Rhetoric of SNL

“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night with your host Oscar Sifuentes”. That phrase is usually said by the narrator after the opening sequence. It states the host of the weekly episode. Every episode of SNL begins with a cold open, which is usually a political skit. Regardless of the nature of the skit, each cold open ends with one of the actors breaking character and yelling “Live from New York, its Saturday Night!” The show once went by the name Saturday Night when it first aired on NBC on October 11, 1975 (Saturday).Saturday Night Live is a long running comedy television program that features a variety of live skits, thus categorized with the term “variety show”. Every episode is hosted by a celebrity guest who performs an opening monologue after the cold open and participates in sketches throughout the show. Along with the weekly host, each episode features a musical artist to perform twice during the hour long show, except for Prince who was the first artist to perform one, 8 minute performance. The show’s comedic timing, entertaining hosts, and musical performances give it the appeal to reach a large audience of different fan bases.

Lorne Michaels’s name is synonymous with the program. He is the producer, director, and head writer of SNL. In many ways, he is the author of SNL. He writes the skits in a way so that it will impact the audience in more ways than just laughter. The audience is primarily adults in the United States, but it is very likely that the program reaches audiences globally. The jokes include satirical humor pertaining to issues plaguing the Unites States and for that reason the audience is primarily the United States. Aside from just relatable and often times raunchy skits, the show puts a comedic spin on news events in a segment called Weekend Update.

Weekend Update is an informative parody of classic news programs. It is one of the few sketches that is consistently in every episode. It consists of usually two of the shows players relaying news events of the week with a comedic spin. Logically, logos, the sketch gives real information about the weeks most important or unusual events. The sketches include both national and international news. For example, the fake news anchor may say something like, “Kim Jong Un won the election in North Korea”. Then they would follow with, “He easily defeated his challenger, Or Else” (Saturday). The effect is humor along with the knowledge that North Korea’s government may seem corrupt to the typical American.

The main appeal used in the entire show is pathos, or emotion. Happiness is often caused by a joke. SNL is full of jokes. Therefore, the show’s humor often creates some level of happiness to most viewers. Although some of the news events occurring around the world may be devastating, the writers know how to make the retelling of those events appealing comedically rather than in a depressing manner. The show SNL was and still is a comedic way to cope with devastating events. The show serves as a distraction from the emotional pain. Still, the show tries to not cross the symbolic line with their humor. In that way, the show is very helpful to those that worry or have been personally affected by events discussed during Weekend Update.

Many of the jokes during Weekend Update often come at the expense of prominent figures. For example, the show very frequently jokes about Obama and how many very openly disapprove of his health care initiative, Obamacare. The show is a friend to Obama and has even had him on as a guest, so the jokes aren’t taken too harshly by the subjects of the jokes. The jokes question his character and motives. Still, sometimes the jokes will work in favor of the United States, making the country look better and less “damaged” than other countries. Those jokes will evoke patriotism from the American viewers, which is a form of character. In that way, Weekend Update even uses ethos effectively

The context of the event depends on what happened that week. For example, when Presidents give speeches, Weekend Update will surely dissect those speeches and joke about the speakers themselves. Many of the jokes are usually related to the US and other countries might not understand them, but like mentioned before Weekend Update also covers global news. The fact that other countries’ viewers may not understand American government or culture would be a constraint of the show’s conveyed message. The idea of spreading knowledge of national and global news in a comedic way would be the shows exigence, or purpose.

Saturday Night Live is still running strong today. As long as the country goes on, there will be issues. As long as there are issues, there will be material for the show to play off of. “In any rhetorical situation there will be at least one controlling exigence which functions as the organizing principle: it specifies the audience to be addressed and the change to be effected” (Bitzer 7). Some people will love the show for its jokes, lovable characters, and great live music. Some will love it for its satirical political skits. Many admire the shows honesty. It doesn’t sugarcoat when it recollects events. It doesn’t hold back in providing the viewer with an opinion if the viewer can’t make one for them self. “In short, rhetoric is a mode of altering reality, not by the direct application of energy to objects, but by the creation of discourse which changes reality through the mediation of thought and action” (4). It causes the viewers to think about the issues. It may be at times offensive, but it is still a defender of rights for all. In a country like the US, famous for ignorance and blatant racism, it’s when watching SNL or events like The Olympics that many feel most patriotic. The show’s writers know how to get people to pay attention and that’s what rhetoric is all about. The show is logically, ethically, and emotionally appealing and that is why it is successful in attracting and keeping loyal viewers.

 

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Did You Get The Joke?

When parents don’t want to deal with their problematic kids, they sit them in front of the glowing wonder known as the television. Needless to say, I was a crazy child and was constantly watching TV shows. I have probably seen every episode of the golden age of Nickelodeon and Disney, which included shows such as All That, The Amanda Show, That’s So Raven, and so many others that are fundamental of a 90s child’s memories. The thing about kid channels is that all of the shows are comedies, or at least meant to be. Those sitcoms made me contemplate what comedy really is and how it works. I, and so many other kids my age, have unintentionally memorized whole episodes of dialogue and plot. Sometimes I would go to school and quote lines from my favorite shows (often adding my own commentary) and be overwhelmed by the laughter and happiness that I introduced to the room. I was especially surprised that I got the girl I liked to laugh. After the group of children dissimilated to resume their daily activities or finger painting and reading (and by that I mean just looking at the pictures), my crush came up to me and with a smile said, “You’re really funny.” It was in that moment that I realized that humor was a respected trait for a person to have in society. It was in that moment that I would realize what I wanted to be, an entertainer.

