Monday, October 20, 2008

The SNL Paradox

How can a show be simultaneously so funny and so unfunny?

This election season, we've seen some of the funniest sketches Saturday Night Live has had to offer in years. But then the rest of the show? Crap. We had actually been raving about SNL lately, because of the pure genius they've been coming up with consistently regarding the election. But we had been watching those sketches online for the most part, missing all of the really shitty stuff in between.

We actually sat through the entire hour and a half of this past Saturday's episode because we heard Sarah Palin was going to be on and we felt compelled to watch. We realized that SNL is not actually making a real comeback. They're just having some success with their political material. The rest... not so much.

The real Sarah Palin was... nondescript. She didn't really do anything. The entire premise behind her guest appearance was based on her not participating in the show. She was featured in two sketches. The first one consists of Tina Fey giving a hilarious press conference as Palin, while the real Palin watches from off screen with Lorne Michaels.
Lorne Michaels: I really wish that that had been you.
Sarah Palin: Yeah Lorne, I just didn't think it was a realistic depiction of the way one of my press conferences would've gone.
Lorne Michaels: Yes, but it's obviously a heightened reality.

The actual humor of the sketch came not from Palin, but from the stunt cameos of Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin. (With Wahlberg pretending to still be upset about the unrealistic depiction of him by Andy Samberg a few weeks ago and Baldwin mistaking "that horrible woman" Palin for Fey and vice versa). Obviously the writers realized that Palin herself couldn't carry the scene alone.

Palin got in a few indirect digs at Tina Fey (which I suppose is only fair, although not really accurate)...

Sarah Palin: Why couldn't we have done the 30 Rock sketch that I wrote?
Lorne Michaels: Honestly, not enough people know that show.

Alec Baldwin: Forgive me, but I feel I must say this... you... are way hotter in person.
Sarah Palin: Why thank you.
Alec Baldwin: Seriously, I mean I can't believe they let her play you.

But overall, Palin was still the butt of most of the jokes and I will admit that she was a good sport about it.

The second sketch featured Palin visiting the Weekend Update news desk and declining to do the material written for her... "I've been thinking it over and I'm not going to do the piece we rehearsed." So Amy Poehler steps in and does it instead. The material is a hilarious Palin-themed rap, that wouldn't have been even remotely funny if Palin herself had attempted it. Just more proof that after Poehler leaves SNL later this year, the show will have very few redeeming qualities left.

A transcript of the rap is available here, but personally, my favorite part was:

I'm Jeremiah Wright 'cuz tonight I'm the preacha
I got a bookish look and you're all hot for teacha

Todd looking fine on his snow machine
So hot for each other, need a go-between
In Wasilla, we just chill, baby chilla
When I see oil, it's drill baby drilla!
It's no wonder this episode had such high ratings - even we watched! - but did it get rave reviews? Not so much. Most of the non-political sketches totally sucked ass... even though the cast and host Josh Brolin did as good a job as they could with the material they were given (and Mark Wahlberg was funnier as himself than Andy Samberg was as him). A pretty accurate review of the episode is here.

So what is the problem with SNL? Lots and lots and lots and lots of build up... for very little payoff.

Each sketch went on way too long, finally ending on a punchline that... wasn't worth the wait. They actually had a sketch about 'autumn foliage' that went on for way too long, just to finish with a rape joke. Another lame attempt at humor (the 'fartface' joke to those of you who watched) just left us staring at the screen with blank expressions, until it ended with one of the characters committing suicide (which left us staring at each other with blank expressions). Seriously. The punchlines were rape and suicide. I mean, really?

I'm just going to keep watching 30 Rock and stick to checking out only the political SNL sketches online.

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