By Brandon Wetherbee
Brandon Wetherbee hosts the talk show/podcast You, Me, Them, Everybody the first two Friday’s of the month at the Wonderland Ballroom and in Brooklyn and Chicago once a month. Subscribe to it online at youmethemeverybody.com. He’ll be at the Wonderland Ballroom on October 7 with guests Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton from All Songs Considered, stand up comedian Katherine Jessup, a special set from Title Tracks.
Let me begin by making it clear that I don’t believe in the glory days of “Saturday Night Live.” The show consistently changes, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad, but overall, has put out a very good product for the duration of its run. Not every John Belushi skit was a hit and there was no season that contained no laughs. People like to romanticize the cast or season they grew up with and dismiss whatever has followed. It’s not fair. Bill Hader’s Stephan character is just as funny as Dan Aykroyd blending a fish.
This isn’t to say that everything “S.N.L.” does is perfect. Far from it. No 90 minute show that’s written, produced and performed in a week in front of a live audience can be perfect and I’m not asking it to be. What I’m asking for is what the show has already done. Requesting something completely new is fine, but not for a comedic institution. The institution exists because it gets a lot right. Why not get more right? Also, it’s way too easy to shit on something and “S.N.L.” is unduly criticised and it’s pointless. Anyways, here are five ways to make “S.N.L.” a better show.
Stand up performances
“Saturday Night Live” does have stand ups host every once in a while. These shows tend to be good. Why? Because the comic knows how to do a monologue at the top of the show. So why not do it every week?
“But Brandon, isn’t the point of “S.N.L.” to feature sketch performers?”
“Yea, sure, but the first “S.N.L.” had George Carlin doing stand up.”
“You’re right, Brandon.”
“I know fictional person I created to prove my very good point.”
The ideal stand up for “S.N.L.” would probably be someone familiar with the show, like maybe someone on the writing staff. Maybe someone like John Mulaney, who is super good and has already done a desk piece on “Weekend Update.”
All I’m saying is let your very talented writers, who happen to be very good stand ups, do some stand up.
More short films
The Lonely Island helped usher in a new generation of viewers. Why? Their shorts. Their material does not work in a live sketch format and you understand that, it’s why you give them a short each week. Well, why not have two shorts a week? One by The Lonely Island and one from a rotating cast of former cast members and film directors that do not create bad things. For example, the shorts Adam McKay did in the 2000-2001 season would pair nicely with anything because they don’t suck. They featured cast members and ‘real’ actors like Steve Buscemi. Also, you could release these films each year as a DVD and that’s more money and you guys like money.
Two musical performances
Let me clarify, two musical performances from actual musicians. What’s an actual musician? Any group that plays instruments, doesn’t lip sync and has more than one single. In fact, if they have no singles, that would be better. I’m sure you’ll give Radiohead two songs this week and that’s great, but you didn’t need to give Jessie J two songs. Who is Jessie J? Exactly. She was the musical guest in March and no one remembers her. Do you know who hosted that show? Zach Galifianakis. Why not let him pick the musical act? Maybe someone like Fiona Apple, who he’ll occasionally perform with in L.A. Why not create a unique performance that will please the music nerds and won’t turn anyone off because it’s not some weird pseudo pop star that will inevitably flop? Once again, this isn’t a crazy new idea. You let John Belushi bring on Fear in 1981 and that remains one of your best musical guests. This will allow you to have the shitty, big name act that will please god knows who and the weird, avant garde performers that will please the people that care about music.
Release the rehearsal sketches that never got to air on Hulu
I understand that you guys aren’t big fans of YouTube and are protective of your material and that’s fine. I also understand that un-aired sketches are nice bonuses to add to Best Of collections. Why not make money sooner and put the weirder sketches that only made it to dress rehearsal on Hulu during the summers? Think about how many views an un-aired Kristen Wiig sketch could have garnered during the weeks “Bridesmaids” was number one?
Let the guest and cast bring on friends
Tenacious D got their first network appearance thanks to host Ben Stiller. Jack Black went on to host the show multiple times. So let the hosts showcase their friends. Do it in the last half hour, after the second musical act. It’s almost no risk and if it bombs, the host/cast member is to blame. It’ll allow you to highlight all the folks that have decent followings but have no reason to carry the show. When someone like Miley Cyrus is hosting, no one cares after the sketch where someone plays Miley Cyrus airs. Each sketch is more painful than the last and it’s not your fault. So why not let folks like Tim and Erik and Paul F. Tompkins and Andy Daly and anyone else that consistently performs with your performers in small rooms on air?
So, to summarize, get weirder, good job and please give me a job.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful night.