This week on Saturday Night Live former cast member Adam Sandler hosted and it certainly had a throwback feel. From the opening monologue he had Chris Rock on the stage trading jokes. There were plenty of silly songs, the Opera Man made an appearance, and there was a skit dedicated to many of his more outrageous characters in his movies. It was, as SNL episodes go, an above average episode. And I should know, I have been watching and have watched virtually every SNL episode since I stumbled upon the Buckwheat’s Been Shot episode in March of 1983. I was ten years old and while I may not have understood every skit it introduced me to humor in a profound way. Since that episode I likely have seen 800 episodes of this Saturday Night tradition. At the end of the episode there was a tribute to one of my favorite cast members. Adam Sandler did one of his trademarked songs in tribute to Chris Farley. Sandler and Farley were very close friends both on the show and off of it. Farley commonly said Sandler was like a big brother to him and they would often work in characters and scenes specifically set for each other. When you watch their skits together you could see amazing chemistry, a love of acting with each other, and the period style of making each other laugh. Here is a video of the song, be careful, it’s a tearjerker.
So it got me to thinking. As a Gen Xer it is clear that these are our people. Every generation has their SNL cast. Since 1975 you identified with different generations and casts. A May 2017 Vulture article listed their nine best casts in SNL history. While it predictably listed the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players as the most beloved I felt the article kind of missed the point. Each generation has the best case for four important reasons;
1. You are between the ages of 16 – 24 when the cast was at its apex. It is during this part of life where you are hardwiring those things you find entertaining and funny so their brand of humor is something you gravitate to. For Gen Xers it was the physical humor and the collectively dark Gen X themes like loneliness and merchandising.
2. It contains all of the pop culture references that make sense. Including the music, movies, and moments that formed your core self. For Gen Xers this was a time of grunge music, hip hop emerging, and coming off the Reagan years. The show certainly reflected these themes.
3. You didn’t have kids yet. SNL, in the pre-DVR days was a labor of love. You had to actually stay up late to watch it. Once jobs and kids and families disrupt this pattern you tend to fall off on following it for a while.
4. Let’s be honest, SNL is made to be silly. Does it make biting social commentary? Yes. But really its about the middle school humor.
These reasons are paramount as to why Gen Xers find the Sandler years the best. As he was dancing on the stage and singing about Farley I could not help to remember those nights in the dorms at East Carolina or staying the night at my Dad’s house and watching SNL with my brother. It gave me and my friends lots of great characters and I will always be grateful. I still watch every week, still love the show, and I still think it is great! So it is not the show that changes, its you that changes and for SNL that is okay.