Friday, November 2, 2007

Things That Are Overrated: Saturday Night Live

I know, you're thinking, "Wait, Saturday Night Live has sucked since 1994. It's definitely not overrated. It just sucks." And that's true, but what I mean is that SNL is overrated by the people who work on it, especially Lorne Michaels, but also everyone else.

There was a time when SNL was the arbiter of comedy in America. There was a time when SNL was avant garde and walked the edge of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, and hysterical and vulgar. That time was 1979. Since about 1995 the show has sucked (with the Ferrell exception, of course), and I'll tell you why. First of all, the staff takes themselves way too seriously. If you've seen the like 60 minutes "a week in the life of SNL" piece, or the Iconoclasts show with Lorne Michaels and Paul Simon, or even if you've ever seen an episode of Studio 60, then you know what I mean. They still think that the shit they do is cutting edge. The last cutting edge skit they did was in 1970 something when Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase called each other racial slurs.

They think that the political skit they do at the front of the show is somehow changing the way Americans see the country. It's not. In fact most of the time there's about one laugh per 3 minutes in that opening sketch. If we're lucky, the first sketch of every show will be funny. If we're not, then the whole show sucks. I gotta give it up to my boy, Andy Samberg, who has been the funniest guy on the show for the last couple years. Those Digital Shorts are where their best material has come from over the past couple seasons. But if that doesn't hit, then you know the whole show is going down quickly.

Here's what I don't get. They take all week writing this show. They have a full staff or writers, a whole cast of performers, prodcuers and what not, and by and large the show sucks every week. I mean, these guys' job is to sit around and think of funny shit. Your whole job is to write a funny skit and, by and large, the majority of skits absolutely suck. How is this possible? You seriously can't just sit down and write a funny skit? If every writer wrote one actually funny skit per week, then the show would be hysterical. Instead, they churn out garbage. The show is nearly unwatchable after Weekend Update.

By the way, there is a separate writing staff for Update. As if Update is what's making people tune in to the show. As if Update is somehow the most important pice of the program. Guess what, Update sucks. Again in about 20 Update jokes, perhaps 3 are funny. That's a poor percentage. You're batting .150. And why do we have to watch those endless "opinion pieces" by the non-anchors. Only 1 in 10 of those is funny.

And you have to see the behind the scenes shit. They're standing there in front of the board with all the possible skits and what not deciding what should go where as if the fate of the world was resting on their shoulders and they're really just standing there trading garbage for garbage.

Those motherfuckers need far more structure. They need to work during the fucking daytime during the week. They need to submit a funny sketch per week, and they need to put on a show that will be entertaining for its entire run tme. If they can't write 90 minutes of funny shit, why don't they just cut the show down to an hour? At this point there's about 5 minutes of funny and 85 minutes of filler. They need to get rid of the guys who aren't funny right away. Perfect example, Horatio Sanz. That motherfucker was on the show for like 7 years. In those seven years he was never ever once funny. Not a single time. How is that possible?

The best episode of the last 10 seasons was last year's Christmas episode, with Justin Timberlake as host. They had funny skits all throughout that show. The Target lady was funny, the Cup O' Soup guy, the Barry Gibb Talk Show, the kids who danced in the cave ("You just got served, cave creature" and "Keep on dancin', Jo Jessica"), and who can forget Dick In A Box. It is beyond me why every episode can't be that funny.

And the bitch of it is that their cast right now is actually really good. Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Kenan Thompson, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, all those guys are really funny. But they just don't make it work moset of the time. Watching SNL is like watching the Mets during September most of the time. You know that it should be funny, and you watch every time hoping that this time they'll realize their potential, but alas, they are mired in the muck, and there's just no hope.

I am confident that the reason this show sucks is because of Lorne Michaels. The way he runs the show is not conducive for bringing out the funny shit in people. The list of people who were on that show and did nothing and then left and blew the fuck up is astounding. Julia Louis Dreyfus sucked in her time there. Larry David, Larry fucking David, was a staff writer and never got a single skit on the air. Jay Mohr was in the cast for a season or two and sucked (yes Jay Mohr is goddamned hysterical otherwise, lest you were wondering). Chris Rock was never, ever funny on that show. Damon Wayans was in the cast for a season or two (did you even know that? Probably not.), and then he went on to do shit that was way funnier than SNL at the time on In Living Color. Sara Silverman was on the cast for a while (maybe she's an acquired taste, but I find her hilarious), did nothing. These people are funny. It's not a coincidence that the show kept them from being funny.

Their problem is that they're lazy. They put on one funny skit, and then they kill it with repeated skits in later shows. Or they'll put on a skit with a good premise that isn't completely written yet. Then what you get is about 20 seconds of funny and 3 minutes of "when is this going to end?". Let's take the two A-Holes as an example. The first time that skit was on, Christmas 2005, Jack Black hosting, it was hi-sterical. Since then it's been on like 4 or 5 more times. It's one premise that made one good skit, and then they brought them back again and again. The whole thing is really one joke. Once they did it once they had to bastardize it in order to get anything out of it. The whole, "you look like a rabbit" thing is funny, but then in order to make it work on the 4th time you actually have to have a picture of a rabbit hanging on the wall and Kristen Wiig saying that the picture of a rabbit looked like a rabbit. Not funny. Write a new sketch.

