Why Does SNL Wait Around Until Saturday To Produce Comedy?

Sheen SNL

Saturday Night Live” has a Newsweek problem.

The show that kneecapped Sarah Palin’s political career, perfectly captured George W. Bush’s doofus charm and turned Bush 41’s “wouldn’t be prudent” into a national punchline is constantly playing catch-up in a hyper-adrenalized news cycle.

Much like the just-relaunched newsweekly, “SNL” is being outpaced by nimbler, more web-savvy upstarts such as “Funny Or Die,” which conceives, produces and publishes comic parodies of the news within hours rather than days.

Can “SNL” still afford to parody news on Saturday that breaks on Monday?

“‘SNL’ runs a risk when it does topical humour in this news cycle. They have to limit themselves to stuff that happened in the past 24 or 48 hours,” Alex Weprin, editor at TVNewser, told TheWrap. “A lot of the timely sketches this season haven’t been funny.”

Take, for example, the March 5th show. Following a week dominated by Charlie Sheen’s bizarre interviews, there was very little doubt what the cold open of “Saturday Night Live” would centre around.

The sketch featured Bill Hader as Sheen, hosting a talk show (“Duh! Winning! With Charlie Sheen”) that featured Christina Aguilera, Lindsay Lohan (played by host Miley Cyrus), fired Dior fashion director John Galliano and embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi — all figures that provided late-night joke fodder the week leading up to the show.

It felt stale. Sheen’s meltdown began on Monday, five days before “SNL” aired, and the jokes — while funny — would’ve been funnier on Tuesday, when other late-night shows, like fellow Rockefeller centre tenants “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” were exhaustively skewering Sheen. (Fallon delivered perhaps the best Sheen impersonation on Wednesday — starring in a faux-fragance commercial, Calvin Klein-style, for Sheen’s “Winning” scent.)

Lorne Michaels, the show’s executive producer, was not available to comment for this story, and NBC declined to comment. But an individual close to the show said that SNL’s brand is that of a live program, and producers believe that releasing content to the web early might diminish that. 

SNL makes some of the most viral digital shorts out there -– “Lazy Sunday,” “Jizz in My Pants,” “Dick in a Box,” Natalie Portman’s foray into rap. So the timing of Sheen’s meltdown’s begs the question: Why does “SNL” wait around until Saturday to produce comedy?

The shorts take “SNL” as many as five days to write, shoot and edit. The show currently has no plans to alter its shooting schedule, although during the 2008 presidential election it did release special Thursday editions of its news.

This post originally appeared at TheWrap.com.

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