Monday, April 16, 2007

Dear 'Saturday Night Live',...

You and I both know that our relationship is a love/hate kind of thing. That is, I love to hate you, and hate to love you. I think that most of your remaining viewers would express a similar sentiment. A show that has been around since 1975 can only get clumsy with age, right? Should your loyal audience simply resign itself to the fact that SNL is the stodgy old uncle of sketch comedy? Back in the seventies, he was the man, but thirty years later, he's still wearing his bell bottoms and doing that strange pointing dance that John Travolta did in that movie, back before he was fat and worshiping Xenu. Sometimes he manages to crack a good line, but those are few and far between. These days, he's mostly just an embarrassment at family picnics (especially that time he asked you to 'pull his finger' and ended up soiling himself).

To that question, I say, "Nay!" Nay, good Sir SNL, ye have yet to see your last glory days. However, you need a bit of a make-over. A tune-up, if you will. Replace some of those old parts, replace that scratched-up windshield, add a little air to the tires, and some other car metaphors. Here are a few suggestions that might help you out:

1. Get rid of dead weight. Lorne Michaels was a pioneer, but now he's just old and doesn't seem to know what works anymore. Find a replacement that can draw the 18-35 crowd back into the fold. I'd suggest Tina Fey, but I don't want to jinx '30 Rock.' Let's just say we need someone with strong ties to the comedy community, but isn't afraid to look for talent outside of traditional training grounds such as The Groundlings and Second City. Which leads me to...

2. Look to the internet. I'm serious, here. The internet is a treasure trove of unmined, raw comedic talent. Of course, you'll have to ignore inexplicably popular sites like weebls-stuff, ytmnd, and ebaumsworld. They are the lowest common denominator of blagoblog chuckledom.
YouTube is a showcase of the promising young talent out there; click around and find amateur filmmakers like Brandon Hardesty (ArtieTSMITW) and Scotland's own James Provan (GiR2007). Look how successful the hiring of The Lonely Island crew (discovered on - I dug their OC parody "The 'Bu" before anyone outside the alt comedy scene knew who they were) has been. Andy Samberg is on his way to being the next Adam Sandler, only a whole lot funnier. Give these kids a bigger sandbox to play in, and you'll be surprised by the awesome castles they build.

3. Ditch the clich├ęs. Believe it or not, but just because a character is annoying doesn't mean it's funny. It seems that creating soul-gratingly awful recurring characters such as the Target Lady (Kristen Wiig), the A-Holes (Jason Sudeikis & Kristen Wiig), and DJ Dynasty Handbag (Kenan Thompson) is all the cast knows how to do anymore. We get it; these characters are annoying. That can work for comedy, but only once. They are one-liners personified. Base your humor on concepts, not characters.

4. Don't rely on political humor. 'Saturday Night Live' has a rich tradition of political satire; the SNL presidential impersonation is an important part of pop culture history. It shouldn't be abandoned, but it shouldn't be relied upon, either. Sometimes, you just don't have the right actor to portray the candidate. Seth Meyers as John Kerry? What where you thinking?
Besides, these days, the politicians do a fine job of making fools of themselves; they really don't need your help. Find a sharper, more subtle way to poke fun at the status quo, or at least reduce the number of sketches you do where a hapless cast member does the obligatory weak impersonation of a candidate who isn't all that interesting in the first place. How many more Chris Matthews 'Hardball' intros do we need? We get it -- he's a tool.

5. Choose your hosts wisely. Look, we all know that by now Saturday Night Live has become a shill for the movie studios and record companies, but could you show just a little discretion in who you invite to host? It's painful enough watching the cast members none-too-subtly read from the cue cards, but at least they can deliver the lines. Don't bring on anyone who doesn't have a sense of comedic timing, at least. When you start inviting people like Donald Trump and Paris Hilton on, you've hit a new low.

6. MORE COWBELL. Seriously, Christopher Walken hasn't hosted since February 2003. Bring him back!

Yours Truly,

1 comment:

Jon said...

Re: #2:

Three words: Ze. Fucking. Frank.