When must comedians draw the line?

On November 7th, Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live. His hosting stint was met with negative reviews and various protests, with many threatening to never watch the show again.

Obviously, we all understand why having Donald Trump on a comedy show is a bad idea. His views and presidential campaign are offensive and potentially harmful to various religious and ethnic groups, and he has shown himself to be a stubborn and mean person who insults anyone who disagrees with him.

However, should we be blaming Saturday Night Live as well? Should we be angry at them for chasing the ratings and press that a show 41 seasons into its run rarely receives?

Many expressed anger at Saturday Night Live because they believed that having Donald Trump on the show legitimized his campaign and views. They were outraged that a show that had been known for its biting political commentary was going easy on a candidate that they hadn’t hesitated to make fun of before.

I am of two minds about the Donald Trump hosted episode of SNL. On one hand, the episode was uncomfortable as well as unfunny. Donald Trump, as well as various members of the cast, looked unhappy to be there. While Donald Trump only had 12 minutes of screen time (to get past equal time laws), his presence cast a shadow over the rest of the episode, with the Weekend Update anchors dedicating their time to insulting Trump’s political rivals and a long sketch that showed how much better the world would be if he was made president.

On the other hand, SNL doesn’t owe anyone an explanation. They are not a moral authority, and have no duty to choose only upstanding citizens to be their hosts. If they believed that having Donald Trump on their show would bring them attention, viewership, as well as the material required to make an engaging and entertaining episode of television, then that is their right.

It is when they fail to create an episode that justifies the controversy that there becomes a problem. When watching this episode, it becomes clear that Saturday Night Live thought Donald Trump’s presence was the only thing they needed to create an enjoyable episode of television. They were so concerned with getting a message across, as well as concerned with offending as little people as possible, that they failed to do the one thing their show is supposed to do: be funny.

Comedians, and especially any other celebrities, aren’t role models. We don’t have to look up to them, or agree with their opinions and actions. All that we ask is that they are good at what they do. But when their actions get in the way of their job, that is when there is a major issue.

Why I chose this topic: I chose this topic because it was something I have been thinking about for a while. I read various articles and reviews that criticized Saturday Night Live for its actions, and said that it should know better. It got me to think about whether SNL had a duty to not give Donald Trump more airtime, and I realized that they didn’t. Sometimes, terrible people can contribute to making great art. While they obviously did not succeed in doing that, I still think that it was worth a shot.

 

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