How is “Saturday Night Live” embracing internet-famous talent?

How is “Saturday Night Live” embracing internet-famous talent?
Source: NBC, “Saturday Night Live"

“SNL” Season 47 is among us. However, it’s been said again and again that “Saturday Night Live” just isn’t that funny anymore. Whether that sentiment is true or not is up for debate – and regardless, the ratings for “SNL” recently are among the highest they’ve ever been.

Many complaints about the show these days are that most sketches don’t appeal to younger millennials and Gen Z. Some sketches even seemingly attempt to lampoon youth culture in a way that’s can be cringeworthy. Lately, the choice of hosts has also arguably been hit or miss, including Elon Musk, with some saying that his appearance is a result of “misplaced cultural relevance.” Additionally, several cast members and writers for SNL publicly expressed their disappointment that Musk was chosen to host the show.

Overall, many of the latest sketch ideas seem unappealing to younger viewers who are fully enthralled by modern internet culture. Notably, this year’s “Gen-Z Hospital” sketch was poorly received. However, some hosts and sketches were genuinely lauded as original and fun enough to catch the attention of younger audiences. This includes the episodes featuring Harry Styles, Adam Driver, Kim Kardashian-West and Donald Glover.

Oftentimes, some of the content is cut for time, and younger writers and performers on the show don’t necessarily get as many opportunities to lead sketches as senior players. So, it seems “SNL” ends up with many throwaway episodes per season.

However, it’s evident how genuinely hilarious some of the newer writers and cast members are. Case in point: Ego Nwodim and Bowen Yang. It’s really difficult to be cast on this show – and even more challenging to stand out on it.

And, for “SNL” Season 47, it seems that the showrunners (read: Lorne Michaels) are now looking to engage a younger audience – including by embracing internet-famous talent.

Surrendering to the internet

For years now, many “SNL” sketches have been widely available to view on the show’s YouTube channel. So if one sketch did well, or if a monologue is of particular interest, viewers can cherry-pick and just watch that single five-minute video rather than sitting through the hourlong show. This availability also allows for sketches that have been cut-for-time to be appreciated online, even though they never aired.

This season, though, it appears “SNL” has taken another step toward embracing internet culture by recruiting cast members who have become popular as online comedians.

For example, Sarah Sherman, who Twitter users know better as Sarah Squirm, has joined the cast. While Sherman does have experience on stage as a stand-up comedian, she’s known more for her online work.

Her comedy relies on bizarre imagery and compelling turns of phrase, which online audiences eat up. Moreover, Sherman has a comedy YouTube channel that has been moderately successful in accruing views – tens of thousands per video. Last year, she even uploaded an offbeat spoof of an “SNL” audition tape.

Speaking of YouTube, “SNL” has sought out the comedy trio Please Don’t Destroy, featuring Martin Herlihy, John Higgins and Ben Marshall. Based in New York, they’ve also grown their audience online before appearing on the show. While their YouTube channel garners thousands of views per video, their posts on TikTok and Twitter are what have propelled them to internet stardom. Their tweets attract hundreds of thousands of likes and millions of views.

Their background performing live sketches and developing television content together makes “SNL” the seemingly natural next step for the three comics. The trio is both writing and performing for the show, and each episode of “SNL” Season 47 features one Please Don’t Destroy sketch, which is taped before the live airing.

Other changes for “SNL” Season 47

As more members join the cast and writing team of “SNL,” some have also decided to leave. Notably, cast member Beck Bennett has decided to take off. Most often on the show, Bennet and his longtime friend Kyle Mooney worked together on sketches. Mooney has decided to stay on for “SNL” Season 47, so we’ll see how he does on his own this season.

“SNL” Season 47 has featured some notable hosts, including Kim Kardashian-West and Rami Malek. This season also marked Kieran Culkin’s (“Succession”) first time hosting, returning to the show 30 years after appearing alongside brother Macaulay, who hosted in 1991. In addition, musical guests like Young Thug and Kacey Musgraves are also performing on the show for the first time.

Another first, Musgraves is the first musician to perform completely nude on the show. Most audience members didn’t even seem to realize she’d foregone clothes during her performance of her single “Justified,” as her guitar placement and the lighting made it difficult to tell. Over the following few days, though, the question remained buzzing among viewers over whether or not Musgraves was clothed during the performance. Finally, her publicist confirmed that she wasn’t.

Many of the sketches for this season also seem to be buying into the in-jokes of younger generations. When Kardashian-West hosted, the sketch “The People’s Kourt” included references to what many 20-year-olds seem to find funny right now (namely, the very public relationship of Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox).

As the season moves forward, it’s not clear whether or not the changes made so far to casting and writing will stick or how they’ll affect the show moving forward. Is the show just behind the times, unable to keep up with the tastes of Gen-Z? Or will the show’s relevance eventually prevail among younger audiences?

This institution of comedy has lasted an impressive 47 seasons, with no apparent signs of stopping soon. Is this one of its last, or is this an opportunity to embrace new generations with a different style of comedy?

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