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Lisa Steinberg

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Saturday Night Slump

Posted: 02/ 7/2012 11:42 am

Growing up Saturday nights were what I looked forward to the most. I got to stay up late and watch the kings and queens of comedy reign over the land of television on Saturday Night Live. Legends like John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Chris Farley, David Spade, Sarah Silverman, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, and Gilda Radner would grace the screen and have me hysterically laughing. A tide turned and new blood came on the show and it was filled with the talents of Jimmy Fallon, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon, Horatio Sanz, Tracy Morgan, Ana Gasteyer and Rachel Dratch. Their talents brought a new dynamic to the show that had me invested in the late night sketch show in a new way as they brought funky and fresh spin. Now that Saturday Night Live has again been updated, the sketches and the comedians that are featured have become less charismatic and inspired, and I find myself continuing to wonder weekly why I continue to tune in.

If you asked me to name standout characters on Saturday Night Live from the past that I would imitate and annoy my family with impersonations of, I could probably name at least 20. Thinking about characters from sketches from the current shows, I could name two or three. "Weekend Update" was ruled by titans Fallon, Poehler and Fey and every minute of it had viewers in side-splitting laughter with their cheeks hurting from smiling. You knew watching the three that you were guaranteed to start Sunday with endless conversations about what you had seen the night before.

"Weekend Update" is now helmed by head writer Seth Meyers who leads the update desk alone and seems to do so in a lackluster and unbeguiling manner that leaves little to no laughter resounding in my household. The chemistry and energy that comes from having someone to play off of is lost with having only Meyers to try to execute jokes. Meyers definitely has charm, but the material he recites has him coming off as smug, insincere, and at times the only one finding the joke funny.

The writing on Saturday Night Live used to be unmatched when Fey, Fallon, Poehler, Rudolph, Shannon, and Dratch had the show as their playground. You could spot a Fey sketch a mile away because you knew it was smart and sly and would be well executed. The wake of their departures has left holes in the writing staff which now includes current cast member Andy Samberg. Samberg, who has made a name for himself from his Digital Shorts, has been missing the mark with kooky and off kilter videos that are creepy, quirky, and humdrum.

What once was sharp as a tack writing has been left devoid of any charisma, candor, and wit. Even with magnificently talented celebrity hosts the sketches seem dull and ill designed. New cast members Nasim Pedrad and Vanessa Bayer are reduced to mainly doing sketches that are low brow impersonations of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Hoda Kotb, or Miley Cyrus while barely there Taran Killam and Paul Brittan are reduced to being invisible. Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Keenan Thompson, Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen are the bread and butter of the show and should be held on to tightly.

Lorne Michaels and his band of merry misfits who seemingly were untouchable at one time have lost their shine and sparkle. Has the era of comedy royalty and sublime humor now reached its end? With a cast that can't hold a candle to the lords and ladies of laughter that once ruled the television airwaves and material that is a dead-end, Saturday Night Live just may be seeing its demise.

 

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