Governor Paterson and Saturday Night Live: Ya Blind Baby! Ya Blind to the Fact…

In the world of TV comedy there are a few signs of desperation (and a time to pack it in), one of them being an extremely poor joke. Recently, Saturday Night Live’s came in the form of that ill-scripted and ill-executed skit making fun of New York Governor David Paterson. SNL player Fred Armisen, playing Paterson, made the governor appear as if he was a blind, bumbling fool, incapable of running the state. Then came the flack from the Gov and the blind community. But my problem with the skit wasn’t with it’s skewering of blind people or the handicapped (though Governor’s Paterson’s point about making blind people look incapable of doing important jobs was valid). God knows pop culture has produced too many honest chuckles at their expense; one of them being Damon Wayan’s character Handi-Man.

My problem with the SNL bit was how much it proves that this 33-year-old sketch comedy institution is over and should be laid to rest. For the weeks leading up to the presidential election, Saturday Night Live heavily relied on it’s players doing impressions of the candidates, most of which have been sorry one or two-note jokes (much like the Gov. Paterson skit). They briefly hit pay dirt—and scored some ratings—by bringing Tina Fey back to do Sarah Palin and adding a special Thursday night political special before the election. I give them credit, 33 years is a long wait before “jumping the shark.” But when your show has not been must-see, late-night funny TV for six years, which SNL hasn’t been, really, since Will Ferrell left in 2002, it’s time to, maybe, think about calling it quits.

As a fan of SNL, like so many, I’ve heard people sound the death knell a few times before. There was the brief period in 1980 before the arrival of Eddie Murphy and after Eddie left in 1984. The ’85-’86 year was a particularly dry season. Some even sounded Taps with the ascension of Chris Farley and his fat frat boy humor. Only, those comedic droughts, at most, lasted a year or two. Following the departure of SNL’s last breakout star, Will Ferrell, the show has not been able to find that one anchor to make the cast gel or shine. Nor has it been able to fully recover with consistent breakout material, save for the few film shorts/videos like “Chronicles of Narnia” and “Dick in a Box.” And the only ticket they have to stay relevant are the politicians. But, even with our political figures, they seem unable to push the envelope for any real, gut-busting humor (say, a Gov. Paterson not being too blind to see America’s greatest city about to sink into a fiscal toilet). So SNL, in my eyes, continues to look like the bumbling fool, stumbling on like a blind man looking for the joke it lost some time ago.