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People that Argue 'SNL' Is No Longer Relevant Need to Open their F**king Eyes

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | May 20, 2014 | Comments ()


SNL.jpg

I don’t know why people can’t just accept that SNL hasn’t been relevant for a while and the format is dated. I used to love the show but its not the talent farm it used to be since since there are many other ways for people to get noticed.

This is a comment I read on a Saturday Night Live thread recently. I’ve seen countless versions of this comment, as well as, “This show is still on?” “Why are you still watching?” and the ever-popular “Saturday Night Live hasn’t been funny in years.”

This most recent 39th season might have been a down one, and whether it’s funny or not is a matter of personal preference, but it’s relevance is not debatable. Look around. Open your f*cking eyes, people. Saturday Night Live is all around you. Jimmy Fallon, the host of the most popular late night show on television, The Tonight Show is a former SNL cast member. His lead-out is former cast member Seth Meyers, who usually hosts four to five current and former SNL cast members a week. Former Tonight Show host and current host of Conan is a former SNL writer, who used to employ as a writer the star/writer/director of television’s best comedy, Louis C.K., who also helped write SNL’s “Saturday TV Funhouse,” with Robert Smigel, who also wrote “Ambiguously Gay Duo,” featuring the voice work of the man set to replace David Letterman next year, Stephen Colbert.

The second smartest comedy on television, Veep stars a former SNL cast member in Julia Louis Dreyfus; the sweetest comedy on television, Parks and Recreation stars former cast member Amy Poehler (and Nick Offerman, who met his wife on SNL); last night’s top rated show in the 10:00 hour, The Maya Rudolph Show starred a former cast member. The best freshman sitcom to get a second season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, stars a former SNL cast member, Andy Samberg. The most popular female comedian at the box office is Melissa McCarthy, who broke out in a big way thanks to Bridesmaids, written and starring a then current SNL cast member Kristen Wiig.

Almost every good comedy in television or film involves a former or current SNL writer or cast member or can be traced to one. If SNL were the Kevin Bacon game, you could connect every great sitcom to it in one step. The composition of the comedy world is made up of more SNL alums than any other show, and that includes The Daily Show, which admittedly has developed a lot of talent over the years, but like SNL, has delivered a lot of whiffs).

“Yeah, but those are older cast members,” someone is arguing, which is the same argument people have been making about the successful SNL alums for decades because it often takes several seasons before we recognize the potential break-out success of any given SNL cast member.

Let’s just take a look at the last ten cast members to leave SNL (minus Paul Brittain (who?) and Tim Robinson, who was absorbed back into the writer’s room):

1. Nasim Pedrad (expected to step down this summer) — She’s going to be one of the stars of the Fox fall sitcom, Mulaney, which is written by and stars former SNL head writer, John Mulaney.

2. Seth Meyers — Host of Late Night.

3. Jason Sudeikis — Star of last year’s second biggest comedy at the box office, We’re the MIllers, married to Olivia Wilde.

4. Bill Hader — He’s got two well-received indie films coming out this year, and four films coming out in 2015.

5. Andy Samberg — Star of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, one of the most critically acclaimed new sitcoms of the year.

6. Kristen Wiig — Has an Oscar nomination, and in addition to starring alongside Hader in one of those well-received indie flicks, has 7 other films coming out in the next two years.

7. Abby Elliott — Had a recurring role in How I Met Your Mother and has minor roles in three minor movies coming soon.

8. Fred Armisen — Bandleader of The Late Show and writer/star of Portlandia.

9. Will Forte — Thanks to Nebraska, Forte is quietly developing into a modest dramatic actor. He has several projects, mostly on the indie spectrum, coming soon. Still beloved by some for MacGruber.

10. Jenny Slate — Recurring role on Parks and Recreation and House of Lies and she’s the star of this summer’s Obvious Child, which is expected to elevate her stature considerably (it’s described as the best abortion rom-com ever!)

That’s an amazing success rate for the last ten cast members to leave Saturday Night Live, where even minor cast members (Casey Wilson, Michaela Watkins) usually end up doing well for themselves. There’s no reason to believe that success rate won’t eventually continue.

