Like many of you, I grew up watching Saturday Night Live. Some of the funniest comedians to come out of seemingly nowhere (although my fellow Chicagoans already knew many of them) to become some of the most successful entertainers in the industry. John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Eddie Murphy, Chris Farley, the list goes on. The best part of SNL for me, was the political satire. They skewered Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, the Bushes, Bill Clinton & Gore. The debate skits were some of the very best.
But if you are as old as me (you’d have to be to remember when SNL was truly funny) you’ll remember that there was one thing that was always a rule of comedy, in that it was an equal opportunity offender. It was an era when the great Johnny Carson set the tone, and Jay Leno followed suit, that a comedian should never let it be apparent what their political views were. No matter which side you were on, Republican, Democrat, or Independent (remember Ross Perot?) you were a target. And SNL did that brilliantly! They mocked everyone. Clinton as a womanizer, Ford as a clutz, Nixon as a “crook,” Gore as an idiot with a lockbox. And it was funny!
But SNL stopped be funny years ago. Part of that had to do with the writing, the talent (or lack thereof) and just a general sense that they just didn’t care much any longer. It’s had it’s ups and downs and some funny nights here and there. Generally speaking, many of the musical guests were worthy enough to check out the show from time-to-time. But now they have made their fatal mistake, which I will call today as the beginning of the end for this once amazing show. It will go the same way as Brexit and the 2016 election. The day it began to end was the day they decided that only half of their audience mattered to them.
It has been painfully obvious that Kate McKinnon absolutely ADORED Hillary Clinton as she playfull mocked some of her idiocycracies in a silly and loving way. And Alec Baldwin, which in my opinion, gave a brilliant performance of Donald Trump. I have no issue with mocking Trump, and I suspect he does not either. He’s a media man and knows it’s part of the game. But when you are so blatant as to mock one candidate over the other, you immediately STOP being funny and you START being insulting. Not so much to Trump. But to your audience. And no one, NO ONE, likes to be insulted. (See 2016 election results.)
So SNL has decided to take a huge step away from being a show where we can take a break from the seriousness of politics and life, and laugh at it just a bit. It helped us get through some really tough times-a very sad Presidential resignation, a horrific impeachment proceedings of another. Wars, death, decstruction, terrorism. It was the one place we could go to laugh at tragedy and that felt good.
But when SNL decided to do their cold-open with a surreal and ridiculously corny and over-the-top funeral dirge by Kate McKinnon, it sent the clear message that it no longer wanted to be that equal opportunity offender, that one place of comedic refuge we could go and laugh at ourselves, at each other and feel better. And instead of doing what they do best and put forward a potentially funny skit of Hillary in her hotel room crying and drunk, unable to see her supporters, along with Alec Baldwin (who just couldn’t bring himself to participate) mocking Trump as a “fish-out-of-water” visiting Obama, they decided to angrily shove it to the American voters by adding an insulting, racially charged, unfunny and insulting monologue by Dave Chapelle. And finishing it off with an equally unfunny and strange Weekend Update.
So good-bye Saturday Night Live, my old friend. It’s sad to see you go, but you actually left us long ago. I suppose you will continue to try and be funny, catering to your angry, sad, and bitter audience. It’s a sad day in comedy, but an exciting and liberating time in America.