In Defense of an Attack on SNL

The glory days of Gilda Radner are gone, obviously, and each weekend I tune into SNL bracing for the hackneyed premise, the flawed execution, the tardy wrap-up, and of course, the Going For Edgy But Landing On Offensive effort. Whenever I start to get riled, someone usually says “Why do you even watch it any more? It hasn’t been funny since *insert individual preference for 75-80, 85-90 or 92-97 era here*.

My answer is multifold. Above the fold? I like comedy. I believe in the power of political satire. I enjoy watching professional comedians crack up when they make a mistake, or improv on their feet. I think when done well and conceived thoughtfully, SNL is second-to-none on the hilarity awards podium.

Folded next would be my frustration with the White Boys’ club that dominates the writer’s room. This was the first week in a while I’ve seen a sketch with more than one person of color, or more women than Kristen Wiig, funny and fabulous as she is.

But this was also the week they chose to re-air a commercial advertising one-a-day estrogen pills for transitioning transwomen. It was suggested to me that “hey, at least transgender people are visible today – 30 years ago you couldn’t even joke about them.”

Yeah, I’m sure the transgender individuals who caught that commercial were touched that someone took the time to note all of their most personal fears and anxieties – not “passing,” dealing with unwanted facial and body hair, seeking acceptance in the workplace, having their privacy invaded  by airport scanners, being newly objectified as a woman, being made fun of by cisgendered privileged people who are never told that what they are is fundamentally freakish and wrong – and make Fred Armisen in drag the representative punchline.

Sure. That’s likely.

Or maybe, just maybe, they were pissed and insulted at having their experiences trotted out as a needs-no-context cheap shot. [ETA: Turns out it’s option B]

So why not just stop watching? Why not pop in a DVD of the best of Dana Carvey and relive Church Chat instead?

Because I believe in SNL. I expect more from it – I expect diversity of ethnicities and gender representation. I expect someone in the writer’s room will speak up and say “I think that joke is too easy – let’s go funnier.”

The funniest line in the sketch was “I don’t want to spend my day taking estrogen pills, but I do want to become a woman.” Why not feature actual transwomen in the sketch? I have a hunch they would have contributed jokes that were funny because they were true, not because they were insultingly cliche’d and meanspirited.

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One Response to In Defense of an Attack on SNL

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