And no: This past season wasn’t particularly good, but individually, the cast is talented. Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon could very well be the next Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Beck Bennett is going to be playing best friend roles in comedies for the rest of his life. Taran Killam is already getting decent filmwork (12 Years a Slave, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Jay Pharoah could easily develop into a solid action-comedy star, and Vanessa Bayer will probably end up in a string of sitcoms someday.

The rest of the new cast? Who knows? But that’s the thing about SNL. We don’t often really begin to notice cast members until their third or fourth season. It takes awhile to gain familiarity, but most of these guys will eventually land a break-out sketch that makes them recognizable, and we will slowly begin to remember their names. It’ll take some time, but though we don’t realize it yet, there’s a Fallon and a Ferrell and a Poehler among those no-names, who will eventually leave the show and continue filtering into the comedy world, where most projects eventually lead back to what remains one of the most relevant shows on TV: Saturday Night Live.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Weedbay Guy

    The writers suck but this cast can deliver. Get them some funny material please.

  • Ed Mouse

    Dustin's unnecessary use of a censored expletive is a turn-off.

  • OnECenTX

    For the people who think SNL isn't funny; Can you please state the comedians, tv shows, movies, etc. that are funny to you? I'm being serious, I just want to know what you consider to be funny.

  • Charlie Desertly

    South Park, Daily Show, Colbert Report, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Steven Wright, Longmont Potion Castle, Neil Hamburger, Tim & Eric, Archer, Louis CK, Andy Kaufman, Sarah Silverman, Chris Elliott, Dave Chappelle. But, 99.99% of the time, NOT Saturday Night Live.

  • OnECenTX

    South Park - Nice, Daily Show - Nice, Colbert - Nice, Bill Hicks - Ehh, George Carlin - Comedy God, Steven Wright - Ehhh, Longmont Potion Castle - Pranking is childish/cheap comedy, Neil Hamburger - Really???, Tim & Eric - Cool, Archer - Amazing, Louis CK - Amazing, Andy Kaufman - Ehh, Sarah Silverman - Yawn, Chris Eliott - You know he was on SNL right???, - Dave Chappelle - God in general.

  • Charlie Desertly

    I certainly agree with you about pranking in general, but have you listened to Longmont Potion Castle?

  • Jim_Paul

    The author makes the mistake of believing that it was SNL that made them funny or talented and that, if not for SNL, they would not have been successful. The truth is that the vast majority of SNL cast members come from improv groups like the Groundlings.

    So the relevancy isn't actually SNL. The relevancy is the improv groups that found the talent and where those people honed their craft. SNL is just another stepping stone to people who were already on their way.

    Honestly SNL could be cut out of the loop completely with absolutely zero loss in the talent pool.

  • lakawak

    So...pretty much anyone that started in the last 15 year has done NOTHING except some bit parts on NBC sitcoms. And that is relevant?

  • Steve Stevens

    Please get rid of Colin Jost on Weekend Update.

  • Fei Fong Wong

    It's bad. The people that were good, are no longer on the show.

    I actually watch it on demand whenever I'm having trouble sleeping, it works like a charm.

  • Joe Joejoe

    SNL has some funny skits......some. I find most of the time I'm fast forwarding between multiple sketches, just to find the 2-3 funny bits.

  • JenChungsBaby

    I don't watch any of those shows either.

  • dizzylucy

    "Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon could very well be the next Tina Fey and Amy Poehler."
    And next season's Weekend Update anchors, please.

  • Gord Reid

    "8. Fred Armisen — Bandleader of The Late Show and writer/star of Portlandia."

    Correction: He's the bandleader of Late Night with Seth Meyers. He has to defeat Paul Shaffer in single combat to get the Late Show gig.

  • Matt Kennedy

    well said.

  • googergieger

    Uh huh. That is whatever you were talking about for you.

  • BrokenWindows

    The only thing keeping SNL relevant is momentum. It's been around forever. Young comedians really want to do the show, because they know what a boost to their career it can provide. Because of that, talented people will end up on the show. Those talented people will end up doing more projects after they leave the show.

    You can't tell me that people like Hader, Wiig, Samberg, Sandler, Ferrel, Poehler, etc. wouldn't have hit it big without SNL. They would have found some other way to break through. Just like the SNL cast members who fall flat on their face would have done that with or without the show.

