How I’d Fix SNL

How I’d Fix SNL

(Editor’s Note’s Note:  It has come to my attention the Editor’s Note was almost as long as the “article.”  Please accept my sincere apology.)

(Editor’s Note:  A few people have made more than passing mention to the fact that I’ve been even lazier than usual lately.  The reasons are threefold: 1) I have been focusing more on the trading part of trogging, 2) I apparently need some kind of pharmaceutical product to spark my creative loins, and 3) I am pretty lazy.

Couple cases in point: three weekends ago I went to Comic Con in NYC.  Am I a nerd?  No.  Were there 84,999 other people there that day?  Yes.  Was there ample fodder for a blog post?  No question.  (We set the over/under on girls dressed as Slave Leia at six and that number got demolished.  Interestingly, the correlation between “dresses as Slave Leia at comic conventions” and “has a Chinese script tattoo on her ribcage” is very close to 1.0)  Rarely are you in a public arena where 100 people are playing a highly competitive D&D tournament.  There were lots of dudes walking around proudly wearing some bizarre anime cat outfit.  There were even dorky middle aged guys buying $20 reproductions of Micronauts comic books and having them signed by their favorite childhood artist, Michael Golden – who (presumably) was not very chatty and didn’t seem to be in a great mood.

Anyway, I was formulating some stuff in my mind, laying it all out mentally, and then realized it was six days later.  Too late to capture the Comic Con zeitgeist.  Astonishingly enough, the very next weekend I found myself in the very same convention center, seeing the super-cool-but-surprisingly-Slave-Leia-free Meet The Breeds exhibit.  6500 breeds of dogs, many of them larger than a Chevy Volt.  I’d never seen a Cane Corso or the many breeds of Mastiff (apparently you can customize them like you’d order a computer from Dell); we got to see a show quality Vizla, the breed we like to pretend we’ll eventually get, assuming we exit cat-only hell.  What, you might ask, was the name of the Vizla?  Chilly.  His name was Chilly.  I sh-t you not.  Meet The Breeds could’ve been a post, right?  When I got around to thinking about it, it was nine days later.

Chilly Jr. says hello

This past weekend I went and watched Navy kick the sh-t out of Notre Dame, which would have made a nice counter to my I F-cking Hate Sports post.  But it’s now basically Wednesday – old news.  So, you see, I’m continually running a little behind, and a little light on creative inspiration beyond ranking the top ten brands of plastic food storage containers or finishing casting for my Daft Punk parody video “One More Mime.”  I’ll try to step up the motherf-cking pace.

And, if you’d like to kick yourself, anyone reading this could have won the iPad simply by emailing The Big Lead and saying “hey, it’s almost halloween, this dude wrote about candy, maybe throw it in your daily links?”  I finally decided to (not completely unashamedly) do it myself last week, they kindly obliged and I got an extra couple thousand hits.  One email could’ve equaled one iPad.  Such is life.)

Ideas-That-I’m-Certain-Other-People-Have-Had-But-That-I-Can’t-Check-For-Fear-That-Those-Previous-Ideas-Might-Be-So-Similar-They’d-Completely-Eliminate-The-Need-For-This-Post:  How I’d Fix SNL

A few weeks ago, I did a post where I talked about the new fall shows.  I had a bit in there about Saturday Night Live, as well, where I threw out an outline of every episode of the show:

I can pretty much predict every show in advance: Saturday Night Live Okay, let’s have a sketch where it’s a talk show hosted by an oddball celebrity, with other oddball celebrities as guests (or if we want to get butt-crazy, let’s make it a gameshow hosted by a celebrity), a commercial parody, a sketch where there’s a cocktail party and then a super-weird guest shows up and acts super-weird, a musical guest who’s likely to be a complete unknown or a hasbeen, then a sketch with a running character – how about Gilly?  everybody needs a little more Kristen Wiig, right?, weekend update, a sketch that’s sports-related, another sh*tty song, a digital short that will surprise you with its special guests acting contrary to their public image, and finally a skit that satirizes local television commercials.  See you next week.  (Katy Perry was good, though.)

I watched the Jane Lynch show last week and was actually flummoxed by my accuracy:

  • Talk show?  Check (The New Boyfriend Talk Show)
  • Gameshow with oddball celebrities?  Check (Secret Word skit)
  • Commercial parody?  Check (Moms on Facebook)
  • Digital short with Jane Lynch acting contrary to her public image?  Check
  • Gilly?  Check (just kill me…)
  • Local commercial parody?  Check (lawyer with two heads)

You get the picture – that sh-t is way too predictable.  I’m just an unpaid internet hack and I could’ve outlined 80% of the damn show in ten minutes.  Younger folks might shrug at the notion that SNL is important (much as they’d shrug at the thought of Notre Dame as a football powerhouse – it’s been awhile for both) but as an old-assed man, I beg to differ.  It used to be something of an institution, an early introduction to up-and-coming talents and a sounding board for important social and political issues.  (I just added that last part for the heck of it, I really don’t ascribe much social value to the political humor or other socially-aware skits.  Richard Pryor excepted, perhaps.)

There are really only four components that one could potentially address when attempting to right the (previously) good ship SNL.  You’ve really only got:

1.  The Host

2.  The Cast

3.  The Writing

4.  The Format

1.  The Host – Actually, I have very little problem with the hosts.  Often – especially with sports stars (Michael Phelps might be funnier after a few bong rips) – the hosts are painfully unfunny, which is itself somewhat funny.  But the casting team has recently done a pretty solid job of identifying people who are actually pretty funny – Jon Hamm, Justin Timberlake, January Jones (haha, just checking to see if you are awake, she was somewhere between “horrendous” and “god-awful”).  Aside: five or six years ago, I never thought I’d utter the words “needs more Justin Timberlake.”  But here we are in 2010.  Making strides.

