It’s True: Saturday Night Live is Funny Again


During my late middle school/early high school years, I was a huge fan of Saturday Night Live.  I was lucky enough to witness perhaps the greatest cast since the John Belushi/Gilda Radner/Andy Kaufman cast of the late 1970s, and every Saturday night you could count on huge laughs from Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Chris Rock, Phil Hartman, David Spade, and Mike Myers.  But then, aside from a stretch when Will Ferrell was carrying the show, Saturday Night Live just wasn’t funny.  Be it weak cast members or poor writing, the show wasn’t funny anymore.  Despite being a staple of Saturday night television – and airing live – it didn’t generate the buzz that was usually associated with it.  For awhile, it seemed, Saturday Night Live was dead.


The show started to show some promise around 2005-2006, but that was mostly due to the new Digital Shorts, particularly Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell’s “Lazy Sunday.”  The great moments were still few and far between, and aside from Weekend Update (a segment that has almost always been strong, especially with Tina Fey), most of the sketches were pretty forgettable.  Being that I was usually out and about on Saturday nights, I didn’t watch the show when it was originally aired.  Thanks to the mainstreaming of Tivo and DVR, though, I – and many of my friends – were able to catch the show after the fact…but it still wasn’t anything special.  Over the past few seasons, though, I think that’s changed.  The show improved quite a bit since the middle of this decade, but after the past two seasons or so, I think it’s safe to say that Saturday Night Live is funny again.

No longer are there just a couple of sketches worth watching.  It seems as though each week, there are a couple of sketches that aren’t worth watching, and the rest range from pretty funny to downright hilarious.  The current cast has settled in nicely and each member has a certain role on the show that’s played quite well.  The writing, too, has become a bit more risque and current.  Saturday Night Live has always been known for its political satire, and – maybe thanks to The Daily Show getting younger people interested in politics, coupled with the red/blue rift in our country that is growing larger by the day – Saturday Night Live has been able to capitalize.


In my (very subjective) experience, people who say the show sucks quit watching it three years ago.  It’s become cool and hip to bash the show, and for a while, those who bashed it had a pretty good reason for doing so.  Not anymore, though.

The Digital Shorts are still hysterical – like pretty much anything Samberg does, or last week’s “Firelight” – but the show’s sketches are just as strong.

Not everyone on the cast is stellar.  Fred Armisen is good for an Obama and Patterson impression, and his Joy Behar “so what, who cares?” impression kills me every time.  Will Forte doesn’t sink any sketches, and his MacGruber is a pretty funny recurring bit.  But by and large, Armisen and Forte are pretty forgettable.  The rest of the cast, though, have been great, and it’s clear that Saturday Night Live is once again featuring genuinely talented, funny cast members.

Andy Samberg, with his exaggerated features and expressions, is like a real-life cartoon character, and it’s tough for me to not crack up no matter what he’s doing.  I get the impression that the show pretty much lets him do what he wants, especially in the Digital Shorts, and he’s carved out a nice niche for himself.,  In some ways, he reminds me of a young Adam Sandler, with his not-quite-mainstream humor.

Seth Meyers doesn’t appear much save for Weekend Update, and he’s funny and quick enough to hold down that segment on his own.  It’s not surprising that he’s one of the show’s head writers.  Bill Hader is good in just about everything, and at this point, he’s like a poor man’s Jim Carrey – and I mean that as a high compliment.  From his Buffalo Bill impression to his “Greg the alien,” Hader’s always a sure bet for a laugh.  It’s good to see that he’s becoming more prominent, too.


The two strongest members of the cast are, without a doubt, Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis.  Wiig appears in more sketches than anyone, and rightfully so – she can create memorable, funny characters  (like Gilly and Penelope) as well as nail some incredible impressions (like Bjork, Greta Van Susteren, and Suze Orman).  Paired with Sudeikis, she forms one half of the a-holes.  Wiig is almost like a female Will Ferrell (although admittedly not as funny) in that she can sometimes carry an entire show.  Sudeikis is also like Ferrell, but in a different way – he plays the straight-man, dad-type as well as anyone since Ferrell and Phil Hartman.

And then there’s Kenan Thomson.  Look, I know a lot of people loathe Kenan.  Whatever.  I think the guy’s funny.  Maybe he’s more likable than funny, but I still find him funny.  I’m still laughing from “What Up With That?”  “Scared Straight” is always funny, and Kenan killed me with his James Harrison impression on Weekend Update. And oh yeah, he also does maybe the best Bill Cosby impression I’ve ever seen since Eddie Murphy.

