• • •
Here is a very bad idea for a SNL opening skit:
bring all the comics who had played a Republican
President Candidate during the primary season and
showcase all their impersonations in a single bit.
The show tried just such a skit last night, and the
result was very revealing.
The sketch itself wasn't terrible in a television and
primary season which has featured a lot of terrible
political satire on SNL, but seeing all the faux
candidates together made it abundantly clear that
not a single one of the cast members had taken a
candidate and made the part his or her own. Not
one had done something special with the opportunity,
which is especially regrettable given the heights to
which Tina Fey and Darrell Hammond had taken
their political characters in recent years.
Still the main responsibility for the dearth of political
satire on Saturday Night Live can not be laid at the
performers' feet. Recent Weekend Updates make it
abundantly clear that the writers on the show don't
know much about politics, or at least don't have
anything interesting to say about it.
Very little on Weekend Update is political. Even
when the topic is nominally political, usually the
humor is not.
It's not difficult to imagine why SNL might have
trouble attracting a political writer or two: The
Daily Show and The Colbert Report have become
where the action is for political satire. If you're
interested in politics and you're a comic writer, those
are the shows you'd want to write for.
So what should Saturday Night Live do? I think
they have two choices. One is to drop Weekend
Update. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report
have raised the standards so high, that in comparison
SNL's current efforts are an embarrassment. The
other is to return to the Dennis Miller model.
Lure a hip young political satirist to Saturday Night
by giving him the news. Sure he still has to make
room for the zanies who round off the bit, but the
anchor should be guaranteed 5 or 6 solid minutes
which are all his own. He writes, he produces,
he delivers. It's his own show within a show,
and that's his only responsibility during the week.
This seems the only way to save Weekend
Update. Yes, Seth Meyers has been honest to
point out that SNL is not a political show,
but without any political content, there is really
no good rationale for Weekend Update, so
either find a political comic to save it or throw
another digital short into the mix.
• • •