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Eric Schmeltzer Headshot

Grassroots Comedy for SNL

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I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Saturday Night Live. From the time I was a toddler, I watched the show. In 5th grade, for a class project, I did a fake ad for "Jimmy Peanut Butter," impersonating Dan Aykroyd impersonating Jimmy Carter. If that wasn't enough to deem me the weird kid no one wanted to talk to, in my 8th grade talent show, a friend and I performed as The Festrunk Brothers ("Two wiiiild and crazy guys!"). By senior year of high school, it became clear that the yearbook staff had to create a "senior superlative" just for me.

And, they did. Most Likely to Appear on Saturday Night Live.

I never became ready to be a not-ready-for-prime-time player, so I chose the profession almost as goofy - political consultant. Yet, it was that background that provided me with an epiphany this week that could revitalize the show I've always loved.

Bring the netroots to SNL. Let the viewers nominate and vote on hosts regularly.

Nearly a week has passed since Betty White hosted the show, and people are still buzzing about it. Why? Three reasons:

  1. Betty White was an amazing host, and the writers were given a real talent to write a show around, so it was downright hilarious.
  2. It was the largest ratings that the show has seen for more than a year.
  3. People who supported the Facebook campaign to get her to host are, rightfully, proud of their accomplishment, and want to keep discussing it.

It's not far off from the dawn of the "netroots" era that I was proud to be a part of as press secretary on the Howard Dean campaign. That campaign, guided by Joe Trippi and later perfected by David Plouffe and Barack Obama, taught me one very important thing: When you treat people like stakeholders, and let them "in," the more involved and energized they'll get. Oh, and very often, average people come up with extraordinary ideas.

Indeed, it's a formula that works remarkably well for television. Look no further than American Idol. It's nothing more than a formulaic talent show competition that's been done on TV for years. But, the wrinkle is that viewers get to determine where the show goes. That alone has made it one of the most successful franchises of all-time.

Fans of SNL who succeeded in getting Betty White on as host are eager to do more, with petition pages popping up on Facebook to get another host voted on the show. It's clear that their chance to become stakeholders in the show has energized them.

Saturday Night Live would be wise to embrace that energy, to make it a part of the what they do. No, they don't have to turn the whole show over to fans, or ignore the fact that sometimes they need to choose a host based on their ability to cross-promote a new film.

But, SNL should collect host nominations via their website. Once a month, on the site, producers would offer up a small list of people nominated to host, and allow viewers to determine who they want to see. Let fans organize campaigns around their favorites, with Facebook pages, YouTube viral videos, and hashtag campaigns on Twitter. All of that energy will come back to SNL in spades, in the form of ratings and advertising dollars.

So, how about it, SNL? Maybe I'll never be a not-ready-for-prime-time player. But, at least let me, and other fans, help determine who will be, every few weeks.