SNL's Weinstein Silence: Maybe They Just Don't Have a Joke, and That's Okay

Of all of the things happening in the news this week, I have had little desire to write about the professional demise of Harvey Weinstein. 

Don't get me wrong, I do find the story interesting: a Hollywood mogul, co-founder of Miramax and major Democratic donor, brought down by pretty damning sexual harassment allegations. Not only is it a media / entertainment story, but it's one with political ramifications. More than one outlet has noted that while many Democrats have criticized him, both Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as Barack Obama, have stayed silent on his behavior. 

But I suspect that I am similar to many Americans in the sense that I have followed this story from afar, rather from one of strong personal interest. While certainly a national story, and one that merits the coverage it has received, Harvey Weinstein isn't exactly a star or politician who has formed a personal connection with the people across America. When the story broke, I knew he was a producer, but I had to Google him to remind myself just exactly who he was and why he mattered. 

This is one of those stories that highlights the disconnect between national media and their audiences across the country just as much as the political differences you often see between the two. It's also an example of where activists grow accustomed to certain allies doing work on their behalf, only to lose sight of, or take for granted, what that ally is really all about.

Specifically, I am referring to the numerous shots taken at SNL over the past few days for failing to go after Harvey Weinstein over the weekend.

I'm not naive enough to think that perhaps there isn't some loyalty or fear on the part of the writers or producers at SNL who don't want to take on someone as powerful as Weinstein. Or, perhaps there's not. What seems to be forgotten by SNL's critics is that SNL is a comedy show. SNL's job is to entertain and make people laugh, and to do that, you have to have jokes that are both funny and that people across America can relate to.

The question for those critiquing SNL is this: where is the joke? I'm not trying to ask this question rhetorically in the high and mighty sense ("Sexual harassment is no laughing matter, you know!"), but in the sense of I truly don't know what you could say that would be both funny and relatable to a national audience. What is the thing that SNL is going to have to say about it that is going to get a loud cheer and / or laugh from the audience that is heartfelt and genuine? I don't know what it is, and I doubt they do either.

It seems some have lost sight of what SNL is supposed to be doing because of their willingness to take on Donald Trump during the past couple of seasons. He's a buffoon on so many levels that even his staunchest supporters have to see the truth and humor in how he gets portrayed by Alec Baldwin. Even with a deeply unpopular president, however, SNL still has to be careful to not go overboard with its mockery. When anti-Trump sketches become rote and done for the sake of taking on the president rather than true comedy, even people who agree will say, "I'm with you in the fight, but none of this is surprising or compelling and I think I'm just going to watch something else."

That, of course, leads us to what SNL is really, truly all about. The job of the SNL crew is the same job that everyone who works at NBC has, which is the same job that everyone who works at Fox News has, which is the same job everyone who works on commercial TV anywhere has: deliver as large of an audience as possible in order to maximize revenue for their network.

Lorne Michaels, who produces SNL, knows this as much as anyone. He also knows the SNL audience better than anyone.  

These are terrible allegations; I get it. But if you want to know why SNL didn't take on the Weinstein allegations, maybe it's simply because they don't have a good joke yet, and that's okay. 

I'm a politically independent blogger and highly imperfect Catholic who is often wrong but insists on writing about politics anyway. You can follow me on Facebook here or at the link below.