    Being "relevant" in that way doesn't mean that the show should continue to exist.

  • Moveinon

    I agree. SNL is like an up side down pyramid where the most talented, creative and funny members were in the beginning and they gradually became less in each successive year until now where they have reached a level of what is new, interesting and different is small. Originally the cast was better than the guest stars in almost every area. Now the guest stars are often better than the cast members. The real statement should be that the cast members “did” ,as in the past, make a remarkable impact on TV and movies. The current cast and writers will not.

  • John W

    OKAY when you put it THAT way...

    Was being able to marry Olivia Wilde a perk of being on SNL? Where do I submit my application....

  • BWeaves

    SNL is like those Hubble photographs of those clouds of gas that birth stars.

    No, I don't know what I mean by that.

  • e jerry powell

    Kate McKinnon was already fabulous before she was on SNL, Dustin dear, performing alongside Julie Goldman and Erica Ash on "Big Gay Sketch Show."

    Just thought I'd put that out there. i think Erica Ash got the short end of that one, because when she made the jump, she only ended up on the last season of MadTV.

    And before we start comparing people to Poehler, let's remember that she was CO-FOUNDER of UCB, where quite a bit of the new talent for SNL gets into the pipeline, so it's not like Poehler (or Fey, or Dratch, or about two-thirds of the historical SNL roster, for that matter) were chopped liver before they got to SNL. Maybe you hadn't heard of them in their UCB/Groundlings/Second City days, but they were certainly being heard.

  • gdobbs

    I hate to be this person, but it's Michaela Watkins (who I still miss for her Hoda impression). Another point to add to an article I COMPLETELY agree with: Andy Samberg won a Golden Globe!

  • cruzzercruz

    You are correct, sir. It's a mind numbingly stupid argument that creeps up every single week. Whether it's funny is subjective, but its cultural influence is not.

  • Grim50845

    True, but contemporary culture is shit so what does that say about SNL?

  • Manders

    Offerman didn't meet his wife on SNL - he cameo'd when she was a host, but they met doing theater in LA. The whole story is in his book. Otherwise, great article.

  • Well done. SNL is a lot of things these days, but irrelevant is not one of them. Shit, it's still NBC's highest rated scripted series.

  • Jenn Hamm

    One of the reasons why I LOVE SNL is that when they do create an awesome skit, they are hilarious. For example Maine Justice (Jaime Fox hosted) was so random and really should not have worked at all, but it was amazing- so, so funny. And the show with the guy from Hunger Games? Great. I watched that Josie sketch on repeat. Drake? Who knew? He was amazeballs. And don't even get me started on Leslie Jones!

    Every episode is a gamble, but that's what I love about it. SNL for life!

  • Chrispeare

    Yeah, but, Monty Python was better.

  • To testify to the show's power you need look no further than the 1985 cast which is considered the worst cast in SNL history but it still featured: Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall, Randy Quaid, Jon Lovitz and Joan Cusak.

  • Davis

    But none of them got famous from SNL

  • LL

    That brought a little tear to my eye.

  • logan

    Sometimes you just have to let things go.

  • Enrique del Castillo

    I love how this is the second time someone on Pajiba mentions a Vanessa Bryant as a current SNL castmember. Who knew Kobe's wife was on SNL? I know I'm being pedantic, I'm guessing you meant Vanessa Bayer. I really like her, I just wish she had better things to do on the show.

    (also, I like how being married to Olivia Wilde is part of Jason Sudeikis' resume)

    I kind of agree, the series, as flawed as it is and has always been, can't be called irrelevant, there's a lot of talented people doing interesting stuff that were part of SNL not so long ago. I just hope the bad doesn't outweigh the good next season

  • pajiba

    Damnit. Bayer. I do that every. single. time. (And if I were married to Olivia Wilde, it'd be the first thing I put on my resume).

  • Gigi Agius

    I saw Obvious Child at a screening over the weekend and it is fantastic! Jenny Slate is great in it. Do yourselves a favor and see in when it comes out this summer.