My proposal: Nothing really, the hosts aren’t the problem, even the bad ones are sometimes unintentionally funny.

2.  The Cast – This is where I’m going to have to hold myself back, before this thing becomes a manifesto that would cause Ted Kaczynski to throw out a “TL,DR”.  The casts are way too large for the amount of time people are allowed to hang around.  The opening credits take like fifteen minutes now.  No one knows who half of the f-ckers are (which actually isn’t a bad thing, I’ll get to that).  People stay on the show for several years beyond their shelf life.  It’s a mess.

My proposal: Cast members can’t stay on the show longer than three years.  Period.  It would be set up like business school.  Your first year on the show, you are involved in about 30% of the sketches, but have to bust your ass writing, etc.  This is analogous to the first semester of B-school, where one works hard to secure a summer job.  Season two is like that summer job – chance to shine, 50% of the air-time to second year players.  Movie deals, comedy tours, all the glory will hinge on killing it your second year.  Third year, you are fading out, in 20-30% of the skits, like a grandparent (or second year B-school student who doesn’t give a fuuuuuuuuuck), working on your longer-term career stuff but hanging around to help the newbies figure out what’s what.

Instant solution for the good of mankind: Get rid of Fred Armisen and reduce Kristen Wiig’s screen presence by 90% – they are in every f-cking skit.  See what the newbs can do.  Armisen is pretty terrible, the new Chris Kattan – looks vaguely ethnic in a variety of ways, spare part being forced to play a leading role.  Now that they have an actual impressionist on the show in Jay Pharaoh, why is Armisen still playing Obama?  (Although, Fred – nice upgrade going from Peggy to Abby Elliot!  And you got to get rid of the Scientology bizness to boot!  Good work – now go do something else for a bit.)  And I used to be one of Wiig’s greatest supporters, but good golly have they gone to that well about 700x too often.  We get it, Kristen, you like playing odd characters as an interesting juxtaposition to the fact that you are actually pretty hot.  (Editor’s Additional Note: All you English majors who have a problem with this possibly inaccurate use of the word “juxtaposition” may really have a problem with the next paragraph.)

3.  The Writing – The writing manages to be distinctly lazy, repetitive and unoriginal, with an extreme reliance on juxtaposition for (attempted) cheap shock value laughs.  All comedy, to a certain extent, relies on juxtaposition (“hey, haha that character’s acting/speaking in a manner contrary to what i’d normally expect?  Wrecked em?  It damn near killed him!”) but these writers insist on overusing the “over-the-top-bizarre”character card.  Not every sketch needs to include people with (allegedly) humorous physical deformities attempting to get by in the real world.  Think of the best sketches you can remember on SNL – “More Cowbell” had its absurb elements, but they were much more subtle, and practically imperceptible to ungulate percussion enthusiasts.  Schwetty Balls certainly had it’s juxta-moment, but what sold the sketch was the actors’ commitment to the gag.

My solution:  There needs to be a moratorium on talk and game show sketches for a couple of seasons.  Those things are rarely funny (beyond “Celebrity Jeopardy”) and are just easy ways to shoehorn a host into a sketch.  And, they must significantly reduce the number of recurring characters.  NO MORE THAN ONE VISIT FROM A RECURRING CHARACTER PER SEASON.  And in my version, people are only on the show for three seasons, so the max number of times you’d have to see some garbage like Gilly is three times.

4.  The Format – The format is largely okay, with one glaring problem.

My solution:  THE SKITS ARE TOO F*CKING LONG!  ISN’T THE AXIOM “ALWAYS LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE”?  OR IS IT “TURN OFF YOUR F*(KING CAPS LOCK, BITCH!”?  Seriously, even the occasional decent skit runs a minimum of 25% too long.  Difficulties with handling commercial breaks?  Simple, have some kind of MacGruber-like filler skit that airs 2-3 times in an episode.  (Note: For the love of God, I am not suggestings we want more MacGruber, we absolutely want zero more MacGruber.  But you could figure out other single-episode mini-skits that would presumably plug timing gaps.  Or just cut the length of all skits in half and have two per commercial break.  Look, I didn’t pull out the protractor or anything here, I’m just spitballing it.  This is free advice.

Let's have a lot less (preferably 100% less) of this...
...and more of this type of bizness

I’m at 1700 words and am contractually obligated to stop the madness.



5 thoughts on “How I’d Fix SNL

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  2. Agreed. I look forward to SNL so much in hopes that “this week is the week that they will turn it around”, and am so disappointed. EVERY time lately.

    More Jay and less of any of the other newbies. Sandberg is funny for what he has to work with, although his shorts are often a huge hit or catastrophic miss.

    One thing is certain about the musical guests – you must be a great live band to sound good on that show (Pearl Jam and Kings of Leon for example). Don’t know how they set up the sound there, but it really emphasizes the artists that can’t sing.

    Loving the 3 season max concept. Hopefully someone will take heed to your suggestions.

  3. I actually like Samberg, too, in most of the sketches, but the digital shorts have become pretty predictable with the guest stars acting outrageously against type (although the cherry spitting war with precious was solid)…i think the problem with the music is twofold (and this reminds me that I COMPLETELY left out the musical guests as a component of the show): 1) most music today is extremely overproduced, and 2) that soundstage has one of the worst acoustic setups imaginable.

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  5. Nov08 Amy in TXMy 7 year old was home sick from school this week and was going a ltltie stir crazy by day 2. For some reason, the Dressy Cats popped into my head (looks like it’s been a year since you posted them!). I printed out the regular and holiday sets, and we spent the last two days coloring and playing with them. They were the perfect sick day activity. My 9 year old has been enjoying them as well. Thanks for sharing them!Reply

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