November 8, 2015

Wow, SNL still sucks 20 years later

Only because Trump was hosting it, I tuned into Saturday Night Live for the first time in about 20 years. I've only caught it occasionally since then in re-runs on Comedy Central, and snippets of the live broadcast.

Tonight confirmed that the trend continues to this day: ever since the major cast overhaul of the mid-'90s, it's been consistently lame. All that changes is the flavor of crappy tryhard, or not-so-hard, comedy. Super extreme in-your-face characters of the mid-to-late '90s, self-aware awkward types from the 2000s, and now apparently just commentary on pop culture du jour.

That really struck me tonight -- how few characters there were, acting out situations that were based on real life, however absurd. Everything was some kind of pop culture reference.

Then again, maybe it's not so surprising since the peak of SNL coincided with the golden age of the sit-com, during the early-to-mid '90s. The SNL sketches were just that -- a sketch of one scene from an imaginary sit-com, with the situation being more absurd because it only had a few minutes to get laughs, unlike the serial-form sit-com that could stretch the characters out over weeks and years.

Another great sketch comedy show from the late '80s through the mid '90s was Kids in the Hall, also produced by Lorne Michaels, though for gay Canadian audiences. The anarchic take on real-life situations was well suited to the free-wheeling late Boomer actors.

The Gen X actors of The State on MTV did a decent job, too, although you could tell they had to force it a little bit. Early X-ers are a tad more self-aware than late Boomers, and it keeps them from turning off their internal monitor and just getting into the role and running with it. Still, its time was only '93 to '95, before the over-the-top extreeeeme form of self-aware caricatures took over in the second half of the '90s (like that cheerleader group from the Will Ferrell / Cheri Oteri era).

Side note about generations of SNL actors: all 10 of the victims of the "SNL curse" -- dying before age 60 -- were Boomers. Some died in their early 30s in the early '80s, others in their late 50s in the 2010s. The only constant is a cohort effect, namely imprinting on the self-destructive approach to life during the hedonistic Seventies and succumbing sooner or later to a premature death. Although Robin Williams wasn't a cast member, he could have been, and he barely cleared the 60-year mark before killing himself.

There were some Silent Gen actors like Chevy Chase, and he's still doing fine. The early X-ers are well over 40, and aren't about to drop dead. There are some borderline X-er / Millennial actors in their early 30s, and they aren't going to OD any time now like John Belushi did.

Speaking of the current cast, they're pretty old. Most are in their 30s, with a few in their late 20s. During its heyday in the early '90s, the median age must have been at least 5 years younger, most of the hit players being in their mid-to-late 20s. And back in the doldrums when it was just The Eddie Murphy Show, the star was in his early 20s.

The fast-paced, anarchic approach that is required of sketch comedy simply doesn't work so well when the actors are old enough to have school-aged children. Unless they're going for a somewhat higher-brow angle, a la Monty Python, where the actors were still in their late 20s and early 30s rather than further advanced into their 30s (and 40s).

SNL, however, works the opposite angle -- appealing now to juveniles and overgrown children. It was depressing to see how bad it had gotten, but I'm not about to tune in again out of pity. Like The Simpsons, which I also stopped watching after the mid-'90s, SNL needs to be allowed to die already. It stopped being funny or even relevant a long time ago.


  1. Williams had Lewy Body dementia, so he would have died in a few years even if he hadn't killed himself.


    Judging from the stats, X-ers born from about '65-'68, simply due to the misfortune of being teens (however briefly) in the 70's, are in more trouble than mid-late X-ers.

    It looks like the 70's had a catastrophic effect on impressionable youngsters, whether they were mid Boomers, late Boomers, or early Gen X. Albeit a bit less of an effect on the X-ers, either because early X-ers were more street smart or perhaps because they didn't spend most/all of their teen/college years in the 70's unlike Boomers.

    But even very late Boomers, in spite of exiting the 70's when they were 21/20/19/18/17/16, ended up being terribly damaged which would point to generation temperament/shared experiences as the main factor. Silents were too old (and too timid) to fully partake in the bacchanal.

    Sailer seems to point his finger at the 70's (do Boomers ever accept responsibility?). But Boomers in general are reckless and arrogant about "experimenting" no matter the decade. I guess the earliest Boomers lucked out by checking out of fashion before the cynical mid 70's-early 80's. It's already established that early Boomers have done much better; how much of this is pure circumstance (it was much easier to make a living and start a family before the later 70's) and how much of it is later Boomers being hopelessly corroded by the F U Carter years?