  • Yossarian

    Well by that metric minor league baseball is also very relevant. So is tween programming like High School Musical. But it's not very fun to watch

  • Enrique del Castillo

    You are right, but I think the article is aimed towards comments that say that as a whole SNL is no longer relevant as talent breeding ground, not that the show isn't as funny anymore.

  • Vera

    Totally unpopular opinion following.
    You know what could be more funny than SNL, pouring acid on ones fingernail bed after ripping it voluntarily with a lobster's claw. Sure they all get to move around, they're white guys and a white girl. Wow.. .wonder why they're tad more successful than other run of the mill wannabe comediennes? They're such hilarious prodigies.
    Seth Meyer's late show is boring to tears. Staring at dry paint in more compelling. Wiigs' Bridesmaids was atrocious (Sure, girl power, still horrendous). These people are plainly unfunny. The problem with SNL is that they think unfunny is a synonym for funny.

  • Repo

    Cool opinion. Yeah, Dustin's wrong because, like, racism, y'all. Ok.

  • Vera

    I wasn't saying he was wrong. Everyone's entitled to its own opinion.
    "Relevant" is a convenient strawman because something can remain relevant long past its expiration date. The problem is it's no longer funny, but sure degustibus. Relevance is given by its history, pop-cultural significance, debatable charismatic figures. But even if the cast wasn't mediocre and let's say it's not, it's prodigiously talented, the recurrent problem over seasons, lays with its writing. Which is just weak. It's not like they're reciting random phrases or discussing the weather in Maui, they're doing "comedy sketches".

    As far as racism goes that's another strawman. The thing with SNL and why nobody should expect a invading army of POCs, it's not that POCs aren't funny or talented, it's that honestly now, SNL caters to a mainly dominant white audience. Hence why it functions somewhat as a reflection or an echo chamber for what maybe some white people find funny or popular.

    But hey if you don't think SNL is widely white then hey my bad. IMO it should stay like then play with POCs characters that perform with white mentalities or are stuck with unfunny whitewashed bits. Jones' slave bit, cringeworthy, her response, a classic double down. But hey why so sensitive, it's not like there's a hunting season out there. And if there is and innocent POCs die, well shame on them. Yey, slavery no more.
    Knowledge can be funny, ignorance never.

  • "Funny" is just as subjective as "relevant." Does the current cast have more misses than hits for me? Yes. Does the cast pale in comparison to the Eddie Murphy or Mike Meyers or Will Ferrell or Tina/Amy eras for me? Yes. I also have no doubts that there are high schoolers and college students who watch the show now who find Kyle Mooney or Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy hilarious. This cast will be their era of when SNL was awesome.

  • Vera

    Relevant is a tad more encapsulating pending on a wider consensus. Whereas funny comes in all shades and nuances and is susceptible to various senses of humor.

    To say "their era of when SNL was awesome" ought to offend most multicellular organisms. It's not about a recurring bout of malaise and general writer's fatigue, is about an offensive stagnation. For a show with such a background, the current situation serves only to prove the accuracy of the second law of thermodynamics where every system left to its own devices always tends to move from order to disorder, its energy tending to be transformed into lower levels of availability, finally reaching the state of complete randomness and unavailability for further development.

    But hey, usually white dude bro humor tends to posse like an Enigma code.

  • Yocean

    I agree on its all white people part. This article made me realize that SNL plays a big part in keeping comedy mostly white. I mean, they had no Asian, ever.

  • What’s really killing SNL is a deep spiritual funk. There’s a lumbering heaviness about every part of the show, from an extravagantly expensive set for a Wizard of Oz sketch to the self-important attitude that squashes bold personalities to the marathon writing sessions that stumble past dawn. “You feel it as soon as you walk into the writers’ room,” says a young comedian who rejected an offer to join Saturday Night. “It’s a depressed, kind of lethargic burnout.” New York Magazine, March 1995. Full article: http://nymag.com/arts/tv/featu...

    All this has happened before, and all this will happen again

  • The "not as funny" argument has been made every year since Chevy Chase left SNL in 1976, the show's second season.

  • Jim

    Which I remember watching - back when the TV was steam-powered and you had to stoke the coal during commercials or you'd risk missing the punch-line.

  • Boston Red

    And, if you missed the punch line, you would *never* learn what it was.

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