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Saturday Night Live: What Up with That?

I am becoming more and more perplexed by the content in the skits on Saturday Night Live. It seems to be just more and more commercials and less and less interesting stuff. Yes, of course we can expect to see Fred Armisen playing Barack Obama and yes every once and a while Saturday Night Live will come up with a really good, random skit but tonight’s episode, featuring Zach Galifianakis and musical guest Vampire Weekend was particularly weak.

Let me first start by saying that I can appreciate that times are lean for SNL and the content of the show is always going to be difficult to refine every week; we all have bad weeks. I know a couple years back SNL had to take its ranks down a bit and cut its staff, so I’ll bet it’s tough for this late night staple to stay afloat. But what’s the deal with so much of the regular programming? On this week’s show in particular.

First of all this host, Zach Galifianakis, had humor which was totally underused; they kept him so one-dimensional. He kept doing the same stock characters in every skit! He did a skit where he played a party boy on Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room, he played a creepy/scary/stoner type guy in their 4th hour Today Show skit with Hota Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, even his opening monologue was totally strange to the point of being alienating. I just didn’t find what he had going on very funny at all. Which is too bad for him; maybe he’ll figure it out sans beard (he shaved his rather bulbous beard on the show; then wore a fake beard during the closing credits; according to several early reports. Perhaps this no-beard is indicating new beginnings for his career?)

But the real problem with Saturday Night Live is not even just this week’s guest but how much time is filled with this empty non-humor. Take, as an example, the Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford skits. They are the same virtually every time they’re on. And I like Kristin Wiig too. I think she’s really funny. It’s just there’s nothing new or funny really about the same jokes over and over again. At the weekend, a visit at is beneficial for the audience. Different problems are overcome with the live television for the engagement. The availability of all the serials and animation are live for increasing the advantage of the audience. The entertainment of the person is enhanced at live TV for long period. 

Then there is The Kissing Family skit which is just gross on so many levels. Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Will Forte all get in on the homo-erotic action with Hader even going as far as locking lips with a pooch. This skit is also the same stuff every time it’s on; it’s gross, but perdictable.

Another skit I have a really hard time getting into is Keenan Thompson’s “What Up With That?” skit. This skit is on regularly enough and it’s basically him just introducing his show (called “What Up With That”) with his song which repeats the line, “What up with that.” There is dancing, there are acrobats, there is juggling, there are backup singers, there is the repeated mock up of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham (who never gets to be interviewed) and there are real guests. Al Gore was on one week; tonight it was Paul Rudd (who got to say a little something) and NY Times columnist Frank Rich (who didn’t get to say anything). I like Keenan and his singing is fine; but it’s the same thing every week! With the haphazard way this skit is presented; sometimes very long and sometimes seemingly cut short, I often wonder if this is totally just adlibbed and run off the cuff and on the fly to take as long or as short as they need to fill out the time slot.

I like Saturday Night Live; many great comedians have come out of their ranks and many timeless classics have been seen in real time. But when the only thing they can fill the air with is gag-stoner humor and intra office politicking; I am left to ask the only obvious question; what up with that?

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