“Saturday Night Live” has been on for nearly 50 years. (Katia Huddleston/Photoscape)
“Saturday Night Live” has been on for nearly 50 years.

Katia Huddleston/Photoscape

“Saturday Night Live” Isn’t Funny Anymore…and It’s Not the Writers’ Fault

May 13, 2021

On May 8., Elon Musk hosted “Saturday Night Live,” and it was just as disastrous as people had anticipated. The punch lines in his monologue missed practically every mark and the “Gen Z Hospital” skit was hard to watch for anyone under the age of thirty. 

But was this really a surprise to anyone? SNL hasn’t been funny for a decade, ever since the loss of the “silver age” of the show. This so-called silver age boasted comedians like Bill Hader and Andy Samberg, and the Weekend Update was still hosted by Seth Meyers. Sketches like “I Am Your Mother” and characters like Stefon had the audience rolling on the floor. Yet, the most recent seasons have been a massive disappointment for long-time fans. 

It’s no secret that the viewership of the late-night comedy show has declined since its debut in 1975. Its viewership reached its peak in the late 1970s and has since dropped by over 20%. 

The “Gen Z Hospital” sketch brings up the question of just who SNL’s audience is, and who it actually should be. The most frequent viewers of SNL lie between the ages of 30 and 44, yet their efforts should be targeted at trying to pull in a younger audience. A younger audience is more likely to be active on social media and could stir up a greater attraction for SNL. Yet, their sketches are all targeted at making an older audience laugh and fail to do even that.

So, who is really to blame for the decline in the engagement of SNL’s viewers? Is it the writers? Well, sort of. The co-head writers for SNL are Colin Jost and Michael Che, yet the Weekend Update is the only consistently funny part of the show. Yes, some of the sketches on SNL are abhorrently unfunny (like Che’s “Gen Z Hospital”), but with two usually hilarious people like Jost and Che heading them, viewers shouldn’t solely blame them. Especially when the fault truly lies with the ancient cast that just won’t seem to leave the show. 

A good chunk of the current cast is like a rock stuck inside your shoe: as annoying as it is, and as hard as you try and kick it out, it just won’t dislodge. Melissa Villaseñor, Kyle Mooney, Cecily Strong, Alex Moffat, Aidy Bryant, and more collectively are this rock. As much as you just want to enjoy your night, they keep popping up to ruin it.

It’s not just the fact that the older cast members are no longer entertaining to watch, it’s that they take screen time from the actually funny, newer additions to the cast like Chloe Fineman and Pete Davidson. 

“I think the only funny one left is Pete Davidson,” says Eleanor Amoriello (‘22), “But he’s never on!”

Chloe Fineman and host Regé-Jean Page during this year’s February 21 episode. (Photo Credit: US Magazine/NBC)

The fact of the matter is that SNL needs to boot the cast members who have been dragging down the show since they started. With the exception of Kate McKinnon and Keenan Thompson, none of the older cast has ever shown any star quality in their sketches. And, if it ever wants to exit the rut it’s in, it’s time SNL makes way for a new era of cast members.

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  • Tony TonkinsonNov 20, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Where I’m from which is not in the USA this isn’t very funny at all…because this type of comedy is completely outdated and where I’m from we do comedy very hardcore today than this…we use to do comedy like SNL but we haven’t done comedy like this since the 90s, watching a show like SNL today is just very cringey

  • Christopher LaurenzanoJun 27, 2021 at 6:01 pm

    I’ve been watching the clips recently. Much of the time it doesn’t make me laugh, for many reasons. The political humor is just obviously left and mean spirited, and it is based in ideas that simply aren’t true. Not to mention the abundance of sexually themed material, and subjects that are just not funny — making light of deviancy.

    I will disagree that it isn’t the writer’s fault — much of it is the writing, simply because the writers are the ones who choose the subject matter.

    For me, the one person who caught my eye from the clips that I watched was Heidi Gardner. Bailey Gismert and Angel are just too good. They need more of her. As well I would cite Cecily Strong’s the girl you’d wish you’d never start a conversation with at a party. “Boomers got the Voxx” was simply inspired. Whoever wrote that one should get more work and try to learn from it in order to put out better material.

    But by and large, the show simply isn’t funny.

  • Maddie GlaumMay 18, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    I agree with your article, Katia. SNL isn’t something I grew up on, but people online have been raving about it for as long as I remember. When I finally sat down to watch it, I was like … is this it? Are you serious… And I’ve always been fascinated by it because people love it so much and will defend it to the end, when in my opinion there is nothing to defend. While it IS sort of a quintessential a staple of the comedy genre as we know it, keeping something like this up without change or an attempt to attract new audience members is not only a waste, but bound to become embarrassing (e.g Gen Z Hospital)… Great article as always Katia