A Wednesday report indicated that “Saturday Night Live’s” recent hiring of comedian Shane Gillis could have been an attempt to appeal to conservative viewers. According to insider accounts reported by Variety, Gillis’ small-town nature, frequent stand-up routines about country life, and, yes, ethnicity were meant to draw audiences that have felt alienated by the show’s leftward bent over the past several years.
Before even one episode went to live air, however, Gillis was fired due to the discovery of off-color jokes he made during a podcast last year. Whether Gillis, who has stated plainly in the past that he did not support Donald Trump, would have drawn conservative comedy fans disillusioned by SNL’s unapologetic leftward slant remains a mystery.
While Variety didn’t bother to ask any actual conservatives if SNL’s strategy held any water, this type of firing over an old joke—a prime example of “cancel culture”—is precisely what drives conservatives and defenders of free speech away from shows like SNL.
If SNL thinks casting a midwestern comic in the image of Larry the Cable Guy is the way to reconnect with conservative America, they are in store for a ratings disappointment and probably some sketches they’d rather forget. People who were loyal to SNL for the first three or four decades didn’t tune in to see a cast member whose identity they could most closely identify with, they watched the show to laugh.
So bring back the funny. Here are some ideas to de-politicize the show and bring back American civility through laughter, instead of pulling it apart with ultra-liberal virtue signaling.
1. Impressions Should Never Punch Down
Good satire should walk just past the line of reality and flirt with absurdity. Every impression of Trump and his administration in the past few years has painted the subjects as cruel and evil but doesn’t represent their actual mannerisms and clearly reflects a high level of angst in the writer’s room.
Most of Alec Baldwin’s work as Trump has just been making angry faces and missing the president’s most hilarious speech patterns. Orange makeup and an angry bias against someone does not a good impression make.
Recall that even George H.W. Bush enjoyed the impressions Dana Carvey did of him during his time in the White House, although they poked fun at him. His son’s most ardent supporters still share and quote sketches today of Will Ferrell as George W. Bush because, well, they were really funny. It stands to reason that the liberal writers of the day chose humor over Republican bashing.
2. Avoid Being Too ‘On the Nose.’ Remember to Include Jokes
Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton singing “Hallelujah” after the 2016 election immediately comes to mind here. Was that supposed to be sad, touching, or funny?
It was none of those things. It was a ridiculous, mournful cry from a comedy show about the results of a national presidential election. In another musical fumble, the women cast members of the show sang “All I Want for Christmas is You, Robert Mueller,” an almost joke-free song begging for evidence that the president was a criminal and a cheater. It just missed the funny mark and slid right into the dark world of “clapter.”
3. Stop Hiring People Based On Identity Politics Instead of Talent
Believe it or not, the audience doesn’t actually need ethnic and sexual “representation” to enjoy a sketch comedy show. Shockingly, what they need and really want are talented performers like Chris Farley, Eddie Murphy, and Kristen Wiig, all of whom were perfect casting choices for the years they were cast and selected entirely based on their comedic merit.
Bowing to criticism in 2014 that the cast was not diverse enough, SNL began casting based on demands for specific sexes and ethnicities. This practice, while it affords “representation” to the ultra-woke, robs the comedians of the full confidence that they got the job based entirely on merit.
4. Don’t Forget to Joke About Liberals
Sure, liberal lawmakers and television personalities are featured as impressions on modern day SNL, but the punches are pulled so far back that it’s difficult to see how it’s supposed to be funny and not just a costume. Perhaps adding just one conservative to the writer’s table and injecting a little red could wake up the sleepy liberal impersonations.
I’m sure all the writers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but ignoring most of what she’s said and done to make some lazy jokes about being a millennial is just a huge miss.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Funny
In the current era of “cancel culture,” comedy has become the final frontier for free speech. There is a reason “Buckwheat,” “Matt Foley,” and Norm Macdonald’s “Weekend Update” remain among the most iconic SNL sketches even today. Frankly, they weren’t afraid of who they were going to have to apologize to the next day over sketches that were quite obviously meant as humor.
No one remembers Eddie Murphy as just the second black cast member who bravely represented the African American community, they remember him as Gumby, Buckwheat, and Mr. Robinson. They remember that he made them laugh.
Conservatives don’t need Shane Gillis on the cast to love SNL again. They need SNL to love comedy again.