“Live from New York!, It’s Saturday Night!” These words have been heralded to millions of living rooms for over 23 years, as the show Saturday Night Live became a mainstay in comedy. Over the years, many famous comedians honed their crafts on this brilliant program. Notables like Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Eddie Murphy, Gilda Radner, Will Ferrell, and Mike Myers all began their meteoric rise through this sketch show. Musicians of greatness (and upcoming greatness) had also graced the “New York Subway” stage. These musicians included Paul Simon, Tom Petty, Sting and others. In the last few years, however, many felt the bloom was off the rose. The program that had inspired ten major movies, and cultivated numerous celebrities, had lost energy, and the ratings were down. It seemed that those of us who were fans were relegated to watching the “Best of…” and pining to our children about the Blues Brothers and Wayne’s World. Would the famed SNL ever be a force in the comedic world again? Could it even hold an audience in today’s high tech sophisticated world?
That answer came this year. 2008 was the year that Saturday Night Live not only revived itself, but also became a household name once again. The program that everyone discussed Monday morning around the watercooler was back. The sketches of SNL not only became a must watch on Saturday night, but also a political force. Enter the most ground changing presidential election in recent history. An African-American running for the highest office in the land, and a second woman running for the second highest office. Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, respectively, become giant personalities on the world’s political and celebrity stage. Ex SNL regular, Tina Fey returns to the show to do a dead on impersonation of the Alaska governor, sparking interest in the show once again. Combined with regulars Amy Pohler as Hilary Clinton, and other cast members portraying Obama, Joe Biden, and John McCain, the show becomes so popular, that a Thursday prime-time episode is added to quench the American public’s thirst for more biting political satire. Even George W. Bush( Will Ferrell) and Bill Clinton(Darrel Hammond) didn’t escape the sardonic wit. As election day drew closer, so did the population…to their televisions to see the latest skit on our favorite political pundits. When Sarah Palin claimed that she could see Russia from her Alaskan vantage point, thereby making it easier for her to deal with foreign issues, America held our breaths at 11:29 pm on Saturday night, just knowing that the powers that be at SNL would include this in a sketch. (And , indeed, we were not disappointed!) When Sarah Palin herself made a guest appearance on SNL on October 18, 2008, it garnered unbelievably high ratings: the highest since 1994. Seventeen million viewers stayed up late for that memorable night. Ratings remained high through the month of November and beyond. In fact, some media experts claim that SNL political skits may have even influenced the presidential vote!
Along with the genius political sketches, 2008 brought an olympic hero, Michael Phelps to the hosting realm, and drew a wild response to those itching for a bit more of the historic swimming olympian. Hosts Tim McGraw , Ben Affleck, and Hugh Laurie were big draws as well. Musical guests rebounded also, such as Lil’ Wayne, who sang on the SNL stage at the height of his “Lollipop” 2008 popularity. Beyonce , Kanye West, Ludacris, and T-Pain brought a younger, fresh audience to the new SNL episodes. And who can forget Coldplay’s rendition of Vida la Vida (which went on to become the top song of the year)?
New and return viewers were not disappointed in the skits presented either. Bobby Moynihan made some of us fall out of our chairs in laughter with his inept “pepper” waiter. Andy Samberg managed to make us giggle AND made a celebrity angry with his impersonation of Mark Wahlberg talking to animals. (It was dead on, Mark, get over it!) Cameron Diaz visited in a hilarious spoof of older women in “Cougar’s Den”. Justin Timberlake donned tights and high heels in a sketch where he auditions to be a back up dancer for Beyonce. And ever controversial, a digital short “Jizz in my Pants” sent most of us questioning where the censors were. All in all, the sketches made us laugh, sigh, and go “hmmmmmm”. Kind of like the old SNL, don’t you think?
2008 was the year of many new comedies. Some fell short, and some produced, but the one stand out that influenced the country, AND made us laugh was an oldie, but now a “goodie” again. Time to fall in love once more, America…”Live from New York…It’s Saturday Night!”