When I was younger I used to watch “Saturday Night Live” faithfully because it always seemed to have enough “funny” to keep me positive and laughing. The list of comedians who have passed through it on their way to more fame and fortune reads like a list of who’s who in comedy and is too long to repeat here. A much shorter list would be who has never been a cast member or guest on Saturday Night Live.
I do not think it is much of a revelation to say that Saturday Night Live has lost some of its “funny” as well as a lot of audience. People just talk less about it on Monday morning. All of this came back to me when watching Peyton Manning in his debut as a guest host on Saturday night.
Manning, the Super Bowl MVP for the world champion Indianapolis Colts, has a reputation of being very intense, demanding and uptight to the point of constipation when it comes to game preparation and execution. It makes sense that he might be just as intense on Saturday Night Live. Certainly Peyton Manning saw the program as an opportunity to give viewers an impression of his “other side”. He can afford media consultants to suggest how he could freshen up his image.
This is why I found it disturbing when, in one skit, he was knocking down children by throwing footballs at them and then berating them for being stupid and incompetent. After watching this attempt at humor, I thought the National Football League and its United Way partner would come unglued. I was dead wrong. I heard very little about Manning’s skits. I doubt that Manning was laying awake nights before his appearance dreaming up the skits he did. The football bit with the kids did not impress me at all, and I did not find it funny in the least.
When you drop by to watch Little League Baseball games these days, there is always one or two coaches who are screaming, cussing and berating the kids because they struck out or threw the ball to the wrong base. Fathers who are losers become coaches that are legion for “beating” up on kids.
Successful athletes do not do this under any circumstances. They understand how difficult it is to become good, and how making mistakes is how you learn to correct them. Successful athletes are positive and encouraging almost without exception. I took issue with this particular skit because kids today have too many heroes that are not worthy of adulation or emulation. Some heroes today have a rap sheet longer than their list of worthy credits.
Media pundits might insist that the program is for “young urban adults” or some such special population category, and that kids should not even be watching comedy at that hour. The pundits say that is why what I have to say is moot. I say nonsense, these routines are funny because they touch a chord with the vast majority of viewers or they do not, regardless of age or when the program is telecast.
Being young, sophisticated and from New York does not mean that you recognize and appreciate comedy any more than a grandfather from Lacey, Washington that is 62 years old like me. The current state of Saturday Night Live probably has more to do with the lack of originality than the lack of presentation. If you went to any downtown metro area looking for a hooker, the pimp would tell you that “pimping ain’t easy”, and so it is with writing comedy under a deadline.
All of us have probably had a comedic moment in our lives, but how many of us can come up with a comedy routine on cue? This is why we watch comedy rather than try to create comedy. God Bless Seth Myers, Saturday Night’s new chief writer. He clearly understands that what isn’t live is dead. Having said that Seth Meyers needs some help. Tina Fey, the chief writer who preceded Meyers, needs some help too. Even Loren Michaels should be under the microscope; he provides the leadership and hires the talent or non-talent, as the case may be.
Saturday Night Live is just not as funny as it used to be. Everything is tired. I believe it is not so much the cast as the cast simply needs better material. If there is one thing I dislike more than comedy that is not funny it is politicians who have nothing better to do than occupy space and run their mouth without providing any solutions.
So if I am carping here let me offer Loren Michaels a modest proposal: publicly ask viewers to submit comedy skit ideas and dialogue. Give the viewers an opportunity to email suggestions with no compensation involved.
This is an inexpensive idea and who knows, maybe some new ideas will surface and if someone clearly keeps contributing new ideas that work, then maybe they should be joining the show for the opportunity and compensation. Think about it, Loren. Recognize this fact: It does not take a lot of talent to come up with bathroom humor, but does bathroom humor really work that well? I think not.
The best humor is when we make fun of ourselves rather than others. Everyone can relate to that kind of humor without taking sides. Comedy is not about divide and conquer, comedy is about giving everyone a good laugh. And, as the Readers Digest’s says, laughter is the best medicine.