    Again, you've gotta call out the Boomers for making excuses, Boomers often claim that women in the workplace, crappy jobs, or whatever are driving men into the grip of depression, drugs, suicide. So why are X-ers healthier, even though they've faced an even tougher battle?

    And how come so few middle aged Boomers rarely (if ever) acknowledge that their generations whole-hearted embrace of a me first, hyper-competitive, arrogant, and callow culture would have terrible consequences for many? Why does it matter, I suppose, when a lucky few get opulence. Just keep pushin', you can get there too.

    To the extent that they protest, it's usually regarding HOW one strives. Not the striving per se. And it often comes off as glib and even jealous, rather than the deeply felt sense of disgust that some X-ers throw at shameless climbers and attention whores.

  3. How do you frame well-being, anyway? Boomers usually say that a given individual (that word) ought to strive to leap over people, or better yet, those sons a bitches should just get outta my way in the first place.

    X-ers, on the other hand, are usually conscious of why things got to be so fucked up. Because too many people are selfish and intemperate assholes, and typical X-ers do not shy away from taking blame rather than just bitterly pointing fingers.

    Instead of pining for the good old days (which X-ers never knew) like Boomers, they know that most likely, every period has it's problems. And dwelling in sentiment and nostalgia (a cardinal sin of Boomers) is not going to clean the current mess up. Ironically, so many Boomers exalt the 60's and 70's, which is precisely when things began to unravel. Why did they, anyway?

  4. Feryl, I think you should take a look at Joe Queenan's book, "Balsamic Dreams." He's an early boomer, and in his introduction he states, "I hate my generation." I gather that the reason has to do with hypocrisy. As he states, "they said they woudn't sell out, then they sold out." And of course this theme of reconciling materialism with bohemian pretensions is the subject of David Brooks's book "Bobos in Paradise." I myself remember imprecations about "selling out" from teachers in high school in the early '70's. Who knows, maybe this is why Belushi et. al. killed themselves, because they knew they were sellouts. Too bad the Clintons don't have the same conscience.

  5. I'm aware that many Boomers (esp. the ones who were teens in the 60's) love to lament how their generation "sold out", how they didn't live up to their promise. The thing is, why do so many Boomers think they are providing some kind of profound insight?

    We all can tell what the Boomers did; we don't need self mythologizing jeremiads about how the most "special" of all generations can't get over not realizing their ambitions.

    And what the majority of Boomers still won't accept is that their generation (especially the late Boomers) were fuck-ups from the get-go. Boomers have always prioritized short term personal gains (including the kind that benefits their children) at the expense of the long term health of the community, the nation, the team, etc.

    Note also how everything is framed in terms of one's soul, one's life, one's own status. It's never about how such shameless self-interest has so undermined the ability of their generation to ever get along and get anything done.

    Most Boomers also don't admit that the Silents (and even G.I.'s on some issues) accomplished much of the exalted "progress" of the 60's. The Boomers didn't have significant power until the 80's.

  6. The boomers probably saw themselves more as rebels and tough guys when they were younger, If you look at what they imprinted on when they were children, it was stuff like "Rebel Without a Cause" - a movie I think which shows how the Baby Boomers really see themselves. The Boomers would go on to establish the drag racing culture that is fictionalized in the movie - there was nothing that dangerous in the mid-50s.

    the persona of Boomers being idealistic crusaders is something that was added post-hoc during the 90s.In the 90s, when cocooning began and you saw the onset of modern identity politics, the new politically correct elite tried to go back and argue that it was all just a continuation of a natural process that had been going on since the 60s - even though it was really a radical departure.

  7. To be fair, the Boomers did overthrow the cocooning of the 50s - even though they were inspired to do it by Greatest Gen and Silent Gen artists and intellectuals, they were the ones who actually did it. But it was less about abstract idealism and more about having fun, doing what you want(instead of what authorities wanted you to do), chasing girls, etc.

  8. The problem is that the Boomers still aspire to be studs and rebel outlaws, even though they now control the levers of power, which manifests itself with treating the younger generation as competitors rather than charges. Because they still want to be badboy James Dean-like lawbreakers, they don't see it as a big deal if they break the rules and fight dirty - that's the persona they're going for anyway.

  9. "In the 90s, when cocooning began and you saw the onset of modern identity politics, the new politically correct elite tried to go back and argue that it was all just a continuation of a natural process that had been going on since the 60s - even though it was really a radical departure."

