OP-ED: LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE’S COMEBACK DURING COVID-19

By Samantha Milowitz || Op-Eds Editor

They say that when tragedy strikes, that is when you get to see the true strength of people: the unwillingness to back down, to give up. 

When COVID-19 first struck, it was clear to me that my city, New York, would be the first one to get hit, hard; it’s no coincidence that a densely populated city concentrated on an island would experience the most devastation from an airborne virus. From April to June, I didn’t leave my apartment as much as to take a walk, afraid I would contract the virus, too. The essence of New York City was lost: Broadway shows closed down, people stopped being friendly on the streets. 

Everyone had to find something that still made them happy, something that made them forget the growing death toll. Something that made us still feel sane. For some it was at-home workouts, for others it was painting, but for me, it was watching Saturday Night Live. 

As a born and bred New Yorker, Saturday Night Live has always been a staple in my household.  I cannot remember a time in my life when my family and I did not stay up late on Saturday nights to watch. My mother, who strictly goes to bed at nine o’clock every night, would even try and keep her eyes open long enough at least to see the cold open. Each week, we would discuss the different sketches, debating which one we thought was the funniest. Oftentimes, I would have to catch my breath watching Bill Hader inhabit the character of Stefan, an eccentric city correspondent on “Weekend Update,” or the absurd kissing family sketches.  

It wasn’t just that SNL was funny, since lots of shows are funny, but it was the genius behind it; every week, the writers of SNL would have to propose new sketches, write and rewrite based on the host’s requests and the week’s news, and transcribe them to upwards of thousands of handwritten cue-cards. SNL valued live television consistently while many other shows had decided it was just too hard. It made the show a constant gamble; since anything could go wrong, it made it that much more exciting. Often the best parts of SNL are when cast members are forced to stifle their laughter, unable to stay in character. 

SNL always made me proud to be a New Yorker. 

On October 3, SNL finally returned to their studio at Rockefeller Center with some new health adjustments. Now the band wears masks, and plastic shields separate them from their fellow production members. Crew members, hosts, musical guests, and cast members all have to be tested every single week to prevent viral spread and an unforeseen shutdown of the show. The audience is only filled to 25% capacity and has to be masked and tested before entering the building. 

This sounds like a lot of effort to keep a television show running. So, why come back at all? I’ll tell you why: Because amid a tragedy, any tragedy, it is important to find the light. To keep going somehow, some way. To me, laughter is the best way to do that. Every weekend, when I sit down on my couch and turn on SNL, I find myself slipping away from a world I don’t always want to be in, and I find my normalcy again. To me, it’s amazing in itself that a group of people are working so hard every week, during a pandemic, just to bring joy to people at home. 

SNL is not pretending that the pandemic is gone but is simply adapting. Now, their audience every week is filled with strictly essential workers, honoring the work they have done. During the final goodbye every week, the cast gatherers on the stage masked up, encouraging others around the world watching to do so as well. SNL proves that despite the pandemic, we can still show up, safely do our jobs, and still have fun. Our lives have not been shut down; they have simply changed. 

We don’t know when life is going to go back to “normal,” but we also don’t have to wait. We can still safely appreciate our lives and friends. And, at least in all this, we still have Saturday Night Live.

Senior Samantha Milowitz is the Op-Eds editor. Her email is smilowit@fandm.edu.

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