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.