Opinion: Lessons learned from ‘SNL’

Carley Hull is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Carley Hull

The horrible wait is almost over: “Saturday Night Live” is returning Sept. 27. On Wednesday, “SNL” announced its first two guest hosts and musical artists for the 40th season. Chris Pratt from “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Parks and Recreation” is set to host with musical guest Ariana Grande followed by comedian Sarah Silverman and musical guest Maroon 5. If you are a fan like me, I’m sure you are praying to the comedy gods that you get tickets through the “SNL” ticket lottery. If you’re not a fan, there are still some things you can learn from the four decades of hilarious, and sometimes laughless, sketch comedy.

Politics can be funny. “SNL” has had impersonations of almost every president and political leader since its start in 1975. Some of my favorites are the over-the-top Sarah Palin by Tina Fey and George W. Bush by Will Ferrell. Politics have never been so interesting, informative and satiric. Of course, we can’t forget about Jay Pharoah’s Obama, which was usually spot on and Darrell Hammond ‘s Bill Clinton. “SNL” is able to caricature our political leaders to something we can laugh at without all the bad blood politics often brings. It’s a breath of fresh air and mildly informative.

Diversity is important. It’s no secret that “SNL” has a lack of diverse cast members. Huffington Post even made an infographic to show the slow progression of diversity. To date, “SNL” has never had a Latina or Asian American cast member, according to an NPR article. More recently “SNL” was scrutinized for not having an African-American female cast member after black male cast member Kenan Thompson refused to play black women. NPR’s Eric Deggans had the right idea about the situation saying, “The first — and probably best — impact is a validation of the notion that diversity brings value to a TV show. Critics like me have long argued that reflecting America’s racial and ethnic diversity in the cast of a classic show like ‘SNL’ isn’t just about fairness; it’s about making the program better.” Last season, SNL hired two black female writers and cast member Sasheer Zamata, which isn’t an immediate solution to the lack of diversity, but it’s a start to a more representative cast of the American viewers.

Don’t take life too seriously. Life is too short not to laugh at the world around us, and studies have found that laughter can make us happier. In a 2011 article on the New York Times website, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford reported that the muscular motions from laughing produces endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that make you feel happy. Being happy makes life more enjoyable, so we should definitely get a good dose of laughing even if it’s on Saturday night television. According to an article on psychologytoday.com, “The average 4-year-old laughs 300 times a day, a 40-year-old, only four.” Most of us attending Kent State haven’t quite reached 40 yet, but I think it’s still time for us to laugh a little more.