    History isn't written by the victors; it's just spun one way and then another depending on which way the wind is blowing. I suspect that grossly distorting things to fit contemp. trends is most common with Boomers (however charismatic they may be, they certainly are the biggest BS artists). Maybe unpretentious Gen X-ers will cut down on this as Boomers fade away.

    A good example of warping history is the amping up of the gay rights causes of the 60's/70's. Very, very few people were willing to go on record as being sympathetic to gays in the 60's. There was slightly more approval among the cultural elite of the 70's, but even in the disco decade the majority of Americans could not care less about gays. I read a period article about a late 70's gay killer in San Fran. A cop official was quoted saying things that would be career ending these days. He said that gays basically were too protective of their "scene" to be of any help in a serious investigation.

    By the 80's, with the growth in rootless striving, gays had gained greater acceptance in godless hell holes like Bos-Wash and the West Coast. But the majority of hetero, hard working, and unpretentious Americans were more hostile to gays than ever. Modern PC blames this on the conservative revival of the 80's without examining why conservatism made a come back. It was because the loosening of the 60's/70's had unleashed a wave of rape, murder, molesting, STDs, etc.

    Progs mock the Reagan era by saying that superficially reviving conservatism did almost nothing to stem rampant social problems. Bullshit. First of all, on some measures, America WAS improving. Gen X teens in the 80's were more conscientious than Boomers were in the 70's. Some Boomers vowed to clean up their act (some did, others kept up their old habits or picked up new bad ones).

    In additional misunderstanding is the notion that 1980's people were fools to fall for appeals to tradition when said traditions were not helping people. In fact, the waves of violence and tragedy caused people to sincerely make a greater effort to bond with people and seek out things that would provide some kind of solace or escape, like religion or reviving pre late 60's culture.

    The autistic extreme Prog view point sees the bloody darkness of the 80's and the revival of conservatism. And then claims that tradition/conservatism are worthless since they did not single handedly defeat killers, predators, diseases, corrupt politicians, and drug dealers.

    Yet, if Americans had not made greater strides in instilling respect for lawful authority and traditional standards of acceptable behavior, these problems certainly weren't going to get better. It really does speak to a lack of empathy and insight, the mocking of 80's culture and people. The 80's can be understood as an intersection of sincerity, attachment to others, instinctive (and thus, natural) moral reasoning, and a sensible fear of many dangerous things.

  10. The problem is that the Boomers still aspire to be studs and rebel outlaws, even though they now control the levers of power, which manifests itself with treating the younger generation as competitors rather than charges.

    The women aren't much better. It's really telling, seeing the decorum of Silents (most of whom were in or nearing middle age before the 70's) and the street wise no BS gravitas of X-ers. Compare those two generation's relative dignity to the desperate vanity of far too many Boomers. It's more embarrassing for the women since women age much more rapidly than men. 60 yr old men still pre-occupied by Cool affectations are annoying, but not as unsightly as a 60 year old women who insists on blowing dough on the latest fashions (most era's women's fashion emphasizes the body, which middle aged and near elderly women should not be doing).

    How much of the explosion of women's "self-esteem"/"body image" nonsense over the last 25-30 years come about because the earliest Boomer women were hitting their sell-by-date? Boomers never act their age. In youth, they demanded respect without earning it. In young adulthood, they demanded power and status though they hadn't done anything to prove that they could be trusted. In middle age, they demand that society should humor their vanity. "We're still cocky ass-kickers, we're still studs and winsome babes."

    And yeah, a generation that never "settles" for anything ("gotta be the best, get to the top, shake things up") is terribly suited to lead anyone or anything. A big reason X-ers are the real cool ones is because they had all of the Boomer pretensions shoved in their face. So they said, "screw it", we can do better than that. Though most X-ers are too uncertain and humble to ever really consciously admit that they hated Boomers and were vowing to do better.

  11. Boomers have also been dying their hair for decades now.

    The worst, though, has to be the attempt to re-inject youth hormones (hormone "replacement" therapy). Boomer women are so averse to grandmothering, a form of kin-based altruism, that they're trying to reprogram their hormones to keep them from feeling that grandmotherly instinct in the first place. Sure, why not act like a juvenile histrionic nutcase instead of some boring old granny?

    So much for the "back to the Earth" generation following Mother Nature's wise plan. Pretty sure the Noble Savage didn't dye his graying hair, nor did his wife shoot up with estrogen.


You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."