I’m a big-time procrastinator, which means I always find something to help me avoid doing work. And for the longest time, that “thing” has been watching “Saturday Night Live” (1975–) clips on YouTube one after another — for hours. Lately, however, I have found myself seeking other sources of entertainment because SNL is no longer funny.
Now, I’d love to get into the history of SNL and talk about some of its legendary cast members from past decades. People like Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Phil Hartman, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd and Dana Carvey were genuinely funny. They all found clever ways to entertain their audience without having to rely on the socio-political context of their time.
Sure, they made occasional skits on Ronald Reagan, but not all the punchlines were political. Most of them were funny because their depiction of Reagan and the delivery of the jokes were funny. Whereas, nowadays, it’s almost impossible to laugh at an SNL skit without being familiar with current political events. The sketches are either based on Joe Biden calling Donald Trump “a clown” or Bernie Sanders wearing memorable mittens at Biden’s inauguration. There are no punchlines there. These things are funny on their own — that is, if you watched the 2020 U.S. presidential debates or Biden’s inauguration.
But I’m not going to talk more about the golden age of SNL. I wasn’t born until 2002, so it’s not my area of knowledge. What I can do is talk about SNL’s “silver age,” led by people like Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Rachel Dratch, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg in the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Take the digital short “The Shooting” (2007), also known as “Dear Sister,” as an example. It’s a loose homage to the final moment of the Season 2 finale of “The O.C.” (2003–07), when two of the main characters shoot each other in a dramatic crossfire as Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” (2005) plays in the background.
We start off with Bill Hader talking to Andy Samberg about a letter Hader wrote to his sister, played by Kristen Wiig. While reading his letter out loud, Hader gets shot by Samberg out of the blue and falls onto the ground. Unexpectedly, he shoots Samberg, who then shoots him again as they both lie on the ground. Then comes Shia LaBeouf into the room, who gets shot by both Hader and Samberg for no reason. As they all lay on the ground and shoot each other to their deaths, Kristen Wiig arrives at the scene, shocked by this sight. She picks up the letter that Hader wrote to her but gets shot immediately by Hader, Samberg and LaBeouf.
The funniest part is that every time someone gets caught in the crossfire, “Hide and Seek” starts playing, making the sketch impossible not to laugh at. It’s the absurdity and repetition that make this SNL sketch hilarious and unforgettable.
Now, I’m not saying SNL is no longer relevant. But they should make more sketches like “Dear Sister” if they want to stay relevant. Because their current formula isn’t working — at least, not for me.