Is Saturday Night Live…Dead?



This image released by NBC shows Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump, left, and Jim Carrey as Joe Biden during the “First Debate” Cold Open on “Saturday Night Live” in New York on Oct. 3, 2020.

Joel Valdes, Staff Writer

Last night the second episode of Saturday Night Live’s 46th season aired with Bill Burr as the guest host. The sketches of that episode mostly used political correctness and the pandemic as the points of comedy, which is similar to what was used in the previous season as well. Unfortunately, the quality of the show was surprisingly low, especially considering the success that SNL has had in the past. This amount of quality has followed the trends of its most recent episodes.

The most surprising thing is that the show has so much going for it: beautiful sets and costumes, incredible cinematography, and a powerhouse of actors as its cast. However, the writing from the show is the variable holding it back from the level that it had reached in its past. 

The political agenda from the show, along with the repetitive sketch ideas, are what need to be improved the most. 

Politics has become a major theme in every episode of the show, even excluding the cold opens. This decision makes sense, especially since politics has become increasingly divisive in past years. However, the sketches pander specifically to leftist views without enough room for criticism on some of those views. Even if one of the show’s main demographics are liberal democrats, self-criticism is a significant part of comedy that SNL does not seem to have much interest in. The more the political views in the writing become two-dimensional, the less credibility the show has on the complex issues that it addresses. 

For more success in its comedy, the structure of its sketches also need to be improved. Overall, it is easy to imagine that the ideas for the skits have success in their pitch meetings. They tend to be timely and feature an interesting twist for its premise. The issue is that after the initial twist is introduced, the writing tends to double down on one joke and keep it going for the full sketch. Unfortunately for the show’s writers, a joke does not continue getting funnier if it is repeated for five minutes straight. 

This point is strengthened by taking a look at the part of the show that has the strongest writing: Weekend Update. This section features two people (currently Colin Jost and Michael Che), giving news updates and delivering jokes for each update. Since each joke lasts around 30 seconds, the anchors can keep the joke fresh and move on to the next one after it is over. Even if a line is not particularly funny, each one is so short that it does not take long to move on to the next one.

With a shift in structure, SNL still has the means to live up to its reputation of comedy. In its current state, it is not worth it to tune in when there is better content that can be watched somewhere else.