Has Saturday Night Live Become Too Political Lately?

Spencer Knerr, Staff Writer

Political satire in the United States dates all the way back to the colonial period. The first mainstream political cartoon was published in Ben Franklin’s newspaper The Pennsylvania Gazette in 1754. It was called “Join, or Die,” and it showed a snake divided into eight segments symbolizing the need for the colonies to band together against the British occupation. Even though media have greatly evolved since the eighteenth century, a need for the expression of current events through satire has continued, if not increased. It has evolved in its own way alongside broadcasting.

Saturday Night Live has been running for 42 seasons. While it has always had sporadic political spoofs, they have occurred more than ever in its most recent season with multiple skits per episode. To me, it makes sense given the drama of the election and the surprises brought by the Trump administration.

Many of the sketches that have aired on SNL this year have been caricatures of recent political events. Some memorable skits include press conferences given by Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) and Sean Spicer (Melissa McCarthy), a parody of Forrest Gump starring Jeff Sessions (Kate McKinnon), as well as various sketches featuring figures like Kellyanne Conway (McKinnon), Hillary Clinton (McKinnon), and a shirtless Vladimir Putin (Beck Bennett). Along with these skits, the Weekend Update portion of the show is often dominated by political news.

While these sketches are hilarious, they are also abundant, which leads some people to comment that SNL has become too political. I disagree. It is important to laugh at the seriousness of political turmoil in today’s world. I agree that the show has a heavy focus on politics, but they’re not out of place considering our country’s current political climate. Another reason they might not appeal to everyone is because the skits are usually very one-sided, but given how unprecedented these developments are, it is impossible not to poke a little fun at them.

Political satire is important because it makes people think about grave contemporary issues in a new and humorous light. The magnitude and consequence––not to mention the suspense––of current politics can often be troubling, and it is nice to take a little breather from the gravity of real life and indulge in the hilarious (and relevant) sketches of SNL. SNL’s YouTube channel even states: “Politics can be sad and boring, so we make politics sad, boring, and funny!”

These skits are also important because they raise awareness. For some viewers who might not be fully in the loop about every detail of the political world, staying up late each Saturday night could become a way to stay informed on current events.

Regardless of your opinion, SNL’s ratings are the highest they’ve been since the 1994-95 season (and this is not an alternative fact). This suggests that part of its surge of new viewers is due to the rise of its political sketches. So whatever your views on the hustle and bustle of America’s politics, one thing can be said for sure: lately, this show has been a “YUGE” success.