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5 Reasons ‘Saturday Night Live’ No Longer Matters

The media routinely pounced on the NBC program whenever a new cast failed to ignite our interest, or the ratings suffered a temporary dip.

“SNL” always rose from the dead, often stronger than ever.

Not anymore.

The most recent episode tied for a series rating low despite the presence of returning cast member Bill Hader. It’s not just a matter of low ratings. “SNL” no longer moves the cultural needle the way shows like “The Walking Dead,” “The Daily Show” or even “Duck Dynasty” does.

The following five reasons show why “SNL” may be an institution, but it’s one whose pop culture time has come … and gone.

  1. No More A-Listers in the Pipeline: “SNL” once cranked out comedy superstars with regularity. Bill Murray. Chevy Chase. Eddie Murphy. Mike Myers. Adam Sandler. Will Ferrell. The latest crop of “SNL” alums don’t have a fraction of that group’s mainstream appeal. Tina Fey, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg aren’t superstars. Not even close. Each has a certain appeal and should find steady work for the next decade. They can’t carry a movie or a franchise like their predecessors.
  2. Your Bias Is Showing: In the 1990s Phil Hartman’s Bill Clinton was reason enough to tune in every week. The same held true for Dana Carvey’s President Bush. Will Ferrell’s take on Dubya proved equally memorable, its cutting humor served up with boyish charm. That bipartisan tradition evaporated when President Barack Obama came into office. At first, Fred Armisen offered up a tentative Obama portrait, a sheepish attempt to keep politics in the mix. Later, Jay Pharoah delivered a more nuanced impression, but the writers refused to play along. Like the rest of the comedy world, “SNL” made the decision to protect, not tweak, the president’s image. Audiences took notice. They no longer consider the show the signature source for political humor.
  3. YouTube Killed the Sketch Stars: Why wait until Saturday night to see cutting-edge comedy when it’s delivered to your laptop 24/7 via YouTube? In the age of viral videos, “SNL” suddenly has very stiff competition. And take away “Dick in a Box,” and Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” regularly trumps “SNL” in the funny video department.
  4. The Dreaded Final Skits of the Night: Even during the show’s heyday each episode ran on creative fumes as 1 a.m. approached. Years ago, we kept watching due to loyalty and a lack of options. Now, we can crank up almost any program thanks to TiVo, Video on Demand services and streaming channels. Suffering through 20 minutes of stiff sketch comedy isn’t palatable.
  5. It’s no Longer Counter-Culture Comedy: When was the last time “SNL” was as outrageous as, say, Adam Carolla? The podcast king cuts across the pop culture grain with his rants, daring to step outside the politically correct boundaries. “SNL” may traffic in the occasional penis joke, but its sensibilities are in lockstep with virtually every other comic institution. Can you imagine an “SNL” sketch mocking big government or striking fast food workers?

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19 Comments

  1. SNL is so partisan they give Joe Biden a free pass, and that man is a living breathing cartoon character! Imagine what Phil Hartman or Darryl Hammond would have done with Joe Biden.

        1. Clinton was liked by the media, but was still safe – he even made fun of his own image at times. It was part of his charm.

          But Obama? He can’t take even the slightest hint of criticism. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason they stopped was because of pressure from the White House. Combine that with (1) how He is completely a media creation, (2) how He is such an obvious failure that any opening would make His weakly propped-up image collapse like a house of cards, and (3) how any characature of Him would be immediately labelled as “Racist!!!”, and there’s really no safe way to do any comedy regarding Him..

          1. I agree with you about Obama; he has zero tolerance when it comes to criticism or comedy at his expense. If SNL wasn’t afraid to roast Obama, I think pressure to stop would come more from NBC because they worship the guy.

          2. You get the sense that comedians are afraid that they’ll hurt his feelings if they tell a joke about him. And they don’t want to make him sad.

          3. No, they know they will be stuck in the “racist” zone where anyone who criticizes him is regardless of the fact that no racism is involved in most cases, and certainly no more on the right than on the left. What the 20-something group fails to get is that a) intrusive government is bad and b) not everything in the world that is bad is due to America. And then c) for as smart as they think they are, that particular generation has not figured out that the message they are afraid to rebuke is being sold so hard and by so many people that it is probably not something they want to buy. This, incidentally, is why the country runs better with an R in the White House. Pop culture holds them in check.

    1. It’s actually been irrelevant for years but because of their left leaning bias and the inherited label as being cutting edge they were given a pass.

      Eventually though they ran out of even biased, conservative hating viewers and they failed to be funny at any level from any side.

      The Obama protective society is just the icing on the dead cake.

  2. Robert Smigel, writer:
    It wasn’t until my last season that the network refused to air a “TV
    Funhouse.” It was a live-action one that was meant to be about racism and
    profiling, an airline-safety video with multilingual narration, and whenever
    you heard a different language, they would cut to people of that nationality.
    First, typical white Americans, then a Latino family, then a Japanese family,
    all being instructed about seat belts, overhead compartments, et cetera. Then
    it cuts to an Arab man, and the narrator says, in Arabic, “During the
    flight, please do not blow up the airplane. The United States is actually a
    humanitarian nation that is rooted in the concept of freedom,” and so on.
    … When the standards people freaked, Lorne fought them. Standards pushed back
    hard. They even got someone at NBC human resources to condemn it. … Lorne said,
    “I have a plan.” Obama was doing a cameo in the cold open. Lorne told
    me he would show my sketch to Obama. “If Obama thinks it’s OK, they won’t
    be able to argue it.” I thought it was a brilliant idea, except why would
    Obama ever give this thing his blessing? What if word got out? “Hey,
    everybody, that guy over there said it was cool. The one running for president
    of the country.” But I loved Lorne for caring this much and being willing
    to go that far to get this thing on TV.

    Michaels: Obama said, “It’s funny, but no, I
    don’t think so.”

  3. I stopped watching it in the early 90’s when I discovered that the time dedicated to sponsors was more than the “sketch” comedy, which sucked badly. Got tired of watching the cool kids make each other laugh when blatantly reading the cue cards.
    I can remember watching Saturday Night Live when the original cast was on. It was a treat to stay up and watch. Those days are gone.
    I see today’s cast celebrated in a masturbatory manner by the “in crowd”. These clowns have all the talent of a used box of adult novelties from Rosie O’Donell’s “Tupperware” parties…

  4. I have been saying this since 2009. Some local talk radio people near me have jumped on it since I sent them a blog I used to write. You can’t find the funny without “questioning the man.” And, like him or hate him, there is plenty to make fun of in Barack Obama. And even more to question.

  5. How about – it just isnt funny. The writing is terrible and most of the cast is forgettable. What is really needed is another competitor, like MadTV was in the 90s. There is no place else to go for sketch comedy on Saturday nights.

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