The Conversation

If SNL Cuts Every Sketch That Isn't Funny, What's Left?

They can't feature 90 straight minutes of Justin Bieber singing.

Has anyone watched this show lately?  I have... but not really that lately.  What used to be Must See is now something I forget is on.  I have a bunch of episodes recorded (which I record manually, when I think of it; it's not worth the bother to program the DVR to automatically record it). 

When I do watch them, I'm embarrassed.  I don't even just mean the political sketches, which of course will deliberately avoid humor if humor would hurt Democrats.  (Remember the SNL sketch about Barack Obama's bad debate performance barely referenced Obama's bad debate performance; the SNL sketch about Biden's mugging and hooting featured that for all of 15 seconds.)

I'm talking about non-political sketches, the kind I should have no problem with.

But I do have a problem with them:  They're not funny.  The show has in fact not been funny -- almost completely devoid of laughs -- for three straight years now.

I can remember the occasional funny sketch -- this sketch about a hypnotist was pretty funny.

But we're now talking about 3 years, about 20 shows per year (or is it down to 18?), with barely a memorable sketch in all that time. Maybe in that three years of work they could cobble together two shows' worth of highlights.

When I was growing up, the press was forever pronouncing it "Saturday Night Dead" and proclaiming the show unfunny and amateurish and ready to finally be put out of its misery. They were always wrong, of course.

It's sort of ironic that when the show really is Saturday Night Dead -- a zombie brand for zombie viewers, providing as many laughs as a typical episode of The Walking Dead -- no one's stating the obvious.

The show is not funny. It has not been funny in a long time. There are no bright spots in its cast where one can see the potential for a breakout star.

Jason Sudekis and Bill Heder are very funny, but have run out of steam on the writing side. Tarem Killam was pushed as The Next Breakout Star by over-optimistic Zombie Fans. The guy has some funny bones, and I'm not really knocking him, but in any previous season (apart from the ghastly 1980 one) would anyone really be crowing about The Next Belushi, Tarem Killam?

Admittedly his Jeunes de Paris sketch was also funny and cute but I remind everyone again: It's been three years since this show had on two decent sketches in an episode.  Tarem Killam is more like a Wildcard, one of those sneaky journeymen contact-hitters like Fred Arminsen who occasionally light up the park with a  a triple or homer; he's really not an actual slugging star like a Ferrel or a Hartman.  You don't build your lineup around him.

The show's just awful. I say this not as a conservative but as a comedy guy. It's dreadful. Every show is just series of grueling flop-sweat failures interrupted by long and frequent advertising breaks.  "Weekend Update" is outright hideous, bordering on the Social Horror of Being Painfully Unfunny like Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy.

The only funny parts are the callbacks of old sketches, like "What's Up With That?," and they're chiefly funny in that In-Joke We Still Smile At nostalgic way.

Example: The entire Martin Short show was completely unfunny (they even failed with Martin Short!!!).

But here's what I'm getting at. Imagine for some reason Jeremy Renner agreed to hang out with you and your buddies and even do an Avengers sketch with you. Why this would happen, I have no idea. It's a hypothetical. Accept the hypothetical.

What I imagine a group of amateurs would cobble together are a string of very obvious jokes that wouldn't survive first contact in the Big Bang Theory's writer's room. But you're amateurs, just putting on a sketch with your friends; you can't be blamed, really, for coming up with amateur-level stuff.

What's SNL's excuse?

In response to That rejected SNL skit on Hagel & Israel.


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