How Politics Has Taken Over SNL

Max Domel, Entertainment Editor

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Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night! Over the course of its 45 seasons since 1975, the famous late-night comedy sketch show has evolved into a staple of American popular culture. Part of its evolution has been an increase in political focus, and although witty satire is in abundance in some skits, jokes sometimes fall flat in other sketches. Though the comedic quality has recently been inconsistent, the show has made some strides in diversifying the cast, hosts and musical guests, creating opportunities for a wider range of perspectives.

The Trump presidency has allowed for more celebrity cameos and easy opportunities to laugh and poke fun at the world of politics. This makes elements of the show like the Cold Open, the first skit of every show, a must-watch.

The SNL crew for this season is made up of 14 cast members and three featuring players, with names like Colin Jost, Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson. Many actors, such as Will Ferrell, Chris Rock, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Julia Louis-Dreyfous and Robert Downey Jr. started their careers or found their spotlight as SNL cast members. NBC Studios and producer-writer Lorne Michaels run the 90-minute long show in the Studio 8H of 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City. A celebrity is invited to host every show, giving a monologue on the center stage towards the beginning and appearing in most of the sketches. Hosts are usually picked when they have a movie or body of work that is being promoted in the media. The rest of the show is a mixture of live skits and recorded features, interrupted by two performances from a musical guest and a Weekend Update. The Weekend Update is a reccurring political skit that pokes fun at international geopolitics and popular culture.

Weekend Update is a comedic news report that has been around from the very beginning and has had anchors who went on to have their own talk shows like Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers. Currently, the co-anchors are Michael Che and Colin Jost. They take turns adding comedic details to weekly events inside and outside the political world. In the last few seasons, the sketch has provided consistent fun between other segments due to the clever writing and witty deliveries that make it very hard not to laugh. Furthermore, the guest appearances of cast members such as Alex Moffat and Mikey Day’s hilarious dynamics and gestures as Eric and Donald Trump Jr. adds to its steady popularity. Other iconic Weekend Update characters from earlier casts include Adam Sandler’s Opera Man, Bill Hader’s Stefon, Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannadanna, Dana Carvey’s Church Lady and their quirks and catchphrases all contributed to helping shape the show’s signature identity.

One of the reasons why some sketches are hit or miss is because they rely too much on specific elements going right and often use content that is too vague. For example, there was an average of one game show per episode over the course of the final episodes of Season 44. That setting gets repetitive quickly, especially when the jokes don’t do enough by themselves and the competitors aren’t interesting. In other commonly-used types of sketches, such as songs or lighthearted family moments, the punchlines are often a little too cringy to laugh at and are too watered down to thoroughly entertain. By attempting to appeal to younger viewers in the digital age, the skits lose their style and aren’t in an area of expertise for the writers.

Some of the best skits come after a turning point flips the plot upside down and things get weird and unusual. A good example of this is “First Impression,” a skit with Beck Bennett and Jason Momoa that becomes instantly hilarious because of its strangeness and enthusiasm. When skits embrace this nature, it can even lead to more enjoyment when players laugh at the lines themselves, showcasing the beauty of live television as well.

Despite some of its flaws, Saturday Night Live will go down in history as one of the best television shows ever. As the longest-running program with over 40 seasons, it is incredible and reflects the tremendous talent and work ethic of the cast and producers behind the scenes to brainstorm ideas every week. SNL is an important program to watch, yet more at certain times than others, and always has plenty to appreciate still. The excitement comes back every time as the signature SNL jazz music triumphantly plays to the introduction of the cast members, the crowd screaming and clapping with joy as the host walks down the stage steps and prepares for the upcoming show.