Intermission rant: Saturday Night Live 25th anniversary

Since my thoughts on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the other two films in the trilogy are not yet worked out enough to post (Lisbeth Salander opened a can of worms and I’m still fishing), here’s a little intermission. Should be light-hearted, but I’m annoyed.

Last night watched the 25 year anniversary show of Saturday Night Live. Disappointing. I watched SNL religiously during its first years, but never afterwards, so I’m biased. But even accounting for tastes, and granting that humor is a subjective thing, why didn’t the women get equal time?


Gilda Radner as Roseanne Roseannadanna

Most of the skits had men in them, but many of the skits had no women; the longest skits were men only; as emcees the men got to do at least a little stand-up comedy, while the women were used as announcers. Billy Crystal did a long, involved, unusually unfunny routine where he pointed out (some of) the celebrities in the star-studded audience; Tom Hanks did something similar, I’m not sure why; but when Lili Tomlin finally took the stage, she only got to co-announce the next act with Candice Bergen, and then do one little joke with Bergen that fell flat. Waste! Waste!

Maybe part of the problem was the script. And maybe it was an off night — a lot of the jokes just didn’t work. Even the musicians — Elvis Costello, the Beastie Boys, and Al Green — had a hard time working the audience, which never seemed to warm up, despite good intentions. Maybe because the celebrity audience couldn’t get past being part of the show — the lights were always ‘up’ and the camera panning to this one or that one, doing the ‘look who’s here!’ Only the Eurythmics managed the musical part, with Annie Lennox singing a medley of their hits, backed up by some amazing women vocalists and a tight band. The Eurythmics didn’t ask the audience to do anything but listen, and Lennox raised the temperature in the room (at last).

But overall women were not much in evidence, and neither were people of color; interestingly, three black men noted that SNL was mostly for white guys as part of the ‘joke’ script. There was one very funny (and very short) skit of Danitra Vance reading nursery rhymes. As for white women: Gilda Radner did get profiled in some skits of her own, as well as some extra blips (because she’s so funny she makes you cry? Or because she’s dead? As is Danitra Vance.). But as a Radner junkie I wanted MORE; meanwhile Jane Curtain and Laraine Newman were barely visible. Newman was the most self-effacing or overlooked of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players from the original SNL, but what about that skit where she’s a 200 pound TV cook, eating all the batter before she can put her ‘kuchen’ in the oven, or her role as the teenage Conehead daughter…and what about Jane Curtain’s deadpan news anchor persona ripping her shirt open, or her Midwestern Mom offering Bill Murray “a nice egg salad sandwich”? The show left me wondering: Why is it only men who get to be funny?

P.S. Completely off topic, but since I’m complaining — why was there only one leetle teensy blip of Father Guido Sarducci???? (He wears a skirt; does that make it okay to include him in the not-enough-women rant? No?) And why oh why did they leave out the scene of him chasing Richard Nixon across the street, followed by his cameraman (this as the SNL credits are rolling for the end of the show), waving a microphone at the ex-president and yelling, “Iffa you were any kind of an animal, what woulda you be?”

Thanks to Licia Sky for pointing out that people of color were also underrepresented on SNL.