Saturday Night Live is a long running sketch comedy show that has been on since its premiere on October 11, 1975. It airs on Saturdays; it starts at night, and it’s live (pretty self- explanatory). Late night shows, such as this one, are usually aimed at adult audiences; therefore, the jokes are a little more risqué. I recall at a young age watching the show with my family and them laughing at some joke I didn’t understand. The joke itself is irrelevant; it was probably just Will Ferrell doing a satirical impersonation of George Bush, as he is very popular for. The next day I went to school and started saying “Hey, I’m President Bush” in the most redneck accent I could. Most of the kids in my class had actual redneck accents and didn’t understand the joke. I know for a fact that those grade schoolers probably didn’t get the humor in poking fun at the infamous President. After looking out at a sea of twenty pairs of young beady eyes glaring at me with blank faces, I was done quoting TV lines.

George Lopez and Gabriel Iglesias are both Mexican-American comedians that I grew up watching as well. If you are Hispanic, then you know that jokes in Spanish usually involve Spanish curse words. If those jokes were translated, kids in American schools would be scolded for repeating them in public. My best friend would often tell me such jokes (unfortunately I don’t remember any of them). He was a class clown of sorts and always had people laughing. Still, his jokes were usually at the expense of others. This got me thinking of the different types of humor. There is also the type of humor where the comedian’s jokes are at their own expense. For example, every single one of the long time Youtuber Shane Dawson’s videos features a joke about how depressed or fat he is. That type of humor was even displayed in an episode of SpongeBob when Patrick was willing to fall on his face just to get people to laugh. I, like Gabriel Iglesias, prefer the everyday type of humor where daily events are told in a comedic manner. Events like my DC excursion, me falling out of a moving car with a child as a parachute, and shooting my TV with a toy bow and mallet (I used a xylophone mallet instead of a toy arrow) have made me quite knowledgeable in how to retell a story to get a positive reaction out of people.

After years of watching the TV shows that I did, you almost expect to hear a laugh track every time something comical happens in your life. The ABC show The Middle follows the life of a fictional stereotypical American family in the Midwest, the Hecks. Many families like my own are attracted to the accurate portrayal of middle class life when many other shows don’t touch on the subject of financial instability. I am 99% convinced that the writers of that show are following my life and using my family’s adventures to their advantage. The children of the show are basically my sister and I. My sister is athletic like the oldest son, Axl, but has all of the misfortune of the sister, Sue. My mom is hard working and my dad is very serious like the parents of the show. Brick Heck, the socially awkward youngest child, is a perfect replica of me at his age. The time my family traveled to Washington DC to get my sister’s passport for her Spain travels felt like an emotional, 2 part, season finale of a popular TV show such as The Middle. The temperature was below zero, my mom broke her heel walking down the cobblestone street, we got lost (very lost), and the whole purpose for our trip was nearly unfulfilled. I knew we were in trouble from the second my sister said, “I need to go to the Spanish embassy in Washington DC”. I am also convinced that my family’s life acts as a popular sitcom in a parallel universe and the Brick of that universe is convinced of the same.

I have even been told by people around me that I should get a TV show after I tell them some of my adventures. I definitely could see that happen. Each of my family members would make great characters. One of my cousins, Chato, is very witty and adult-like in the way he converses with people. I have to be careful with what I say around him because he is quick to turn my words into a self-inflicting weapon with his insults. He was my parachute when I fell out of that car I mentioned earlier (he opened the door on purpose just so we would fall out). My grandmother would also make a great character. She is wise but has a very short temper. Her road rage alone would make a great episode. I recall the adventure in which she drove my cousins and I around and we came across a turtle in the road. We stopped and put it in a plastic bag. Just my luck, a police showed up and questioned our actions. My older cousin (I have a lot of cousins), Bianca, translated for my grandmother. “I’m sorry sir, we just wanted to save this turtle” With the batting of all of our eyelashes, the officer was gone. When we arrived to the house, the bag had a hole in it and the turtle was never found. Experiences like the turtle rescue and DC trip proved to be useful as I learned how to be a good storyteller.

My show would be funny, emotional, and inspiring. I may seem conceited, but I’m not claiming to be the wittiest person in this universe (maybe in the alternate universe where my show is a hit). I’m thankful that I watched so much TV as a kid. I was inspired by my sponsors’ humor to create my own type of humor. I thank George Lopez, my best friend and his offensive humor, and all those countless shows for teaching me how to tickle someone’s funny bone. I was inspired to pursue entertainment because I now see comedy as an inspiring tool. I and so many others have learned through comedic experiences about themselves and the world . Life is like a TV show and I can’t wait for next season.