Listen, SNL isn’t the edgiest, and I hear you when you talk about it’s ‘punk’ roots. And Canada’s SCTV came before or was a contemporary. Kids in the Hall was later. Exit 57 in the mid-90s [Colbert, Sedaris, Dinello]. In the Northwest, we had Almost Live from 1984-1999 [Bill Nye made his break there]. I’m gonna leave out a bunch and I’m just talking North America.

Anyway, I do think SNL has its place in the Zeitgeist – as a touchstone. Of course, it is a bad joke a lot of sketches go too long, and even breaking the fourth wall and trying to be “meta” about that makes it just cringier. And, I love when they say cut for time when it’s already a half-hour too long.

So, I’ve selected a few of my favorites. I mean, I’ve got a mean list. Perhaps you have more from your era, but: John Belushi was just awful and sexist – I know his bits – but other than his equally shitty brother cashing in on that tragedy – the only redeeming thing is they are some of the few celebrities of Albanian descent. David Cross, of Arrested Development and Mr. Show fame, has a great story on what a prick Jim Belushi is.

I heard Joe Piscopo was supposed to be something? I don’t have Gilda Radner because all I know is her Weekend Update character, but I understand she was groundbreaking. Nor do I have Steve Martin because… I just never found him funny. Like he’s humorous and a good actor but I think he’s best at banjo [convince me I’m wrong – the King Tut was ephemeral, to say the least, I get the reference, but the Jaws thing aged better]. Also, while John Belushi was at least fun, and Steve Martin is a cool dude, Chevy Chase has never been funny to me and he’s a major douche. Even on the show Community, they couldn’t stand him.

So this is for people to share their own SNL faves but keep it to North America. Not because I hate the rest of the world, but because BBC and RTÉ is a whole other post.

So here’s to get started:

Goth Talk [fun fact they use Bauhaus’ Goth anthem from 1979 – like, they actually did their research?]

Greek Gods with an Always Sunny Ted Lasso

Dating Show [Dan Aykroyd is one weird dude – like, in a good way, but he’s into some paranormal stuff]

Meet Your Second Wife

I’m gonna leave it there. But yeah, I do think SNL has its moments – it’s just that it could honestly just be an hour with one song from the musical guest.

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SNL worked best in its first years because it was irreverent and offbeat at that time, really connecting with the more rebellious youth of the 1970s, premiering in 1975. At the time SNL burst onto the scene, the comedy was edgy and surprising even though today we see it as dated and not necessarily so hilarious. There just wasn’t anything like it at the time, that felt so radical and being live, felt like something outrageous could just happen at any moment.

Peppered in the show were prehistoric muppet sketches, animated films, short films and guest performances by Andy Kaufman and others. It didn’t all work but they contributed to a wild and creative atmosphere that was rebellious to the Happy Days/Waltons/Donny and Marie era (though it was also the All in the Family and MASH era too).

Having been there and watched SNL debut and its first few years, Belushi was explosively and dangerously funny through his physicality. Gilda Radner brought this youthful and energetic playfulness to her silliness, Dan Ackroyd never hit me as really funny but he had very funny bits like his Tom Snyder impression and his Pythonesque Julia Child bit. Bill Murray started slow but his wry style made him perhaps the funniest. The rest had many good bits along the way too. But Chevy Chase…his sarcasm and pratfalls made him the first real star of the show but as his early departure belied, he was really an egotistical asshole. Lots of stories of Chevy being a jerk in shows and with fellow cast and undermining productions he was in. He became very disliked in the biz and not really remembered by fans.,

The biggest problem with SNL is that once the 70s were gone and once it became a hit, it lost so much relevance and basically “sold out” to the very business and society it had been trying to skewer. Also, the depth of talent the show started with, from writers to performers, was remarkable at the time and has never attained that since.

Many funny performers and writers have been on SNL since then but what was lost, perhaps after SNL sold out, was an understanding of what “funny” is. The takeaway that the later years seemed to get from the original years was that you come up with a silly idea then pound away at it for 7 minutes.

Uh…that is not comedy which is why SNL isn’t funny much anymore, the corporate manufacturing of comedy doesn’t successfully produce comedy the same way it successfully produces superhero movies. And comedy is about invention which is not the same as exploitation. SNL is a corporate brand and once it became that, it stopped being funny.

Even the Python guys have talked about how they used Gilliam’s animation to bridge between bits because they had trouble coming up with endings. That happens in sketch comedy, it doesn’t always have a satisfying ending. But not understanding how sketches are funny is a serious problem that SNL has suffered from for decades. They really don’t understand sketch comedy and just starting with something outrageous isn’t funny.

Comedy is also a product of its time. Who would laugh out loud today at Charlie Chaplin’s antics or Abbott and Costello or I Love Lucy. They’re not that hilarious nowadays though one may still enjoy them. What comedy of the 70s would you laugh out loud at today? And in 50 years, whatever we may think is hilarious today will have people then scratching their heads over, “Really, they thought this was funny back then in 2022?”

Lastly, the social norms of a time, which we can look back at and say something was racist or sexist, were not viewed as hurtful or insensitive at the time so it’s kind of unfair to blame people in the past for what society saw as normal and acceptable then.

It doesn’t make those kinds of jokes “okay” today but everyone is a product of their environment and era as is entertainment.

So in the end, I know you appreciate all of this, I just wanted to write about it. The fact that you included some of your favorite sketches from SNL speaks to that. Your very appreciated article just allowed me to vent a little about the death of comedy on SNL and why it seems reflective of a lack of understanding by the network and producers about what made it funny (in its time) and successful in the first place.