
posted by eotvos at 8:49 AM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


And yet, there's a pervasive cultural sense that SNL is important, subversive, and, yes, left-wing. That it's not actually any of those things doesn't matter, just like it doesn't matter than CNN and MSNBC are both centrist corporate news outlets.

Anything that pushes back on the useful fiction that SNL is a lefty counter-culture show is good and necessary.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:40 AM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


hey hey

more like

more like saturday night dead

am i right

saturday night dead

get it?
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 1:12 PM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


Do they still have Kate McKinnon?
posted by Artw at 1:37 PM on December 29, 2017


saturday night dead

get it?


From this article, which was done near the end of the Sandler/Farley/Spade era: “If your angle is going to be that the show is decadent and out of touch,” Michaels says wryly, “we have that reduced to a press release to save time.”
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:57 PM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


SNL should avoid politics as much as possible, except for Michael Che's Weekend Update rants. Of course, they'll need some new writers with the creativity to come up with sketch premises from scratch.
posted by rocket88 at 7:40 PM on December 29, 2017


Remember back before the Internet when we just changed the channel when we didn't like a TV show? And just didn't watch or talk about the ones we didn't like?

The only boom bigger than the current comedy boom is the critical-think-piece-about-comedy boom. Honestly, I can't think of an easier job in the world than watching tv at home and writing 600 words and maybe one original thought about it.

I took a class in late night TV writing from Joe Toplyn, the man who built up Letterman and co-invented the Top Ten List, ran Leno's writers' room in the late 80s/90s, and more. He said that mainstream network tv is there to be background noise while people brush their teeth, have sex, ignore each other, whatever else.

The fact that SNL, Conan, etc, occasionally rises above that low bar is enough.

Being mad at SNL for not being incisive or risky is like being mad at applesauce for not tasting like steak.
posted by chinese_fashion at 11:26 PM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


(What's with all the game show sketches? Who the hell thinks a game show is a funny premise?)

Oh, meant to answer this. Because it's a very convenient format for the writers and performers to throw in a bunch of otherwise random impressions or characters, who don't obviously lend themselves to a complete sketch.


which speaks to my general loathing for Game Shows over the years. God, how I hate that whole form!
posted by philip-random at 12:22 AM on December 30, 2017


since we seem to be doing a HATE thing here anyway
posted by philip-random at 12:23 AM on December 30, 2017


Then definitely do not look at Snoop Dogg hosting a rebooted The Joker's Wild, now with added fo-shnizzle. It's really terrible.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:47 AM on December 30, 2017


I think one thing SNL gets right with their game show parodies (and Joker's Wild gets wrong) is that the host should not have a personality. Hell, I bet the 70s network producers were skittish about working with Jack Barry for the original Joker's Wild.

Anyway, in conclusion Lorne Michaels is a douche of many contrasts.
posted by rhizome at 11:19 AM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't know, the one thing I agree with the author on is the white-affluent sense of nostalgia, because I definitely identify with that. I started watching in the 90-91 season. Toonces the Driving Cat wasn't exactly biting satire.

I'm perfectly fine with Alec Baldwin lazily repeating actual things the President has actually said this week because it gives me a space to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, removed from the jaw-dropping horror.

I saw John Oliver perform stand-up last night and he talked about how hates doing charity gigs because doing stand-up for the obscenely rich sucks in that they don't need the escapism of comedy so what do you say to them? The theme of his routine last night was a little, but not too much, hope for 2018. And that's basically what I need from comedy right now. SNL gives me a little time, but not too much, where I can relax, and point and laugh at the idiot in chief without being afraid he's going to nuke NK because someone on Twitter hurt his feelings. Escapism.

Bringing it all the way to back to SNL, Brooks Wheelan was the opener, which I did not know in advance and I was so excited when he was announced because I have big googly heart eyes for him. His set was largely about edible weed and absolutely hilarious.
posted by Ruki at 1:08 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Toonces came from an era when there were still pot smokers in the SNL writers room.

I think it's possible that the most subversive thing SNL could do these days is excise Trump completely from the show. Instead of Baldwin doing Trump, invite Jay Pharaoh back to do Obama skits every week.
posted by rhizome at 1:38 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


The desiccated corpse of Michael O'Donoghue is still producing sharper material than any of the SNL writers today.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:18 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Anyway, in conclusion Lorne Michaels is a douche of many contrasts.
I don't entirely know how to reconcile the opinion of Michaels here - which more or less matches my own - with his decision to champion The Kids in the Hall. (Which, to the extent it got airtime as a result of SNL's success, counts as a significant credit toward SNL as a force for good in the world.) I have to remind myself that there's no cause so right that you can't find an idiot who supports it.
posted by eotvos at 5:57 PM on December 30, 2017


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