Image Credit: Mary Ellen Matthews/NBCBetty White’s Saturday Night Live episode was one of the show’s funniest outings all season. But in the hubbub over the 88-year-old’s dynamo hosting job, it’s worth noting that Ex-SNLers Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Molly Shannon, and Amy Poehler were also awesome. They didn’t just bring the funny. They smashed funny in our faces until we couldn’t breathe. Their guest appearances also kind of made me think: When did SNL turn into such a boys’ club after years of female domination? As Scott Mendelson at the Huffington Post points out, it’s tough to be a woman on SNL if your name isn’t Kristen Wiig. Featured players Nasim Pedrad, Abby Elliott, and Jenny Slate regularly get pushed to the background of sketches, if they’re even in the sketch at all. And, if you ask me, the utter lack of female voices on the show is reason No. 1 why this season of SNL was a little bit…off.
SNL has always had a troubled history with female performers. In Live From New York, Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller’s masterful oral history of the show, Laraine Newman complains about having less airtime than the other original cast members. But that seemed to have changed, certainly in the early 2000s, when Poehler and Rudolph were dominating on-screen and Fey was the head writer. It’s not like the show turned into a Sex and the City chickfest – this was also the Golden Age of Horatio Sanz, after all. And it’s not as if every woman on SNL was perfect. But there was a different energy to the show. It felt a bit smarter and a bit more grown-up. It didn’t feel like something written completely by dudes, for dudes, with lots of loud dude humor, plus the occasional girlfriend, wife, or Kristen Wiig thrown in.
Admittedly, the creators seem to have realized the need to bring in more female talent: three of the four featured players are women. But how much opportunity Pedrad, Elliott, and Slate are getting, when the vast majority of female roles on SNL are played by Wiig, who blew up in the past few seasons and is now overexposed to the point of insanity. And the featured women tend to get less airtime than the other featured player, Bobby Moynihan. (Don’t forget, Pedrad and Slate were only hired this season after the firings of Casey Wilson and Michaela Watkins.)
Hollywood has always skewed male, especially in the comedy world. And I’m not saying that SNL needs to make reparations to the female gender by staging re-enactments of Virginia Woolf essays and making Sarah McLachlan the new bandleader. But the show would benefit if the female featured players were given more opportunity to show us what they can do. Elliott’s Angelina Jolie impression is so spot-on I can’t even watch the Salt trailer anymore without laughing; I’ll take that over Fred Armisen’s Lawrence Welk sketch any day. And Slate’s Tina Tina Cheneuse isn’t the funniest thing ever, but it’s fricking Caddyshack compared to “Scared Straight,” which is one of those terrible sketches that was barely funny once and now will never die.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Does SNL need to give its women a bit more opportunity? Or should they just fire every woman and let Kristen Wiig represent the female race? Yeeesh, or should they just fire everybody except Kristen Wiig and ramp up their wig budget? Sound off below!