Once you watch Saturday Night Live long enough, you see the life span of sketch ideas. It’s short. While some ideas become a recurring weekly staple (like Church Lady made 16 appearances) on SNL, others have merely one appearance while retaining great name recognition (like Chippendale’s Auditions). Include the sketches that are cut during dress rehearsal and the average life span of an idea is likely less than one show.
I would guess that ol’ Lorne Michaels has some kind of formula stuck in his intuition. He probably could explain it as well as my dog. What passes? What gets cut? Why does Brian Fellow get ELEVEN damn stabs at making me laugh? Who are we to question the dictatorial unilateralism of the Lorne? Dude can do what he wants with his kingdom.
I’m wondering out loud about the middle group. So, why do some sketch ideas that seem primed for many repeats only get a 3 episode arc? “[Insert Retail] Firing” was one of those sketch concepts. The first offering was on November 10, 2012 with “McDonald’s Firing”
The description reads, “Two McDonald’s employees jump the gun when a firing is announced at a staff meeting.” We were strong out of the gates with this baby. Cecily Strong brought it as ‘Dana’ and was spittin’ fire. Additionally, Bobby Moynihan played ‘Niff’ like he was this close to stepping up on the background of the stage in 8 mile.
This sketch was great for a few reasons
- It showcased the entire cast. I don’t see Pete Davidson. He’s probably downstairs in his Mom’s basement as a 12 year old at this point, so I guess we can give him a pass.
- It was an easy vehicle for any guest host to fill. This is probably key to being a recurring sketch. “____ Firing” was on it’s way to check all the boxes.
- It was built for joke box collaboration. I’m sure the writers on SNL hang on tight to their writing credits, but this kind of sketch is a layup to get 40 people working together. “Just give me one good cap for the guy with greasy hair!”
- It had the flexibility for performers to go crazy. Who doesn’t like a good unfiltered roast?
- It had Cecily Strong, who I have to admit, I was crushing on when I saw this for the first time.
The next installment for the concept came two weeks later. I don’t know if Lorne thought Jeremy Renner simply couldn’t handle the heat when he hosted on November 17. Maybe the writers just needed a one week break to load up on that many insults. Perhaps Keenan Thompson was still recovering from being called a “moose-head moron” on national television.
The next target is the Best buy uniform on November 23, 2102.
Another example of showing how the formula works for a repeatable sketch on Saturday Night Live. Josh Hutcherson hosted and did a great job in this version by showing up as little as possible.
Now that we have two installments under our belts we know there has to be a third. The only thing I can think of that would stop this freight train is the logistics of getting so many cast members on stage at once. Perhaps that is why we have to go FOUR FRIGGIN’ MONTHS before we get to see our heroes acquire their next uniforms.
I am positive fans were crying out “Do Starbucks!” — “Do Wendy’s!” — “Do Home Depot!” But no. Did Christmas break kill our momentum on this one? Maybe Martin Short and Christoph Waltz couldn’t handle the heat that came with carrying a retail manager clip board? How does your brain work, Lorne?
March 2nd, 2013 gives us our final installment set in Barnes and Noble.
The formula works. Kevin Hart does what all good returning hosts do by breaking character in the middle of the sketch. That is always good for a giggle in the middle of a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Always.
But something happens. I can’t tell you what it is, but it is definitely something. Because the line of sequels stops. What’s up with that? Is a setting like Popeye’s Chicken not good enough for you, Lorne? Toys-R-Us was still around in 2013. Why couldn’t we see this play out at Radio Shack where people really were getting fired? Maybe Lorne is holding out for when Jerry Seinfeld comes back to host.
My theory on why sketch ideas die at SNL comes down to the obvious. It was Kevin Hart. In the pantheon of killing things that are funny, perhaps Kevin Hart is the ultimate dad. Once a dad says a catchy, trendy phrase unironically, it is officially dead. The teenagers will never do it again. It’s a good tactic when deployed strategically to kill all the ‘dabs’ and the ‘fleeks’ — and this is what Lorne did. He unleashed Kevin Hart on this promising sketch format and officially declared it dead.