5 Simple Steps to Save Saturday Night Live

I’m a Saturday Night Live nerd.  A true believer.  I love SNL.  Are you an SNL nerd too?  See how you score on my unofficial “SNL nerd checklist”:

  • Diligently watch every episode – even the sketches after “Weekend Update”
  • Know the names of all the featured players
  • Analyze the interpersonal dynamics during the closing “goodbyes” to see if the cast really liked the guest host or not
  • Bitch about the show to other SNL nerds right afterwards
  • Vehemently defend the show to everyone else

Even if you didn’t get a 5 out of 5, like I did, you are an honorary SNL nerd, just for continuing to read this post!  

I’ve been watching since the 80s and always love the show, no matter how hit and miss it might be.  As you can see in my buddy Rob’s excellent ranking of last season’s 22 episodes, there were a lot of low points during “Saturday Night Live” this year.  But looking back on the season, I had an epiphany.  The show could be great again by just making a few, key changes. A great season would warm this SNL nerd’s heart.  So with all respect to my idol, Lorne Michaels, here are the 5 quick changes to make SNL once again the pop-culture event everyone is buzzing about on Sunday.

1. Completely Rethink Obama.  
With no disrespect to Fred Armisen, his impression of the president is not exciting. Remember when Will Ferrill started doing George Bush in 2000?  Was it accurate?  Hell no.  It was extreme.  The presidential seal logo would come up before the cold open and the audience would go crazy.  I want that feeling again at the top of every show.  Maybe it’s time to give Jay Pharoah a shot. Which leads me to…

2. Write for Jay Pharoah
Jay is the featured player on SNL that (to be non-politically correct) you know as “the new black guy.”  Pharoah’s impressions of Will Smith, Densel Washington and Jay-Z are insanely good.  Unfortunately, the material he’s working from hasn’t been hilarious.  If I were a junior writer on staff looking to make my bones, I’d be writing sketches for Jay.   Jay just needs one sketch to go viral on the internet and the ball will start rolling. He can be Eddie Murphy 2.0.  

3.  A Co-Anchor for Weekend Update
Seth Meyers has been anchoring update alone since Amy Poehler left the show in 2008.  I love Seth, but he doesn’t have the spark needed to anchor Update by himself.  Don’t believe me?  Compare last seasons’ “Really, With Seth and Amy” (when Amy Poehler hosted the season opener) to “Really, with Seth” in the season closer. 

The writing of the two bits was about the same quality, but when Seth was alone the excitement and energy wasn’t there.   Bottom line, “Weekend Update” is the anchor of every SNL episode.  Add a strong co-anchor like Jason Sudekis.

4.  Give Out More Cameras  

The SNL Digital Shorts became a fixture of SNL episodes after the runaway success of “Lazy Sunday” and “D*ck in a Box.” I love that the Digital Shorts allow for free-form weirdness on the show.  But Andy Samberg (and fellow Digital Short creators Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer) shouldn’t “own” weird films for SNL. Give some of the other cast members pro-sumer digital cameras and let them have at it. What would Fred Armisen do without a format holding him back?  What’s inside the mind of the relatively unknown featured player Taran Killam?  Run the shorts at 12:45am, but run them.  There’s another franchise waiting to happen.

5. Convince Kristen Wiig to Stay, and Fire Her Characters
After the success of "Bridesmaids", Wiig may decide to leave SNL this summer.  I hope she stays one more year.  But early last month, Wiig announced she would retire two of her characters, “Penelope” and “Gilly.”  I say retire ALL of Wiig’s characters next season.  Here’s my inspiration: The great standup comic Louis C.K throws away all his old material every year and builds a new act from scratch.  What he pushes himself to create is genius, because he’s working without a net. If Wiig tried this on SNL it could be the season she is remembered for.  Want proof? Watch Wiig dance around the stage as Ann Margaret in one of the last sketches of the season finale. It was pure performance, pure fun, and 100% refreshing.

If Wiig does decide to leave SNL, I do have the perfect gig for her. After seeing “Bridesmaids,” I realized why Wiig is my dream casting to replace Steve Carell on the office. But my “5 Steps to Fix ‘The Office’" is another post…

That’s it.  If they make these 5 changes, the show is back to being great.  Really.  Just think about any episode you saw last season.  Now imagine it started with a killer Obama impression, had a really funny Weekend Update segment in the middle of the show, ended with a surprising digital film, and throughout reminded you of why Kristin Wiig makes you laugh out loud.  That’s 90 minutes of great TV - a show we’d all be talking about at the water cooler on Monday.  And by “water cooler”, I mean Facebook.

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