The past month or so has certainly featured many controversies surrounding people with sexual harassment allegations. Unfortunately for Saturday Night Live, there are a few of them who have appeared on the show over the years. Louis CK has served as a host many times over, Al Franken was a prolific writer and on-air performer, and Kevin Spacey has hosted on a couple of occasions in the past.
To a certain extent it’s inevitable that there are going to be people associated with SNL who have done morally reprehensible things and that has nothing to do with the sketch show itself. It’s been on the air for 43 years! Even if you were just to play the odds there, you have to imagine it being likely that either some hosts or former cast members or writers have done something appropriate during that time. For the show, what’s important is that they don’t treat them with any sort of esteem because of their legacy. Someone who does inappropriate things shouldn’t get a pass from a show that ridicules others for similar things.
SNL has not taken it easy on CK or Franken, though they did clearly go after the latter more so following his harassment allegations. We imagine that the same exact thing is going to happen to Matt Lauer.
On paper, Lauer does not have the same connections to SNL or its history, yet he does still have some commonality with the team. Lauer worked at 30 Rockefeller Plaza for years alongside many of the show’s cast and crew, and he’s interviewed many of them over the years. He’s also been in Studio 8H for an interview special with creator Lorne Michaels.
Yet, we get the sense that SNL is coming for him tonight and they are coming at him full throttle. The precedent is already there this week. Both Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, (former SNL cast members) ripped Lauer during their own late-night shows this week. SNL hasn’t had an opportunity to do so yet, but with him formally fired from NBC there is no reason to hesitate.
We know that sexual harassment and allegations of abuse are not the sort of things that should be joked about; the purpose for SNL is not to make light of these situation. Instead, it’s to use humor as a branding tool to signify just how unspeakably bad some of these things are. It separates those who commit these acts from those who don’t and infuses further shame upon the guilty. It’s condemnation in a mainstream way that hits the target right in their reputation. It’s not the most apt punishment for some of the acts, but SNL has placed itself in a position where it has an opportunity to showcase what is unacceptable and immoral in society. This is, hopefully, a trend that continues.
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