by Jonas Polsky
The SNL monologue is an awkward, embarrassing, and seemingly unending beast of a segment. I’m a huge SNL fan, but I find myself frequently pausing the monologue to cringe, if not skipping past it entirely. The monologue serves as a celebrity host’s bloated self-introduction that no one really needs to see.
Fans of the host tune in to see them “out of their element”, namely performing in sketch comedy. These people are celebrities, we can go anywhere else to see them talk about themselves at length. If I tune in to see Justin Bieber, there’s no real reason for Justin Bieber to explain to the audience that he can sing. The viewer knows that already, and if they didn’t know, they probably don’t care, so cut to the sketches.
Saturday Night Live — first and foremost — is a comedy program. Singing, dancing, sexy cocktail dresses: these things are not funny. If your monologue is not going to get laughs, trim it and get to the sketches. If you want to do a standing backflip, kiss your family, or anything other than being funny, do it during the farewell at the end of the show.
A good rule of thumb is that if SNL cast members are appearing during your monologue, it’s far too long.
Think to yourself; in the last ten years of Saturday Night Live, what opening monologues do you remember? What monologues have you talked about, or went back to re-watch? If you’re like me, the answer is Louis CK or Zach Galifianakis. Because their monologue was their own stand up, and they crushed it. Not everyone’s a comedian, but when you’re on SNL you want to show the world you can be funny, and that’s okay. But if stand up isn’t your strong suit, don’t spend five and a half brutal minutes deluding yourself.
Here’s an outline of what the monologue should be for SNL hosts:
Introduce Yourself - My name is <SAY YOUR NAME HERE> and I’m your host tonight.
Get Your Plug In - I’m in an upcoming movie or something, and I want everyone watching to surrender their money to me.
Be Self-Deprecating - My career or personal life is something we can all laugh about, and here are three reasons why.
Wrap It Up - We’re gonna have a great time tonight. A band no one’s ever heard of is here! Stick around!
That’s all anyone needs to hear. And you don’t need to tell us that you love New York, or love Saturday Night Live. We guessed that already. If you hated New York City and SNL, you wouldn’t be there.
I don’t need Taylor Lautner doing a martial arts demonstration, or Jim Parsons killing time with a musical number. The audience has been waiting all week to see you perform in sketches, and the sooner those start, the better.
In a perfect world, SNL would be a revolving showcase of the world’s funniest comic actors. I’d love to tune in and see Tom Lennon or Maria Bamford hosting, with cameos from their friends and other comedians. Given the choice of comic ability or celebrity, I’ll take comedy every time. The reality is, unfunny famous people get viewers to watch, but we don’t have to put them under a microscope and show how helplessly unfunny they are for five minutes. Get in and out, and if you can’t be funny, be brief.
On with the show!