Saturday Night Live has had its ups and downs over the years, but has produced some genuinely transcendent moments in the past two or three years. The Melissa McCarthy parody of Sean Spicer was brilliant. The Black Jeopardy skit with Louis C.K.– and his opening rumble–were brilliant. They have introduced a new level of sophistication in some of their sketches that is welcome and invigorating.
I don’t find the Weekend Update parody very funny any more primarily because it has evolved into a thing — it’s just a ten minute stretch in which Colin Yost and Michael Che get to spout off about current politics. There is no parody: they are just picking on various stories and offering editorial comment, much like Trevor Noah on the Daily Show. And it’s boring. They are not real journalists, so the value in what they are doing is not the same as an informed editorial. And it’s not funny because they are not really satirizing anything any more. It’s just straight bloviation.
They give you an anecdote about something stupid that happened in the Trump White House and then shake their heads and go, “Can you believe this guy?”. Where is the joke? They are not playing anything they are not. Neither Che nor Yost has a persona, like some of their “guests” do. They don’t really dramatize or mimic anything.
Previous hosts of the parody segment did, in fact, parody stiff, self-important, clueless network newscasters. Sometimes effectively, sometimes not. It’s a lot to ask for, I know, but Colbert’s parody of Bill O’Reilly was clever. Why not something like that? Do a liberal broadcaster, I don’t care– just make it funny.
Steven Colbert’s persona, before he was corrupted by network talk shows, was an exceptional creation, a acidic parody of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh and other pompous alt-right king pins, who continually discover the twists and ironies of his own hypocrisy.
It’s not hard to re-imagine SNL’s “Weekend Update” with anchors that are pompous, self-righteous, smug, or insecure, or paranoid, or mindlessly liberal and super-tolerant– anything would be better than this frat-boy insouciance.
I do like the basic model of each story: start with a true news item and then add some preposterous detail or spin to it that makes it funny. Eg. Trump tells the U.N. that he will utterly destroy North Korea. Added: by running for president of North Korea (Seth Myers).