Too Old for SNL Now by
(289 Stories)

Prompted By Comedy

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When our grandson, who was 11 at the time, stayed with us for a week, we decided it was time to introduce him to the classics as well as to the concept that movies are best shared rather than watched alone on his own devises. So, we decided to watch the 1980 movie Airplane together, I remember laughing hysterically at it when my husband and I watched it so many years ago. I’ll confess we saw it more than once, although I doubt anyone could surpass my brother’s claim he watched Animal House over 80 times.

This was a little funny, right?

I guess a show that has been on the air for 49 years has to evolve, and each generation has its own concept of what is funny.

While he loved Jaws and ET, he just didn’t get why Airplane was that funny. And while we still laughed at some of the gags, the movie had its politically incorrect moments that were a bit cringe worthy. I guess the point I’m making is that comedy is generational. If my parents had watched Jack Benny or Phil Silvers or Sid Caesar or Milton Berle with my kids, I’m sure they would not have found them funny. I could barely understand why they laughed when Jack Benny, born on Valentine’s Day of 1894, insisted he was 39 years old on every birthday past 1933. Why was that so funny? 39 was pretty old.

Tommy Smothers, age 86, died recently. He was the guy on the left, jokester to his brother Dick. I loved the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 1960s. So many others who made me laugh are now gone: SNL cast members Gilda Radner, Andy Kaufman, John Belushi, Chris Farley, John Candy, Norm McDonald, Peter Ackroyd, Phil Hartman, come to mind. So many more who could leave me in stitches are also gone – Gene Wilder, Robin Williams, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce, Madeline Kahn, and Garry Shandling, to name a few.

But watching today’s version of SNL usually leaves us wanting to ask our grandson why most of the skits are funny, who the musical guests are, and why the only part we sometimes like is the Weekend Update section. I guess a show that has been on the air for 49 years has to evolve, and each generation has its own concept of what is funny.

Remember when Tiny Tim married Miss Vicky on Laugh-In?

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: funny, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great observations, Laurie. I think shows that appealed to people at particular moments in time probably don’t stand the test of time for another generation, if they are at all political, or “of the moment”. We still watch SNL, but it has ALWAYS been hit or miss, right from the start, and bits that are now classic may not have landed when we first saw them. And my camp friends, who are all musicians, were joking just last week that none of us know who the musical guests are these days (though this past week it was JLo, and she’s been around forever – she’s in her 50s now and married to our homie, Ben Affleck).

  2. Dave Ventre says:

    If you want to be left wondering “WDF did I just watch?” try rightwing standup comedy. Amazingly un-funny.

  3. Charles says:

    Ouch! Your experiment with the shifting context of comedy made great sense to me, Laurie. And the list of lost comedians brought out a now-familiar sadness. A look at jokes, their power to evoke laughter, and the laughs themselves trailing off into the past… life’s funny that way.

  4. Laurie: Your comment about “each generation has its own concept of what is funny” intrigued me to think of my changes. I still hang onto Charlie Chaplain, Groucho Marx, Ben Stiller, George Carlin et. al. But I am still thrilled to hear Jim Gaffigan’s humorous exposures about diarrhea, death, kidnappings, and threatening bells; Leanne Morgan’s sharing of underwear, the hazards of sex with a CPAP machine, the chaos of motherhood, and, of course, old age; or Chad Hansen who is now infamous with his scatological, dark view of political and domestic life, who began early in his career raising money for my political campaign for state office in Mn.
    The styles and subjects of these three comedians were not even on the horizon of entertainment in the 1940s. “Changing my concepts of humor” has been part of my muscular workouts.

  5. Yes indeed Laurie, I agree completely!

    SNL used to be sooo good, but for us no more. And when we decide to give it another try, we find the skits awful – not funny and tasteless! And yes, who the hell are the musical guests!

  6. Khati Hendry says:

    I still watch SNL despite declaring almost every time that it wasn’t really very funny, the musical acts were ridiculous, and the hosts unknown. On the other hand, I never would have known who any of the people getting Grammies were without it.

  7. “and please do not call me Shirley.”

  8. Jim Willis says:

    What a great comedic stroll down Memory Lane, Laurie! So many moments flashed across my mind from those shows and those comedians. And you’re so right about comedy being somewhat generational. I listen a lot to classic radio shows on Sirius while driving, and I’ve learned I like the dramas more than the comedies, and it’s usually because of that generational thing. I think drama wears better and longer than comedic routines, some of which seem so silly and predictable these days. There are caveats, though: I still love Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine!

  9. Jim Willis says:

    Laurie, Sometime I’d like to talk with you about your experience of publishing with Amazon (now KDP). I’m thinking of doing my latest book independently because my traditional publisher can’t put it out for 18 more months!

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