Saturday Night Dives: The Fall of a Cultural Staple


Writers and cast members have to lean into what made them so popular in the first place in order to stay relevant. (Courtesy of Instagram)

“Saturday Night Live” (SNL) has been a staple part of many Americans’ week for almost 50 years now. On any given weekend between September and May, fans enter a selective lottery, wait out in the cold for hours and travel across the country to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York to see their favorite comedians and celebrities host. Hosting the show and performing as a musical guest are also considered high honors as celebrities know a significant number of Americans will be tuning in to the show. 

In the past few years, it’s no secret that the show is just not the same as it was in its prime. The show has only a 34% favorability rating by its viewers, according to the Morning Consultant, which is much lower than previously seen. I believe there are many reasons why “SNL” has lost its spark.

First, the new seasons of the show include incessant political commentary. Following Trump’s presidential inauguration in 2016, it feels as though the show has lost its sense of comedy; recent episodes focus on politics and not much else. At least, that’s how it seems to me. 

Sure, each episode of “SNL” includes a variety of skits. But despite these other sketches, all the “highlights” and big moments of the show seem to be focused on current politics, emphasized by the frequent inclusion of politicians as guests. 

It is not a bad thing to discuss politics in a lighthearted way and joke about current events, but when it becomes the main narrative of the show, it becomes tiresome. Viewers often tune into shows like “SNL” as an outlet for their troubles, to be distracted by the stresses of the world and laugh at silly sketches. But watching “SNL” every Saturday now feels like you might as well just turn on CNN. 

On top of excess political sketches, a lot of the new skits are lackluster and fall short compared to the iconic content they used to produce. “SNL” used to be America’s standard for comedy. Now, castmates are reduced to making cringey jokes targeted at young generations whose humor is too new for them to understand. Because of this failed attempt to connect with younger viewers, the jokes are missing the mark for “SNL” viewers, both young and old.

Everyone has an opinion on when exactly the golden years of “SNL” were, when we found nearly every sketch to be funny and relevant. Personally, the early 2000s seasons have a special place in my heart. This is the time that launched stars such as Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Andy Samberg, Jimmy Fallon and Maya Rudolph, to name a few. As it was airing, I was too young to understand what was so funny, but still, I sat with my family as they cried laughing at the Debbie Downer sketch starring Rachel Dratch, or the Lonely Island musical shorts such as “I’m On A Boat” or “Throw It On The Ground.” Now, when I rewatch old clips from the show, it is videos from that era that always appeal to me. 

This is not to say that “SNL” is not still home to some incredibly talented cast members, including Kenan Thompson, Michael Che and Colin Jost, as well as newer members such as the comedy group Please Don’t Destroy and Chloe Fineman. But with last season’s departure of staple cast members Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Pete Davidson and Alex Moffat, the show lost a lot of the cast members with dedicated fan bases.

To be fair, “SNL” has been able to round up some talented and iconic guests in the past few years, such as Timothee Chalamet, Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian. These three guests, in my opinion, hosted some of the most standout episodes the show has seen in the past five years. Having unexpected or popular hosts encourages those who are not loyal fans of the show to tune in anyway because they are fans of the host. Still, the main struggle of “SNL” today is being able to maintain viewership, even after these popular hosts are gone. The writers and cast members have to work on expanding their reach to keep both new and loyal viewers interested. 

“SNL” has plenty of diehard fans. It is a cult favorite, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the show still running in another 50 years, but the decline of the show is undeniable. It’s not impossible for “Saturday Night Live” to have a swift change of pace and reclaim their title as the funniest show on television. In order for the show to get back on the right track, writers and cast members have to lean into what made them so popular in the first place: relating to their audience and not taking themselves too seriously. 

Grace Campbell, FCRH ’25, is a New Media and Digital Design major, from Northborough, Mass.