“Saturday Night Live,” now in its 40th season, has steadily declined in viewership since the departure of the last generation's performers. This season, with one of the largest collection of performers to date, has also managed to enlist a refreshingly diverse team of comedians. With recent additions like Leslie Jones, who holds the record for the oldest freshman cast-mate in SNL history, and Kate McKinnon, an openly gay woman, the show is finally starting to present a more accurate reflection of American society.
SNL has stated its diversity goal— and while the decision to expressly hire a multi-ethnic troupe was initially controversial and deemed overly PC, the result was a more diverse group of performers than ever. In fact, the show has more female recurring cast-mates and featured performers than in recent memory.
Despite a more diverse and larger team, the nation has all but written off the cult classic. With ratings in the 18- 49 demographic steadily falling since late 2006, much of America seems apathetic to NBC’s efforts. It might seem easy to blame superficial factors for the fall of SNL— but several issues with the long running series have been widely talked about. If it isn’t its insane longevity, or the chaotically large cast then it’s the lack of material or quality of topics. The show has also lost fan favorites. The last wave of performers, featuring some of the most beloved comedians in the past decade, took their audience with them to other projects, leaving the latest season without much relevance.
SNL veterans Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and others have produced and planned projects for TV and theaters everywhere. The ladies have piqued interest in box offices and with comedies, dramas and even indie films.
On top of Hollywood success, the former cast-mates have produced a plethora of critically acclaimed TV series stretching beyond cable into Internet based platforms like Netflix.
As a new generation reaches adulthood, the veterans are finding it easier to gain commercial success in major projects. It seems like the last wave of women, primarily made up of Fey, Poehler, Wiig and Rudolph are forming an informal comedy troupe hell bent on taking over all forms of media.
Films like “Baby Mama” with Fey and Poehler in 2008 and “Bridesmaids” featuring Wiig and Rudolph in 2011 set the stage for the same group of women to develop more projects set to hit theaters and TVs everywhere. The upcoming movie with Fey, Poehler and Rudolph, “Sisters,” is a highly anticipated film to be released later this year.
Even current SNL women like Jones and McKinnon are green-lit to join up with Wiig and Melissa McCarthy in the widely controversial female revamp of “Ghostbusters” set to hit theaters in the summer of next year.
The former ladies of SNL took their widespread appeal and played into their comedic strengths to take over Hollywood both in front of and behind the camera. Fey (“30 Rock,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Poehler (“Parks and Rec,” “Broad City”), both with popular TV series, lead the pack for small screen success while Wiig and Rudolph carry on with big screen projects of their own.
Though many have given up on “Saturday Night Live,” it’s important for viewers to realize its higher purpose: an elaborate way to cultivate up and coming comedians. As viewers everywhere occasionally tune in to see who’s hosting or skip through the musical performance, they should keep in mind that the show serves as a cultural gateway into the comic world. “Saturday Night Live” shouldn’t be judged by the quality of the content but the potential of the performers.
The greatest and most well known female comedians who have in turn produced and starred in some of the most well known and beloved movies and TV shows got their start on the late night stage.