Masthead 11-9-15: Donald Trump’s mild SNL appearance worrying sign of declining satire

Full Staff Opinion

There is precious little we love in this world. We love politics. We love political satire. We love TV. And we love when political satire is on TV. But last Saturday, we have to be honest with you all: our several loves all took a bullet. Donald Trump hosted Saturday Night Live. That sounds like a fun time, right? Surely SNL, with its history of on-point, politically-sharp satire, will knock that out of the park? Surely Trump may finally meet some definitive sort of match.

Well, reader. Did you watch SNL? If you did, then you might understand how disappointed we were all on Sunday. Because Saturday Night Live decidedly did not call out Donald Trump. As The A.V. Club’s Dennis Perkins wrote, Saturday’s episode was both inoffensive and thoroughly non-funny. No solid points, or really even laughs, came of the show. Trump was not skewered, not one bit. On the contrary, as, again, Perkins pointed out, people that Trump dislikes got slammed in Weekend Update. The whole cast looked uncomfortable to be with Trump, and the presidential hopeful was only actually on screen, by some conservative estimates, for about 12 minutes.

So, SNL messed up a golden opportunity. That seems pretty clear. But that’s not what this masthead is really about. Saturday Night Live’s failure to do anything pointed involving Donald Trump illustrates a troubling shift we’re seeing on TV. We’re worried about the state of political satire on television. Within the last year we’ve lost Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. We need what they used to do. We need intentioned, intelligent satire and political discourse. It’s a key part in an healthy democracy. And Saturday’s episode of SNL really worried us. It’s almost all we have left. If Saturday Night Live isn’t getting a hit, let alone even taking a swing, when it has Donald Trump himself on-air, then what can we even count on? Who can we turn to for pointed satire? It would be nice if we could keep some functional comedy alive. Without that, our democracy loses a vital function of discourse. And we College Reporter folks really won’t have anything to love.

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