Girls Just want to be Funny: Saturday Night Live in the 2000s review

*Since this Saturday Night Live tribute is on VH1 right now, i figured this would be a good time to repost an old article I wrote for The Daily Orange when it originally aired in 2010. Thanks to Nick Gallagher for suggesting the idea.*

There isn’t really another comedy show in the history of television comparable to Saturday Night Live. It is the only comedy show to continually to reinvent itself every week with new material, new characters and innovative, outrageous humor after being on the air for 35 years.

NBC’s Saturday Night Live in the 2000s: Time and Again chronicled the show’s legendary late-night sketches from 2000 to 2009. It featured interviews from past and present cast members, including the “Not Ready for Prime-Time Players” (the original name of the cast from the first season), to express what the show has meant to them during their time on SNL

The last few years of SNL have focused on breaking down the “boy’s club” stigma that’s been with the show since its incarnation in 1975. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and Kristen Wiig have broken the sexual boundaries that the show had by breaking the stereotypes of what is OK for a female comedian to say and do on television to achieve laughs.

Fey is often billed as a trailblazer for the women of SNL because she was with the show for so many of its firsts. She was the first woman to become a head writer for the show in 1999 and the first female co-anchor of “Weekend Update” in 2001. The “Weekend Update” segment would eventually have a female cast in 2004, when Poehler replaced Jimmy Fallon to anchor alongside of Fey.

The show’s “Digital Shorts” introduced the age of the online viral video. In 2005, Andy Samberg’s “Lazy Sunday” immediately became an Internet sensation, prompting “Digital Shorts” to be a weekly fixture on the show.

Numerous other shorts also went viral on YouTube, including “Mother Lover,” “Jizz in My Pants,” the Grammy-nominated “I’m On a Boat” featuring T-Pain and “Dick in a Box” featuring Justin Timberlake, which won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics.

Executive producer Lorne Michaels refers to election season as a time when SNL has its best sketches. The 2000 and 2004 elections brought many jokes by Will Ferrell playing President George W. Bush. Chris Parnell would pick up the spot-on impressions after Ferrell’s departure from the show. Darrell Hammond famously played Vice President Al Gore, Bush’s opponent in the 2000 election.

However, it would be the parodies of the 2008 election in the 34th season of SNL that the show reached its comedic peak. Millions of viewers tuned into the show to see impressions of Sarah Palin (Tina Fey as a guest star), Hillary Clinton (Amy Poehler), Barack Obama (Fred Armisen) and John McCain (Darrell Hammond). These impersonations earned SNL some of the best reviews and ratings of the decade.

The 34th season premiere, where Poehler and Fey introduced their Clinton and Palin parodies, garnered 17 million viewers on Sept. 13, 2008.

The episode would be the most-watched season premiere since 2001 and the second most-watched episode ever in the show’s history. Over the course of that season, the real politicians appeared in sketches as themselves and met the actors who successfully played them. Fey would go on to win an Emmy in 2009 for her portrayal of Sarah Palin.

But credit more recently has gone to female members of the cast. Poehler and Wiig went head to head at the 2009 Emmys for Best Supporting Actress. It was the first time cast members have been nominated in a major acting category.

Cast members have also been successful in their post-SNL careers. Former cast member Tracy Morgan stars with Fey in the award-winning NBC comedy 30 Rock. Poehler went on to produce and star in her own NBC comedy, Parks and Recreation, Jimmy Fallon has moved on to host the late-night talk show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, (UPDATE) and now Maya Rudolf co-stars on NBC’s new hit comedy Up All Night.

The 2000s have produced many laughs, new characters and SNL‘s its first “girl’s club.”

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