With the strongest cast since the mid-90s and a noticeably sharper sense of what’s going on in the world, Saturday Night Live is indeed funny again.  If you used to be a fan and left when the show started to suck, I can’t say I blame you.  That said, it’s safe to come back to SNL.

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  1. Great piece. It’s just a solid group that is gelling right now.

    I get the impression that they have a critical mass of writers right now. I think the problem in the past was that they had some talent in the cast but they tried to wedge those strong folks into sketches not made for them, because they only had a few good ideas and had to use their best cast members in those sketches.

    Now, they have talent AND material, so it’s taking off.

  2. @ Mr. Poon

    Yeah – Wiig and Sudeikis have been around for awhile now, but it seems as though the writing has finally caught up with them. Maybe Meyers has a lot to do with that.

    In any event, there’s something to be said for a comedy show that airs live, and it’s great to have one that’s running on all cylinders.

  3. I love SNL. I’ve watched it forever. I refuse to give up on it. I really noticed this past weekend that Will Forte is in basically no sketches. I’ve always loved Jason Sudeikis, and my favorite skit with him was last spring with the Broadway Musical characters meeting, and he was the Phantom of the Opera. I’ve re-watched that too many times to count, and it cracks me up. Kristen Wiig is the only good female character, and sometimes I feel that she needs a breather since she is in 90% of the sketches it seems. And finally Kenan Thompson’s Sir Charles Barkely is pretty amazing. And this past weekend’s Scared Straight was probably my favorite, with the Back to the Future references. And Bill Hader cracking up.

  4. @ Laura

    I usually get kind of pissed when people – like Jimmy Fallon – would laugh in the middle of a sketch, but seeing Hader break down killed me. What were they laughing at? I think it must have been when Sudeikis jumped up on the desk.

    Totally agree about Kenan’s Barkley.

    Thanks for reading.

  5. to Laura: Will Forte was off for most of the week for last weekend which is why he was only in the opening sketch. he usually is in a ton of them.

    i happen to LOVE forte…. i think Hader and Sudekis and Wiig carry the show, though. the only weak spots for me are the new random girls they seem to have to shuffle out every season (Casey Wilson, Jenny Slate and those types)…. i actually miss Maya Rudoph, too.

    i have always stuck with SNL because it has always gone in waves and i think it’s been hilarious for the past 2-3 seasons and will always have it’s ups and downs. it’s exciting to see new cast members be extras at first and then end up long-timers… that’s how i feel about Bobby Moynihan. he is hilarious.

    great article.

  6. @ chelsea

    I don’t dislike Forte at all; I just think he’s not really integral to the show right now, what with the other, stronger cast members.

    I like how you put it – the show is like a wave. Right now it’s peaking.

    Moynihan has a lot of potential. He was great in this past week’s “Swine Fever” bit.

    Thanks for reading.

  7. I will admit that Wigg does do a few good impressions and she has had a couple of good characters, both Penelope, and Gilly killed me the first time around but Gilly should have been retired after the first sketch, Penelope after the second. the K-mart lady was funny but doesn’t need to be revisited, other than that though she plays every character the exact same way and has become incredibly annoying, I do not understand why everyone seems to love her.

  8. @ matt

    I’ll admit the Target Lady bit (I know what you meant) wears on me a bit, too, but I really liked it when Justin Timberlake joined in.

    Maybe you’ll like her more if she’s not featured so prominently. She could probably use some rest.

  9. SNL is neutered-they’ve completely failed at satirizing the ripe-for-ridicule Obama administration. Their political sketches have no teeth whatsoever and are bland and completely boring. A major wasted opportunity.

  10. SNL lost me a long time ago. I’ve never even tried to find out if it’s worth watching again, as I’m usually not around to watch TV on Saturday nights anyway.

    Do they run any episodes online? It might be worth trying to find a couple if it has gotten funny again. I’ll have to get used to all of the cast members, though.

  11. I grew up watching the Farley/Sandler era SNL and have pretty much ditched the show since Ferrell left. I watched the Drew Barrymore episode the other day (on demand), this was the first episode I’ve seen in ages and… it just didn’t do it for me. The opening Obama sketch was lifeless and dull. Gilly is a recurring character? I was bored after a minute or so with the one sketch I saw of that. Now that NBC puts them up on demand (thumbs up on that) I will try to catch more of them though.

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