#SNL Goes Viral: How Saturday Night Live Pioneered the ‘Viral Video’ Phenomenon

Social media platforms began to really become relevant in the 2000s, dramatically effecting advertising, marketing, and almost every form of socializing. Saturday Night Live has been airing on NBC...

Social media platforms began to really become relevant in the 2000s, dramatically effecting advertising, marketing, and almost every form of socializing. Saturday Night Live has been airing on NBC for the past 42 seasons, meaning it has been around long before the birth of social media. It has increased the number of sketches per show in order to grab headlines and relate to current events. Social media platforms began to really become relevant in the 2000s, dramatically effecting advertising, marketing, and almost every form of socializing. So it comes as no surprise that the famous satirical comedy show would change dramatically due to this new media platform where they can spread, share, and better advertise their sketches and upcoming shows.

Since the rise of social media, SNL has focused more sketches on current events and things happening in the media, where as before more of the show was based on made-up comedy sketches with no relevance to weekly news. There are far less sketches such as “Target Lady” or the goofy cheerleaders. The audience is much more aware of current events thanks to social media apps that allow you to receive news updates to your smart phone in real time. Platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have helped create a much larger viewing number by posting sketches for Saturday Night Live the following Sunday after they air. Once the sketches have been posted, conversation is generated throughout the community in a way never possible before, people are open to discuss and share their thoughts on the sketch, and SNL producers and workers are able to see the response the sketch has created.

The Denver Post wrote an article on how Saturday Night Live has changed TV comedy over the past 40 years, and they give a lot of the credit to the social media platforms that promoted the show. SNL has shaped and sculpted the performance of political satire, making it socially acceptable to make fun of our political leaders and government. Saturday Night Live political sketches often go viral on Facebook, YouTube, and other video sharing apps, giving the show more political influence than in previous decades. Social Media’s helped make Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler’s Hillary Clinton impressions so famous that the country looked forward to seeing them every Saturday night around election time. In the most recent episode of SNL aired on October 15, 2016 Alec Baldwin appeared as Donald Trump in a sketch reenacting the second presidential debate. The sketch became so popular that Donald Trump spoke out on Twitter about the sketch, “Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me. Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!”. As discussed in a second article off Variety.com, since the birth of social media SNL has started to drift away from the repeat sketches, fewer characters return on a weekly basis reappearing in similar sketches. These classic characters that were loved and well known such as “Gilly, Debbie Downer, and Wayne Campbell” have been slowly replaced by individual weekly sketches focusing more on current events and big news happening in the media.

References:

Gabe Gunninick, “SNL effect sways voters whether they like it or not”. Chimes, Calvin College. October 18, 2012. http://www.calvin.edu/chimes/2012/10/18/snl-effect-sways-voters/

Joanne Ostrow, “Over 40 years, ‘Saturday Night Live’ changed TV comedy and changed us”. Denver Post. February 12, 2015. www.denverpost.com/2015/02/12/over-40-years-saturday-night-live-changed-tv-comedy-and-changed-us/

Brian Steinberg. “‘Saturday Night Live’ testes new ways to build it’s famous characters”. Variety. May 21 2016.

Author: Emma Rodgers University of Vermont 2018, Public Communications, a fan of the outdoors and dogs
Advisor: Rob Williams, Ph.D., University of Vermont Professor of Media/Communication.

Categories
Pop Culture and Social Movements
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