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I Can’t Take a Joke: A Criticism of ‘Saturday Night Live’

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

The long running sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live, has just returned for its 48th season. SNL has been popular since its debut in 1975, but has the show lost some of its comedic value and novelty in recent years? This season was kicked off on Oct. 1, hosted by Miles Teller alongside musical guest Kendrick Lamar, with an unfunny cold open sketch about how the show isn’t funny anymore. Kind of a strange joke to make to start off a season, if you ask me. If you are a frequent viewer of Saturday Night Live, you may have noticed the absence of cast members Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson, Melissa Villaseñor, Kyle Mooney, Alex Moffat, Aristotle Athari, and Chris Redd, who have all left the cast permanently. They are all incredibly talented comedians, and they are missed this season by many fans.

 In order to properly speak about Saturday Night Live’s happenings as of late, I feel that I must address the elephant in the room: the Try Guys sketch. In case you are unfamiliar, popular Youtube group, The Try Guys, were  recently surrounded by scandal when Ned Fulmer, one of the group members, was photographed having an affair with a woman who works for his company. As a result, he was fired from the Try Guys. What began as a big deal to Gen Z-ers who grew up watching this channel became a widespread news story that got tons of people interested in the drama. I don’t think anyone was expecting the incident to become so big that it got made into a sketch on SNL, but here we are. When I watched the sketch I was completely shocked. I personally didn’t find it very funny – that’s just my opinion – and comedy is subjective. But, I think that the way the sketch was executed was slightly in poor taste. It seemed like a half-baked attempt to capture a younger audience, something that Pete Davidson could usually accomplish single-handedly. The whole sketch just felt like it was just kind of awkwardly trying to justify marital infidelity and inappropriate workplace relationships. I am just a bit confused as to what it was trying to do, and who it was for. 

A fairly new development on Saturday Night Live is the Please Don’t Destroy digital sketches, which feature three of the show’s writers. When these first began airing, I was hesitant, as it reminded me of Andy Samberg’s Lonely Island, and I think it would be hard to try to recreate that. However, I have grown to really enjoy them. I think they appeal to a younger audience without trying too hard to use “Gen Z humor,” which always ends up being cringe-worthy and results in jokes that don’t really land with anyone. My personal favorites have been the “Lizzo Has Writer’s Block” and  “Rami Wants a Treat” sketches. I hope they continue to show up throughout season 48.

Weekend Update is the satirical news segment of the show, which is currently hosted by Michael Che and Colin Jost, but in the past few seasons, I haven’t cared much for it. I just don’t think that two guys trying to get each other canceled is very funny. Every time Colin Jost speaks, I find myself wondering, what is the line for comedy, and how hasn’t he crossed it? I know, I know, I just can’t take a joke, right?  But I must say that I am curious as to why Jost can say whatever he wants with no repercussions, but when Melissa Villaseñor and Selena Gomez did a sketch satirizing their own culture (although it does pose the question of who wrote that sketch), they faced a ridiculous amount of backlash. Despite my criticism, I have found myself laughing out loud at guests on Update, such as Sarah Sherman giving a studio tour at the end of last season, and new cast member Marcello Hernández knocking it out of the park by talking about Latinos in major league baseball. 

On the topic of Hernández, let’s chat about representation, shall we? He is only the second Latine cast member, after Melissa Villaseñor. Wow SNL, a whopping two Latine people in 48 seasons, do you want a round of applause? A medal maybe?  Yes, the casting of Hernández does feel like a win for the Latin-American community, but why is it that two people in 48 years of the show are the best they can manage in terms of Hispanic representation? Bowen Yang is currently SNL’s only Asian cast member out of only about 3 in the show’s history, and has been since 2019. If all that isn’t enough to convince you that the show is clearly lacking in representation, there have only been about eight Black women on the show ever including: Leslie Jones, Sasheer Zamata, Ego Nwodim, and Punkie Johnson. Isn’t that bonkers? The entertainment industry continues to put up this idea that things are more inclusive now, but in practice, there isn’t much to suggest that this is actually true. It’s 2022; they need to do better. A show as big as SNL not even coming close to representing the population of the United States is just absolutely ridiculous.

Despite having a bit of a rocky start, I look forward to what this season has in store. Season 48 certainly has a lot of potential, so I hope that the show utilizes their talent well. There are a lot of really great people on the show, and I think if there is some truly fresh material that doesn’t try too hard, it can result in some amazing laugh-out-loud comedy. And if SNL really cares about being the top comedy show, they’ll hire more writers who are actually representative of the people on screen. 

Emilia Valencia is a general member of Her Campus at Pace University. She typically writes pieces covering television and movies in the comedy genre. Before she joined Her Campus, Emilia was a staff writer for her high school newspaper “The Franklin Post” in Portland, Oregon, where she primarily covered pop culture topics. She is currently a sophomore at Pace University in New York City, and is majoring in Communications and Media Studies with a minor in Film. It is her goal to become a television writer after she finishes university. In her free time, Emilia can be found practicing guitar, roller skating, and watching spooky movies (all at the same time!) While she is in no way fashion forward, she enjoys vintage shopping and giving new life to time-forgotten pieces. Emilia is a big music fan and enjoys listening to everything from The Beatles to Blackpink. She also considers herself quite skilled at shouting Jeopardy answers at the TV.