I. Prehistory: When I was in middle school, everyone watched Saturday Night Live. Or, everyone with a television did. There were certainly students in my school whose families couldn’t afford one. They were usually the kids who got teased the most. I didn’t get to watch it but that was because my parents wouldn’t let me stay up past ten, even on a weekend. We had plenty of televisions.
The kids who had watched Saturday Night Live would gather on the playground at recess or after school while waiting for the bus and talk about how funny it had been and quote catchphrases back and forth to one another, frothing with laughter. I would laugh too, but I never really got the jokes because I hadn’t seen the show. Something about a lady in church who thought things were special and chef who was very neat. I laughed so people would like me. Of course, that never works.
This playground group discussion was earliest example of what we now call the Saturday Night Live Open Thread. Kentucky preteens in Jams and Jellies acting out short bits of the show behind the swingset were proto-.gifs. The kid in the jean jacket with the sleeves cut off who would say, “That show sucks” was a troll and when he punched you, that was like a downvote.
II. Now: I never really developed a taste for the show and did not watch this past Saturday, despite the fact that I really like Zach Galifianakis. Instead, I sat in my bathroom, the only place where I get Internet, and watched people on the Videogum chat watch Saturday Night Live. Blankly I watched a screen of people blankly watching a screen.
The last time I watched Saturday Night Live happened to be the first time Zach Galifianakis hosted and I laughed a great deal because I think he is very funny. Of course, I didn’t watch the whole thing, just the monologue. Maybe I watched more. I don’t remember. There are other things in my mind that I am trying to remember more. There just isn’t room for everything.
Just as before, the monologue from this past Saturday’s episode (see above) was very funny and made me laugh loudly in a crowded McAlister’s Deli, spewing sweet tea on my faux-marble table. Zach Galifianakis has a good face for funny.
III. The End of Time: But let’s get to what I didn’t think was funny:
Not only could I not watch past this skit, I could not watch more than a few minutes of it before I turned it off and turned to my half-finished ice tea and stared sadly off into space for a while. Let’s put aside for a moment the problem of the fact that the skit was repetitive and unimaginative. That complaint applies to most Saturday Night Live skits. What put me off was that it was just a whole skit about rape in prison which doesn’t strike me as funny.
Thinking that perhaps I was being too dismissive, I asked my friend A Serious Monster (who’d actually watched the whole skit) what she thought:
Here are the thoughts I had while watching the Scared Straight sketch:
-Ugh, a prisoner rape joke.
-I guess I should count how many prisoner rape jokes are in this sketch, for fun and for science.
-This conceit (every story someone tells is actually the plot of a movie) was done much better on The Office, four or five years ago.
-Zach Galifianakis pacing in a straitjacket is funny. THERE. ONE FUNNY THING.
-I hate Andy Samberg.
-Final score: 11 prison rape jokes. 12 if you count the one at the end that is repeated (“What happens in your ass stays in your ass”). I wonder if the word-for-word reiteration of that joke is some kind of self-aware commentary on ALL prison rape jokes. Does this sketch end with the admission that its every stupid pun, from “colon first” to “baby’s arm in your caboose,” is the same goddamn joke? Is it a subtle indictment of the lazy, shallow appeal of this kind of unimaginative humor? Nah. It is just a bad joke, told twice, signifying nothing.
Now, perhaps one person who doesn’t watch or like Saturday Night Live asking another person who doesn’t watch or like Saturday Night Live why they didn’t like Saturday Night Live is not the best way to critique the show. So let me ask: What say you?