And stop taking yourselves so goddamned seriously. And be more funny.


ChuckJerry said...

Has anyone ever used the phrase "by and large" twice in two sentences? I should edit this. Should, but won't.

Joe Grossberg said...

If it's so bad, why do you watch it often enough to deliver such a detailed analysis?

Anyhow, Samberg is carrying that show on his freaking shoulders these days.

And I hear you on the irrelevance; I feel the same way about Leno and Letterman. There are so many other options on TV alone, that the late-but-not-too-late slot on a big network isn't worth much.

Open Bar said...

Okay, chuck, a few things:

1. The show was goddamn hysterical in the late '90s, at the height of the Will Ferrell era. It only lasted about 2 seasons, but from that we got Celebrity Jeopardy, which was the most consistently hysterical skit since Wayne's World.

2. Andy Fucking Samberg? Yes, you're right the digital shorts are the best part of the show now, but have you ever seen that douchebag in an actual skit? He sucks horsecock. And yeah, Hot Rod was a great movie too, so I've heard.

3. By and large, I agree with almost everything else you said.

ChuckJerry said...


I DVR the show every week, so it takes only about 30 minutes to watch it on Sunday morning.

And I watch every week for the occasional daimond in the rough, as they say.

Also, some shows should be great, based on the host and what not, but aren't. Like the Seth Rogen show a couple weeks ago should have been fabulous, but wasn't.

The Notorious LJT said...

larry david actually quit the show in anger but then came back and acted like nothing had happened.

i think lorne michaels let him stay.

Open Bar said...

Yeah, they even made a Seinfeld episode where George makes a huge scene quitting, then comes back on Monday morning all, "I was kidding!"

Open Bar said...

This past SNL with Brian Williams was oddly good.

The opening, with a surprise appearance from Barack, wasn't bad.

The monologue was funny.

Man Makeup sucked.

Bronx Beat started off slow, but Brian Williams was damn good. Nice accent work. And the mustache was classic.

Riley's Way was funny. Great writing as far as those dumbass cliches that pass for moving on that type of show. ("It's not the end. It's the beginning.") Brian Williams is 2-for-2.

The Publisher's Clearing House thing was good too. Kristen Wigg is funny. Again, Brian Williams does a great job.

The digital short wasn't up to regular standards, but was still funny.

Feist can SUCK MY COCK. I hate that song.

Weekend Update needs some serious work, though having Fred Armisen and Kenan Thompson works almost 100% of the time, making it watchable.

Again, Armisen as Larry King--excellent.

The debate thing sucked. Except for Amy Poehler as Dennis Kucinich. Hysterical.

Feist played another shitty song that only rapists could like.

The last skit sucked.

So overall, a pretty good show, I thought.

And fuck Feist.

johnnyr said...

You seemed to be missing Tina Fey. Because 30 Rock is brilliant and hysterical. And she was NEVER funny on SNL.

Go figure.

Open Bar said...

Johnnyr--Tina Fey was definitely funny doing Weekend Update. That was when she was the Head Writer for the whole show. Sure, she sucked in the skits, but at least you knew Weekend Update would be good.

She brought in Ferecito, for God's sake!

ChuckJerry said...

Open Bar, you have lowered your expectations without even realizing it.

The opening skit was a good idea but not funny. Barack was there, hysterical. Groundbreaking.

Man makeup was stizzupid.

Bonx Beat is a skit they have done like 10 times already. It's the same every time. "How about that weather? Sweater weather." then "Here's our guest. Oh you're cute. You're kinda hunky" and "I hate my husband, but I love him." Write a new sketch, instead of the same sketch with synonyms. Brian Williams was a net zero, good accent. He's wearing a mustache, hysterical.

The Dawson's Creek thing was ok. If that skit were on at 12:45 instead of 11:45, then it would be a good show.

The Publisher's Clearing House thing was again one joke made 12 times. The cheesy bread thing was funny, though.

Digital short, one joke made 17 times.

I like that Feist song. What do you think about that?

Update. 20 jokes, 3 funny ones. Kenan Thompson dressed like a woman for the 45th time. Fred Armisen as the network head was absolutely witless.

Oh, another Larrky King impression. It's almost just as funny as when Norm McDonald used to do Larry King in 1995.

That debate skit was endless. There were literally zero laughs in the 14 minute run time of that skit. It seemed like 14 minutes anyway.

I liked that second Feist song, too. Maybe I'll buy that album.

Overall suckfest. The only good part was Feist.

Open Bar said...


Cary said...

I see some Debbie Downers in here...I LOVE SNL. And no it did not go down hill in '94, it went on to many many more wonderful seasons.

Anonymous said...

Anyone else tired of SNL buying Youtube's homepage?