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Live but losing it

“SNL” needs more than its political sketches if it wants to live to 50.

Courtesy of NBC

"Saturday Night Live" has been a successful variety show for the past 46 years — but is it losing its touch?

Jade Inglada, Design Editor

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I can still remember the “Saturday Night Live” sketch that cemented me as a fan. I was 13 when “Lazy Sunday” made its debut in 2005 and I laughed so hard that I cried as Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell narrated their preparation to go watch “The Chronicles of Narnia” through rap. Something about the overall ridiculousness had me hooked — and still makes me laugh to this day.

The iconic “SNL Digital Short” was more than just two lame white guys rapping over cupcakes and sneaking food into the movies, it was the start of one of the most memorable recurring segments the show has seen in its recent history.

A lot has changed since then. Not only is the cast different — except for Kenan Thompson, who’s now the longest running cast member in the show’s history — but the show just isn’t as strong as it once was. I don’t find myself laughing as often as I used to, but you have to wonder: is it me or them?

I’ve spent more than half of my life watching “SNL,” starting around season 29 when I developed the ability to stay up past midnight.

Despite its longevity, the show has not always been a variety show giant. The program has gone through several rough patches over its four decade run, nearing cancellation more than once.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that humor is a hit or miss. Something one person finds hilarious may not tickle someone else’s funny bone.

There are some things the show has done throughout its run that help it to remain relevant. One of the show’s strong points for years has been its political commentary, but in this particular climate, it can also be a weakness. I’ve taken to skipping the first 10 minutes of the show for months now, simply because the jokes about the current administration got old for me fast. A person can only handle so many impressions of President Donald Trump. And to have this continue on for another three years — no thanks.

One area the show has failed at recently is using the cast to its full advantage. It doesn’t make sense to give roles to guest stars rather than cast regulars who are more than capable of executing perfectly accurate impressions. Why not have veteran Darrell Hammond in addition to his announcer gig to portray President Donald Trump instead of bringing in Alec Baldwin every week?

One glaring hole this season is the lack of memorable recurring characters that the show has been known for in the past (and no, David S. Pumpkins unfortunately doesn’t count). Beyond the impersonations of political figures, there’s nothing close to Debbie Downer, Drunk Uncle, Stefon or Gilly. The few recurring characters that do exist simply don’t leave strong impressions.

The show needs to play up its existing talent instead of turning the cast into supporting players trying to make the next host look good. I’ve sat through one too many Saturday nights in agony, watching as certain hosts put on cringeworthy performances — I’m looking at you, Jeremy Renner — while talented cast members are stuck playing supporting roles.

“SNL” isn’t as strong as it once was. In fact, I’d say the show has found itself in the early stages of a midlife crisis. At 43 years old, it seems as though it could be doing so much more with itself. Somewhere along the way, the show lost part of what made it fun to watch in the first place. If “SNL” doesn’t want to head into an early retirement, it needs to do a little soul searching and reflection.

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