Sunday, September 28, 2008

SNL: Stop Not (making me) Laugh

Remember when SNL was funny? Remember when it was a great platform for a comedic generation? Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Mike Meyers, Adam Sandler, etc. All on the show at the SAME TIME. Now look. We have... the guy that does this tame character over and over... that girl who does that character every week... that other guy who is in every sketch... that girl who everyone says is funny but I haven't seen it yet. (Kristin 'nintendo' Wiig)

The problem? The current cast has become so determined to create recurring characters that they have forgotten the main point of the show; Sketch Comedy. Not, "Isn't this chracter funny? I talk so funny! I look hilarious!" That's one step up from improv comedy and we know how 'funny' that is.

Are there any REAL shining cast members? I know, I know, Wiig is hilarious. I would say she's more just funny sometimes and when you compare that with the basically wall-paper level comedy in the rest, it stands out.

So why are they so focused on characters? I think it starts with the career take-offs that came with the mid 90's cast. The rocketing success of the likes of Mike Meyers and Adam Sandler showed that characters stick in the mind of the viewer and really CAN help a career. BUT... only if the characters are really creative and, more importantly, the characters DON'T BECOME A MOVIE!! That's death. Career and comedy death. No, using SNL as a springboard is fine, but you have to develope, move on, and create anew. Perfect examples being Sandler, who went on to develope a rather succesful career and basically being fun. He was able to take the character style that comes with SNL and expand that to a workable career. Mike Meyers did this as well, though more so because he was the only cast member to carry an SNL character over to film succesfully. (A minor example is Will Ferrel, but he's really just bringing more SNL characters to the big screen and with diminishing success. Try more Stranger Than Fiction, Will!)

The damage of this previous success is seen in the work of the current cast. They're more focused on the success to come and not SNL. You can see this in the amount of outside work that the cast is doing. Everyone seems anxious to become the next SNL cast member to 'break out' that they aren't being cohesive. The simplest reason that the mid-90's cast worked so well is that they were working TOGETHER. They had fun and you could tell when the cameras rolled. Even when the 'Gap Girls' couldn't manage their lines without cracking up, the sketch worked because we were able to laugh with them. Everyone worked the sketch for the sake of the sketch, not so one cast member could showcase a new 'hilarious' character.

Wigs and make-up and a funny accent don't create comedy, it's the originality and spark in the work. When you focus on the spotlight, you can't create that. Are all the sketches horrible? No. I still enjoy a sketch here or there. (As much as I don't want to admit it, Andy Sambergs Digital Shorts and SOMETIMES be entertaining and some of the cast manage to do a pretty good job fairly regularly. Mainly, I miss Tina Fey.) But the consistant question I ask my self every week I manage to catch the show is, "Why did that sketch make it on the show?".

So... SNL, I know the cast can be funny. You've proven it in rare moments. All of the cast is talented and I'm not arguing that at all. You ARE funny. Just focus on SNL, not what you're going to get from it. You have to be great before you can expect the label.

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