I’m a big proponent of the “But Is It Funny?” rule of comedy, which I just made up: Something can be completely over the line, so far across the line that you didn’t know a space existed that far, but is it funny? Sarah Silverman, in her best moments, is a master of this. She’ll shock you to your core, but despite your better intentions, you’re still laughing. Several years back there was a short-lived show called Wonder Showzen which was so offensive that it often left my jaw nailed to the floor, but damn, those writers were talented. A lot of people are up in arms about this skit from Saturday Night Live this past weekend:
When I first saw it, a couple of my friends were with me, and there were a couple of cheap laughs, but we said “People are going to be PISSED about that tomorrow.” I contend that if there were something truly creative about the sketch, people wouldn’t be quite as angry, because despite their better intentions, people would be laughing. But, um, ha ha ha, lady with facial hair in dress? That has been done, so many times, and it wasn’t that creative to begin with.
But people definitely are pissed off, and I get it. What I find strange is that this is not 1970’s Saturday Night Live. If you grew up watching that era of SNL, as I did, courtesy of my parents, you know that back in the day, that show had the capacity to be offensive. But they got away with it, because their casts were made up of such brilliant comedians that no matter who or what group was the butt of the current joke, everyone was laughing.
Comedy writers: pushing the envelope doesn’t work unless you’re funny. And I can’t imagine how this even qualifies as “pushing the envelope,” since it’s such a tired joke.
So, SNL, you have failed, try again.
Pam has a compilation of reactions to this sketch from the various LGBT organizations, so click over if you want to read.