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Is SNL Too Political?

Or Too Liberal?

By Eli SanzaPublished 7 years ago 3 min read
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon as portrayed in SNL.

I'm a huge fan of Saturday Night Live. I mean HUGE. Think of your favorite TV show and multiply your love for it by 3 and you've probably got a good idea of how big a fan I am. The main reason why I like it is because the writing is so clever and its parodies are so accurate.

This past season gave the show new life as it made fun of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton simply by pointing out things about them that people already knew, mainly Trump's oversized ego and Clinton's cold and calculated personality.

My love for the show partly has to do with it being one of the only variety shows left from the era of variety TV. Partly it has to do with the spectacle of watching a live and unpredictable star-filled comedy, which the performers make look easy but is an enormous undertaking that demands near-perfect comedic timing and is filled with pressure. Partly it has to do with me being such a comedy nerd.

There are a number of reasons why I watch it. The simplest reason is that I like it.

Of course, in order to parody something, you have to offend people. That has been a side effect of satire since its earliest days, and it's what SNL has done for decades. Yes, it's one of the most consistently popular programs on television and is highly regarded as a classic, but not everyone appreciates its humor.

The president of the United States has been the target of the show's humor last season—something Trump voters probably don't appreciate (of course, I don't appreciate them trying to put a racist, sexist showboat in charge of our country). The election of a candidate with a non-political background has made for a more political season of SNL than usual.

Some of the things I hear from people who are not SNL fans is that the show is too political, too preachy, too liberal, and therefore too unwatchable.

I get why they don't like the show, but saying SNL is too political is kind of like saying boxing is too violent, or chocolate is too sweet. Have the people who make this claim been watching this show for the past 40 years? SNL has always been highly political. It has literally been making fun of every U.S. president since Gerald Ford, and the reason why they do it is because America was already making fun of them. SNL doesn't pull its jokes out of thin air. All the things the show said about the Trump administration (Vladimir Putin is Trump's boss, Steve Bannon is the one calling the shots, Sean Spicer is a clown) are straight out of the zeitgeist of the nation, which is a big reason for the show's popularity.

SNL is more popular in heavily-populated urban areas than in the rural areas of Middle America, so it's not surprising that so many people are against the show's content, but would a version of SNL without political humor even work? I guarantee it would not. A 2017 satire without political humor would be laughably outdated and would sink the show's popularity.

What these critics mean to say is that they don't agree with SNL's political voice. Otherwise, they would be fine with the show having political humor.

The reason why some people would rather see baby pictures on Facebook than political discussions is because babies don't make you feel guilty about your beliefs.

But even calling SNL a liberal show doesn't really make sense when you think about it. The only reason the show makes fun of Republicans more than Democrats is because there are more Republicans worthy of ridicule than Democrats. There aren't many liberal Dems who deserve to be made fun of because most of their policies about health care, climate change, and LGBTQ+ rights seem like common sense. But that's not because SNL is liberal—it's because they care about good comedy, and Obama is a poor target for jokes. SNL may be a satire, but it's a comedy first.

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About the Creator

Eli Sanza

Eli Sanza is a media critic and film historian from California. He posts film and TV news on Twitter and discusses Hollywood history on his podcast and his blog. He is also a Disney geek and currently stuck in the '90s.

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