Why I Don’t Watch ‘Saturday Night Live’ Anymore

As a boy, one phrase meant more to me than anything else in my pop culture world: “Live from New York. . . it’s Saturday Night!”

Today, that phrase has an entirely new meaning—the corruption of a once-beloved franchise. That’s how far the increasingly partisan Saturday Night Live has fallen for this lifelong fan. And, like most cultural wounds, it’s purely self-inflicted.

As a ten-year-old kid growing up on Long Island, Saturday Night Live was the proverbial forbidden fruit. It was edgy, dangerous even. I’m sure the innuendo and inappropriate jokes in the skits sailed over my head, but I instinctively understood the show’s rebellious nature all the same. The classic cast introductions, laced with cool images from the Big Apple, made me fall even harder for the Not Ready for Prime Time Players.

I simply had to see it each week. Actually watching SNL, though, wasn’t easy.

Before DVRs ruled our landscape, viewers had to (gulp) sit by their Cathode ray TVs until their favorite shows came on. That 11:30 PM start time was a killer for me. I went to bed at 9 PM most nights, but my parents stretched the rules one night a week.

That meant begging my Mom to wake me if I fell asleep before what’s now known as the “cold open.”

Most times I didn’t make it. I’d bark at my mother the next morning, and she would swear she woke me but I just fell back to sleep. I suspect she saw a sleeping child and left me in dreamland. As a parent now, I’d probably do the same thing.

Those nights I did stay up were everything a lad like me wanted. Mr. Bill was my favorite. He’s the clay figurine who endures endless punishment in each sketch, which always ended with him screaming, “Oh, noooo!”

I stuck with the show during my teen years. As a movie lover, I watched the cast’s brightest stars segue seamlessly to the big screen: Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Adam Sandler.

SNL’s political sketches proved the most memorable to me as a young adult. Dana Carvey’s Bush the Elder (“Not gonna dah aht!”), Darrell Hammond’s rapacious Bill Clinton and even Will Ferrell’s dumbstruck Dubya were hilariously entertaining, even though as I got older I found myself embracing more conservative politics.

I didn’t mind the shots SNL took at my own party. That’s just what SNL did—poke fun at the president. The cast didn’t pull a single punch during Clinton’s Lewinsky scandal. How could I object to Ferrell’s Bushisms?

I also cheered Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression. It was spot on.

Then along came President Barack Obama. How would this irreverent show tackle the first black president? Simple. The writers essentially gave him a pass.

For eight years.

Suddenly, the show I loved for decades had let me, and many of its fans, down. Were they afraid of being labeled racist? The show cuts its teeth on irreverent humor. That couldn’t be the case.

Something else was in play. The show’s executives realized the impact Fey’s Palin impression had on the news cycle. In our media-saturated age, a single sketch could be magnified twenty-fold by the right blogs and social media shares. Suddenly, august news outlets covered SNL skits like they were real news. Comedy mattered, and the show’s writers acted accordingly. SNL chose politics over punch lines. My heart sank.

Then along came presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The brash reality show star gave SNL scribes all the material they could ever desire. My affection for the show had waned, but I understood why Trump became SNL’s shiny new toy. Yet, though the show incessantly mocked Trump, SNL was still pulling its punches—at least when it came to Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t enough to attack Trump. Now, the show had to reinforce Democratic talking points in the process.

When Kate McKinnon sang “Hallelujah” as an ode to Clinton’s failed campaign late last year, I stared at my flat screen, my jaw slack. The dangerous show of my youth had become yet another tired old cog in Hollywood’s liberal machinery. What was edgy about agreeing with 97 percent of the comedy world but less than half the country’s population? Nothing.

Last month I tweeted a silly prediction about SNL. I said the show would somehow fawn over President Barack Obama’s final days in the Oval Office. It was meant as a joke. It happened all the same, but even worse than I feared: SNL cast members sang (unironically!) “To Sir With Love” in appreciation of Obama. The final nail in my love for a once-great show hit solid wood.

My ten-year-old self probably wouldn’t have realized just how much partisan politics has corrupted a once-great show like Saturday Night Live. I didn’t know the first thing about politics back then. But political propagandizing masquerading as entertainment usually has one feature even children recognize, one that now, unfortunately, defines SNL: It’s dull.

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39 responses to “Why I Don’t Watch ‘Saturday Night Live’ Anymore

    1. Even in it’s “glory days”, only two skits a night and the news were laugh worthy. The rest were smile inducing at best.

      Then in the eighties, it dropped to one great bit a night and the news.

      Now… it’s just unwatchable.

      1. It’s hard but sometimes there’s a glimmer…
        Like the CNN reporter shown diapered in that cage during that first Melissa McCarthy (Sean Spicer) bit. Heh…
        If I was Spicer I would have leaned into that bit… get me a cage and do my own impression of Melissa…

  1. I would have forgiven SNL if they had simply become “more political” over the years! But, they never wrote the “funny stuff” (“insulting stuff”!) about Democrats. Throughout the campaign, Trump was made to look like a mentally deranged elf and Hillary looked “unrealistically” gorgeous!

  2. I loved “Mr Bill” also. Always wondered why those skits were never included in any of the reruns. You never see them. Must be a copyright thing. Also hard to find the early Gilda Radner routines.

  3. They went from hilarious to propaganda in eight years. Quite an accomplishment. In addition to ‘fake news’ we now have ‘fake humor?’

  4. The news segment was funny at one time too. Can you imagine the Dan akroid / Jane Curtin point/counterpoint skit today?

