Saturday Night Live- Is it Funny?

An analysis on SNL and whether or not it has comedic value

by Laksha Vijaikumar, Reporter

With the new SNL season coming out soon, many people have started to question the comedic quality of the show. I mean, is SNL funny? Was it ever funny? That seems to be the million-dollar question nowadays. And honestly, the only genuine answer I have to that is it’s up to the viewer. I know that seems like a lazy answer, and I bet you’re wondering why I would even write an article about this when I’m just stating the obvious. “Why gee Laksha, people have their own opinions, you say? Meaning that it’s entirely their call to say whether or not a show is good?” And before you decide to stop reading, just hear me out.

Part 1: The Building Blocks of SNL

One of SNL’s greatest strengths is its format, which it has kept relatively the same since the show first aired in the mid-70s. It consists of several short comedic sketches, a weekend update, a performance by a musical guest, and a monologue given by that week’s celebrity guest. NBC knows what its audience likes, and having an easy-to-watch format keeps the viewers engaged and entertained.

While many tv shows nowadays have run times of 40 minutes to even being over 1 hour long (every HBO show ever, I’m looking at you), SNL keeps the actual length of the individual sketches short and around the same length. This helps prevent the sketches from being drawn out.

Unfortunately, one of its greatest strengths is also one of its greatest weaknesses. Because the show is predictable (affectionate), it also means it’s predictable (negative). What I’m trying to say is that sometimes SNL just isn’t coming out with refreshing content. The very thing that made many people love it is why many people hate it. Many of their sketches (while short in length) seem like they’re 10 hours long.

The writers aim to make every sketch around 4-5 minutes long, and while it does help them keep things consistent, 90% of the time, it only does more harm than good. Because they are constantly trying to stay between the 4-5 minute range, the sketches are consequently either seemingly unbearably long or rushed and feel unfinished.

Part 2: The Desire to Stay Relevant

Like many shows and movies, SNL relies on quickly everchanging pop culture to maintain its relevance and appeal to its audience. Rather than focusing on the actual content and quality of the comedy, the show’s writers often resort to adding as many pop culture references as they can to benefit from youtube’s algorithm. And while having a sketch go viral is great and all, the saying ‘all press is good press isn’t necessarily true,” like when Elon Musk hosted SNL.

While his sketches raked in millions of views on Youtube and were trending on Twitter for days, all of his sketches were horrendous and an absolute disgrace to comedy itself. This need to constantly put out culturally relevant comedy isn’t bad and is actually something I admire, but it becomes a problem when the show’s writers ignore comedic quality and choose to do what’s best for publicity. While the show is becoming much better at focusing on quality rather than virality this past season, compared to seasons 29 through 36 (the Golden era), it still has a long way to go.

Part 3: The Chokehold On The Golden Era

SNL’s so-called “Golden Era” was from around 2004 to 2011, with cast members including, but not limited to, Bill Hader, Will Forte, Andy Sandberg, Jason Sudekis, and Seth Myers. And I’m not exaggerating when I say every sketch produced during this time was comedic gold. From Myers’ Weekend Updates to Hader’s “Stefon” character, the show’s writers really did not miss.

And as much as I love the sketches from this time, one thing much of SNL’s audience can’t seem to understand is how Golden era SNL is bound to be vastly different from modern SNL. From different cast members to different writers, it’s no surprise the comedy is unappealing primarily to the older generations, and the younger generation hyper fixated on a young Bill Hader (namely me).

Reminiscing about the past is one thing, but retroactively trying to change the present to fit into your idealized version of the past is tiring and gets no one anywhere. I’ve noticed a growing number of people claim that SNL isn’t writing sketches like the Golden era or that the overall quality has decreased, and, honestly, I would be lying if I said there wasn’t any truth to these statements. However, I feel as if many of these people over-exaggerate and are just too stubborn to accept change.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with preferring the Golden era, but at the end of the day, you have to accept that no matter what hurtful or criticizing things you say of the show, SNL isn’t going to be able to magically change overnight and bring back all the old cast members and writers. I mean, take it from me. Was I crying, screaming, rolling around on the ground, pulling out my eyelashes (it’s a bad habit), and tearing down my Bill Hader Shrine in my closet when I found out Hader was finally leaving the show in 2018? Yes, but I soon realized, it was as if I had forgotten entirely what Youtube was. If I wanted to watch a sketch he was in, I literally could’ve just searched it up.

Part 4: Conclusion

I guess the whole point of this article is to say that I feel like people are too harsh on SNL. I mean, no offense or anything, but it’s always people who think Friends or Amy Schumer is funny and that SNL isn’t. No show is going perfect and there are bound to be highs and lows. While I certainly disagree with them constantly trying to go viral, rather than focusing on the actual jokes, I get it. Tons of shows do it, too, so I’m confused why SNL is the only one that gets a bad rep for it.

This current season of SNL certainly has a tremendous amount of work to do if it wants to achieve a legacy akin to the Golden era, but it’s pretty obvious, from the new cast members and writers, that they are definitely on the track to self-improvement. Let’s hope the first episode doesn’t disappoint.

All that’s left is the question, “Is SNL Funny.” And my answer to that is yeah, sorta. It just depends on the person. However, the show certainly isn’t as funny as I am. But that’s a given. I mean, I could name all the people funnier than me on one hand: Bill Hader, Conan O’Brien, and the fox from Zootopia.