“How do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition,” said Tevye, the lead character from “Fiddler on the Roof.”
I, much like Tevye, believe that we maintain our balance through tradition. The Mummers should always march on Broad Street. There should be turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving. Temple’s colors should never be anything but cherry and white. And as I grudgingly came to accept in recent years, “Saturday Night Live” should be the most awesomely bad show on television.
Way back in 1975, when “SNL” first aired, it didn’t suck (or so I’ve gauged from hours upon hours of reruns and VHS recordings). With a cast of comedians including Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radnor, the show cornered
the market on topical humor. As the years passed, “SNL” catapulted stars like Jim Carrey, David Spade, Chris Farley, Eddie Murphy, Martin Short, Mike Myers, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler and, most recently, Will Ferrell and Tina Fey to silver screen fame. However, in recent years, I have watched “SNL” without cracking a single smile.
Something seems off – and I’m not the only one that thinks so, as lowered ratings prove that Americans have found better ways to spend the late weekends hours. The reason I have grown to loathe the show is deeply rooted in my need for tradition.
“SNL” was funny in the beginning because the cast was funny. As the show evolved further and further away from that original set of comedians, I became less and less interested in the jokes. Horatio Sanz is not as funny as Will Ferrell. Will Ferrell is not as funny as Chris Farley. Chris Farley is not as funny as Dana Carvey. Dana Carvey is not as funny as Martin Short. And Martin Short is not as funny as John Belushi. As the years passed and the cast changed, I grew less and less fond of the show.
No “SNL” cast member could ever make me laugh as hard as the originals. In the past, the hilarity of “SNL” was rooted in the interactions of these funny comedians. No one’s comedic timing could compare with that of Dan Aykroyd. And no comedy duo would ever be as hilarious as the Blues Brothers.
But this year, something – besides the cast – changed and I suddenly found myself in hysterics after midnight on a Saturday.
With the addition of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone – otherwise known as The Lonely Island, a comedy group based in New York City – the jokes suddenly seemed funnier and the skits suddenly seemed topical. The Lonely Island guys (Schaffer and Taccone work behind
the scenes as writers while Samberg is on-air) are responsible for Digital Shorts, the latest addition to “SNL.” Digital Shorts are pre-recorded snippets of video that mock everything from “The Chronicles of Narnia” to 90s sex ballads. The first short, “Lazy Sunday,” garnered some media attention after the video topped the charts on YouTube and just last month, Samberg appeared on The Conan O’Brien Show after “A Special Box” – better known as “D— In A Box” – became the second most popular video after only two days of airing.
These short song parodies have peppered the show with a little flavor, a little flair and a lot of funny.Though the Digital Shorts don’t focus on chuckle-worthy
cast interactions, this change has been a positive one for America’s longest running variety show. With an update to the old “SNL” formula, the show has regained a balance that allows viewers to once again laugh with the cast. And although Tevye may not agree, this is one time when maintaining the tradition would mean losing the balance.
Erica Palan can be reached at email@example.com.