Why isn’t SNL funny anymore? Or is it?

April 29th, 2008

Mike and I have this discussion a lot: whatever happened to the funny on Saturday Night Live? Now before you get crazy and tell me that it is funny still, the point of our discussion is not that it isn’t funny or have funny elements to it now, it’s just not “my” funny.

History of “My Funny”: I started watching SNL around 1985-1986. Yeah, I was 10 or 11, what the hell was I doing up at 11:30 on Saturday nights? Answer- I was at Dad’s house. Dad’s house meant I could watch all TV, any TV and at any time of the day, or night. Granted television viewing in those days was in black and white and was always accompanied by my Dad’s boisterous snoring. It added charm. I didn’t get what they were talking about on SNL then, I certainly didn’t get the laughs but I watched because I knew that something genius was happening. Something historical. I didn’t know until years later that I was getting the tail end of the legendary likes of Jim Belushi, Billy Crystal, and Martin Short and I was being introduced to such names as Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey. I didn’t know I was witnessing the passing of the torch.

And that is the soul of the argument of why SNL isn’t funny anymore. When did you grow up on it? What skits are burned into your mind along with memories of your first bike, your first kiss, your first…? SNL in the nineties was the pinnacle of “My Funny” because that time encapsulates all of my growing years. Mike Myers as Wayne Campell was the guy I wanted to date, David Spade in the Weekend Update bits about celebrities was as cynical and funny as I saw the world, Chris Farley was the outrageous fat guy I wanted to hang out with. Adam Sandler was stripped down gross-out humor, the kind of humor you didn’t admit to liking as a girl but you laughed your ass off over it by yourself.

That isn’t where it started or stopped for me. Like I said before my love affair with SNL started mid-80s, with the comedians I mentioned, along with Kevin Nealon and Victoria Jackson. Two people, completely different but they happened to embody two sides of me, straight-up dry unassuming humor and silly and dumb. A lot of how I am today I can attribute to the casts of SNL. This affair went all the way through to about the turn of the century.

Some will boast that the last great cast was ’99-2000, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri and Molly Shannon and more. You could stand this cast up to even the original cast of ’75, because of the originality, the true grit of endless talent and unbridled funny. Classics came every week, testaments to the old days when one character could pop up every week and the laughs came and never stopped coming. You looked forward to the show, you didn’t care who the host was, you usually went to the bathroom during the musical act. You tuned in to see your favorite and you weren’t disappointed. That is the history of “My Funny”.

I suppose people’s reaction to the level of funny of today’s SNL is akin to so many other facets of pop culture. My Dad loves music from the ’50s and he likes B&W movies. He doesn’t mind TV today, he likes reality shows, variety shows and the dramas but he loved pop culture in the ’50s because those were his growing years. He had his first car then, probably his first kiss and most definitely was in tuned to the culture of his time. He hasn’t shut himself off to new things but what’s in your heart and what takes you back to better times is what you cling to.

I love remembering how those people made me laugh. Laughter was always a safe place to be. I remember sitting on that brown leather couch at Dad’s house, so enthralled by these people who without inhibition stood on that stage and put it all out there for us to witness. I think in their attempt to make us laugh they did so much more. They made it okay to speak out, to act out, to try new things. I know, revolutionary, but to a young girl it was.

So in defense of SNL of today, perhaps the actors of this years cast or of the last or the next is doing that for someone new. I click it on from time to time and I do laugh. It may not be hearty or earth shattering to me, but it will be for someone in their growing years. That is why that show is still around and that is why I hope it never ends. And that is why it is still funny, someone’s funny.


8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Ricky Doo on April 29, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    I remember the days of Mary Katherine Gallagher, Mango and Kiwi, The Butabi Brothers, the motivational speaker who ate government cheese in a van down by the river, and much more.

    I would have to say that the pinnacle of “my” funny, was the cast consisting of:

    Chris Katan
    Molly Shannon
    Will Ferrel
    David Spade
    Chris Farley

    Now with Jimmy Fallon, and all of their non-sense, the show SUCKS! Its not funny like it used to be.

    That is all from this ::sticks hands under arm pits, while wearing gold boxers, and bopping head to 90’s club music:: SUPERSTAR!!!

  2. Wow. Great post, T. I must confess, alas, that I’ve never been much of an SNL guy. I do loves me some Tina Fey, though. Oh, goddamn, do I loves me some Tina Fey.

  3. SNL right now is so warped for me, I think it might be funny, in fact I KNOW the news is funny, but I am over shadowed with the fact that the head writer is someone I went to high school with…someone who did not talk to me then, and most certainly would not talk to me now.

    also his mom was my 7th grade French teacher….and I got an f that year.

    it’s all I can think about when I see the show, and that my dear is def not my type of funny


  4. It’s so true, nothing compares to the SNL you first knew.

  5. i agree – SNL is not MY funny anymore either.

    ps. cinco de Erikka is my birthday celebration name, as my bday falls on cinco de mayo. đŸ™‚

  6. i also think the simpsons have lost some of their funny. they are just…weird now. like..to be funny you have to make no sense and push the limits…but that’s not what funny HAS to be ALL the time, which it seems to be what is happening now.

    i started watching SNL during the Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley reign and it never let me down. Opera Man…the guy who was dumped and hosted some show about his ex that Adam sandler played…FUNNY SHIT! there have been moments in the recent cast where something is funny, but those moments are few and far between.

    for instance – the Chronicles of Narnia rap? Natalie Portman rapping? AWESOME! please see them if you have not.

  7. It was never funny, we were just young.

  8. Posted by Paul McDonald on January 3, 2010 at 1:15 am

    I enjoyed your writing. But I must respectivley disagree. I am in High school and i haved watched SNL since i was 11 and it has never been funny. but whenever i watch the dvd reruns from the 70’s to the 90’s I laugh my ass off. Me and all of my friends agree that SNL is no longer funny with the exception of Andy Samberg’s songs. the actors are good the writers are terrible

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