Sunday, December 19, 2004

Saturday Night Live

I'm pretty much an SNL apologist. Most people gave up on them pre-Will Ferrell. Even more gave up on them when he left.

Not me. I TiVo it every week. I sit through every minute. And, up until this year, I generally would find 2 or 3 sketches that would make me laugh, and then there was the ever reliable Weekend Update to round out the night.

But not this season. Damn, it's been awful. Last night's episode had to be rock bottom. Outside of the Roomba parody, a few moments of the "Pranksters" sketch, and one single moment in the Robert Smigel bit (when he referred to the Red states as "Dumbfuckistan"), it was excruciatingly bad.

Part of that can be attributed to Robert DeNiro, who was god awful the last time he was asked to host. But most of it is the writing, since it has been pretty uniformly awful this season. Last night they had a sketch that was Rober DeNiro dressed as an old lady with cats.

That's it. No punchline. Someone thought it would be funny enough to dress DeNiro up as an old woman and make him a cat lady and broadcast it on TV for 2 minutes.

I think that's been my major issue with SNL this year. I love the over the top comedy, the sketches that are these surreal situations that are inherently bizarre and funny. But they have to lead to a punchline. There has to be a joke. Otherwise it stops being funny after a minute or so.

Think back to the Celebrity Jeopardy stuff. Just weird and funny, but they always had punchlines.

Then watch last night's show. There's a funny premise with Horatio Sanz going undercover as a super over the top Italian criminal. It was somewhat funny. Then the punch line was that he was going to infiltrate an Asian crime ring as Hong Kong Phooey.

Hong Kong Phooey? That's the best punchline you could come up with?

Compare that with the stuff on Chappelle's Show like the racial draft. The whole premise is insanely funny, and you get a billion and one jokes including the whole Wu Tang appearance.

Now, I'm not a comedy writer, and I don't think I could be because I'm not that funny. And I know how much harder it is to do SNL than Chappelle's Show. But that's not an excuse for not being funny.

Anyway, my guess is there's a shelf life on being the head writer at SNL. Tina Fey had a really good run, but it might be time for some new blood at the top. I think they've got lots of talented performers (including the criminally underused Maya Rudolph and Darrell Hammond). There's no reason the show can't be funny again.

The final skit last night was at least redeemable - it had Horatio Sanz come out to do the Christmas song he used to do with Jimmy Fallon, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Kattan, who've all since left the show. It's a silly skit they did around every holiday, but it worked for me. Last night, the Muppets (well, Fozzie, Kermit, Gonzo, and Animal) joined Horatio, doing the mannerisms and everything.

It made me think - right now, I think I'd rather see new episodes of the Muppet Show than more episodes of SNL. Same hosts, same musical guests, but using the Muppets rather than the normal SNL folks. I bet it would work.


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