  5. This television listing appeared on the Onion a few years ago. I had to laugh, because that’s precisely the age at which I stopped watching myself.

    ***

    Saturday Night Live

    NBC

    11:30 p.m. EST/10:30 p.m. CST

    If you are 34 years old, you can stop watching SNL now. Thank you for your years of support.

  6. SNL had it moments early on, but I have to admit I always found it sophomoric. Then it became predictable.

    1. Lemmee guess, you found SNL had become predictable after you passed the age of most college sophomores.

      (Bonus points if it happened soon after your high school sophomore year.)

  7. SNL extreme hate and disrespect towards the President the US is disgusting and fails to be funny. I only wish they had done a fraction of that for Obama or Hillary. What they’re doing now is just mean, not funny, and irks half their remaining audience. I have let the producers and some advertisers know why I can’t watch SNL anymore.

  8. It’s the tired, old establishment, the kind that believes we have an infinite amount of money to give to anyone with a sob story.

  9. Actually it’s more sad what they did to Tina Fey/allowed her to do to herself than what they did to the show. All across the board Comedy Central went on that narrative lockstep. So of course the only new talent they ever hire are the Rosie O’ tier of “Politics IS Comedy”

    But Tina’s one of the last remaining from the old crew. She knows HOW it looked before. So in the interests first of “promoting our first black president” and then “promoting our first womyn president” she allowed herself to be swept into the muck with the useless new ‘talent.’

    Social justice, unlike most other forms of mental illness, is unfortunately highly contagious.

  10. SNL did a few bits lampooning Obama, but inevitably, the Praetorian Guard within the news media would fact-check them for it (the background on CNN doing it from 2009 here and the story on the Washington Post doing it in 2014 here). But aside from inter-media peer pressure, the other aspect to the past eight years has been the promotion of hyper-partisans like Seth Myers to key writing roles on the show.

    Saturday Night Live has always leaned to the left. But never to the point in the past that if the Democrats presented them with an easily mockable situation they wouldn’t jump on it. Outside of those few skits during the Obama years, the show went out of its way to avoid using material that made the White House look bad, and when Obama was a character in a skit, he usually was a bemused bystander, mocking the actions of his political opponents (which in a way makes it akin to the Washington media, who at the White House Correspondents Dinner over the past eight years, went from taking jibes at the president while he was in their presence to taking jibs at the president’s opponents, including some who were also at the dinner).

    1. “… if the Democrats presented them with an easily mockable situation…”–Jon

      Yeah, like Dan Aykroyd as Pres. Jimmah Cahtuh presenting his Inflation Maintenance Plan.

      Too bad for SNL that they took a powder on 99 of every 100 “easily mockable situation(s)” “the Democrats presented them with”.

  11. The best humor tends to be apolitical and/or self-effacing. Liberal comics, especially the of the late night variety, seem to focus their shtick on mocking others. The “others” tend to be from the political right which automatically makes it PC. In time, the Trump jokes will get totally stale and then what will SNL, Colbert, etc. do? They could take a lesson from earlier greatness. Johnny Carson is still the gold standard for late night humor and the early days of SNL were creative, funny, and mostly apolitical. Having said that, I really doubt if the current lame late night comics will take heed and likely will suffer for it in the end.

    1. Carson was definitely the best, but even Jay Leno tried to be pretty fair about who he aimed his jokes at. In the 2000 election SNL was even fair in jibing both Bush and Gore, making fun of Gores sighing and professorial manner. But once Obama came along, all of a sudden all the comedy shows just became nothing but leftie dem operatives.

      1. I agree that Leno worked over both sides of the street with his jokes. And he was funny, but a distant second to Johnny. I may be showing my age, but those “Best of Johnny Carson” shows that aired every year were pure gold. I could watch Ed Ames throwing the tomahawk a hundred times and crack up each time.

  12. The late Jean Sherpherd used to point out, “Satire is more than just making fun of the people you disagree with.”

  13. The irony is that in protecting Obama, the show has unwittingly promoted the idea that he cannot stand on his own feet. At least they’ve given a new lease on life to the child abuser playing Trump.

  14. It’s not only dull and mostly unfunny but much of their stuff is just plain mean. Little if any real comedy creativity, just sad meanness.

  15. Yeah, in high school Saturday Night (aka SNL) was edgy and funny. Then I went off to college and a year later became a sophomore myself. I could make my own edgy humor at 11:30 at night! That year ended and I matured further. By a remarkable coincidence, after my sophomore year Saturday Night stopped being funny.

  16. Singing to a portrait Obama was creepy. It honestly seemed like a product of totalitarianism. Do people really feel unsafe saying “no” to a bit like that?

    But I give SNL credit for the High School Theater bit. A very funny take on today’s political left:

  17. Totally agree.

    And the weekly news portion is so partisan I can no longer stomach it. I don’t care if you make fun of our politicians; just be sure to make fun of both sides when it’s called for. Drink everytime Jost or Che does a Trump story. Eat a bite for every Democrat story. Guarantee you’ll be smashed and hungry. Mocking of Obama consisted of making fun of his ears, or everyone else around him being bumbling idiots. That, and Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression is awful; why in the world did they get rid of Darrell Hammond, who is a master at impressions? When the impression barely resembles the person, it’s just not funny. But SNL has just turned to “mean”. It’s just not worth watching anymore.

  18. Yep, im from Mexico so dont even care/know about the politics but I did appreciate the impressions then suddenly stopped with obama and all the Clinton praise started that was so cringe

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