overthinking the idiot box

January 30, 2006

Joke Overplayed? True Dat.
Double True!
by Liz Shannon Miller

Dear Saturday Night Live,

Shut the hell up.

I'm serious.

You've taken the one funny, original sketch that actually made people care about this death rattle of a comedy legacy, and come dangerously close to destroying it forever. I mean, have you completely forgotten how to tell a joke? And, most importantly, how to not overplay one?

Well, I guess not. After all, you've spent the past three decades recycling the same characters until eyeballs need to be removed from sockets. But most of those characters weren't funny to begin with, at least for the past ten years or so. So watching you actively compromise a great piece of comedy is a whole new thing.

Sure, I liked "Lazy Sunday," the digital short starring Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg — watching two white boys rap about The Chronic-what-cles of Narnia was comedy gold, and I really mean that, SNL, I'm not just joshing you. I downloaded, I laughed, I forwarded. Not that you need anyone else to tell you it was funny: the entire internet went crazy forwarding it around. I found one friend yesterday who hadn't seen it, but he spent most of December out of the country.

It was funny because it wasn't the overplayed characters and tired format of SNL — it broke out, but in a way that hearkened back to the Albert Brooks short films that would kill ten minutes of air.
A child of the digital videos produced by Samberg and SNL staff writers Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer for the website The Lonely Island, "Lazy Sunday" featured wit, visual ingenuity, and a fresh point-of-view, all things desperately missing from these latter days and showcasing the freedom provided by digital video, an acknowledgment of the way the cutting edge of humor has shifted. It was funny because it wasn't the overplayed characters and tired format of SNL — it broke out, but in a way that hearkened back to the Albert Brooks short films that would kill ten minutes of air. Most of the Albert Brooks films were pretty forgettable (I mean, I've literally forgotten them) but they actually meant that SNL lived up to being what it's supposed to be — a variety show.

So, props to you for bringing in the fresh blood. I'm just a little concerned that now that you've found comedy gold, you'll mine it till the line's tapped out.

Seriously. I mean, maybe America's to blame — lord knows you probably aren't making any money off those t-shirts. Or these t-shirts. Or these... I'll be the first to admit that we helped create the hype and now we're creating the backlash.

But we didn't create that ad for last Saturday's episode (special guest host Scarlett Johansson!), in which after hearing that Death Cab for Cutie would be the musical guest (speaking of underground sensations gone mainstream and bled dry...), Parnell and Samberg gangsta-march past the camera in disgust. No one can really blame you for referencing your newfound surge in popularity — in fact, I'm sure many people would have been disappointed if you hadn't referenced "Lazy Sunday" in some way.

But seriously. It was funny a month ago. It's time to move on.

Seriously, I don't want to talk about it.
I am currently TiVoing through last Saturday's episode (special guest host Scarlett Johansson!), because that ad put you on notice, SNL. I haven't watched a new episode since a horrific experience involving David Duchovny, Paula Abdul, and cheerleading outfits, and coming back to the series is interesting, especially after a few months watching vintage Gilda Radner at her peak. Johansson is hilarious occasionally, I haven't been totally annoyed by any overplayed characters... It's not bad. And there have been no references to "Lazy Sunday," which comes as a relief. So maybe there's hope. Maybe in a few weeks, we'll have a new, fresh short from the Lonely Island team, featuring the same point-of-view but with a different style and fresh humor...

Or maybe the boys will play to the crowd, rap some more about Google Maps and cupcakes, and the joke will officially be done. Along with my interest in ever watching you again.

I loved you once like McAdams loves Gosling, SNL — you were younger then, and funny. So now that you have the opportunity to be funny again, please don't blow it.


Email the author.

Return to Season 2, Episode 8.