Saturday Night Live and American TV

Saturday Night Live and American TV

Edited by Nick Marx, Matt Sienkiewicz and Ron Becker
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/02/2013
Format: Hardback 25 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01077-3
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For over 35 years, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" has greeted late night–TV viewers looking for the best in sketch comedy and popular music. SNL is the variety show that launched the careers of a mass of comedians including Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Chris Farley, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Adam Sandler, among others. Week after week, SNL has produced unforgettable sketches and provocative political satire, adapting to changing times while staying true to its original vision of performing timely topical humor. With essays that address issues ranging from race and gender to authorship and comedic performance, "Saturday Night Live" and American TV follows the history of this 36-time Emmy-winning show and its place in the shifting social and media landscape of American television.

Author Bio

Nick Marx is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Colorado State University.

Matt Sienkiewicz is Assistant Professor of Communication and International Studies at Boston College.

Ron Becker is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Miami University of Ohio where he is also an affiliate of the American Studies, Film Studies, and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies programs. He is the author of Gay TV and Straight America.


“The story of a 36-time Emmy-winning variety show, its mass of comedians, unforgettable sketches and provocative political satire.”

“The editors of this volume have produced a book that is not just important but vital. 'Saturday Night Live' and American TV offers a diversity of perspectives, and the essays are strong from start to finish. It stands out as distinctive.”
 — Christine Becker, author of It's the Pictures That Got Small: Hollywood Film Stars on 1950s Television

“Saturday Night Live is an important piece of US television's history and present, and Marx, Sienkiewicz, and Becker have collected a comparably substantive roster of authors to deftly examine the show from an expansive range of perspectives. An excellent contribution to television studies, the collection definitively covers the show's evolving form, approach, engagement with post-network technologies, and incorporation of social politics over its profound thirty-five year history.”
 — Amanda D. Lotz, author of The Television Will Be Revolutionized

“For SNL fans, 'Saturday Night Live' and American TV is an engaging analysis that places the show in a larger context of modern media studies, exploring SNL's impact on the cultural landscape both as a satiric reflection and surreptitious political peacemaker. The editors have compiled a thorough and often surprising volume that explores every part of the SNL machine as well as the many advances it's made in the last ten years. A must-have on the SNL lover's bookshelf.”
 — Megh Wright,

“'Saturday Night Live' and American TV offers an unprecedented, comprehensive, and lively examination of critical transformations and creative strategies that historically have allowed SNL to demonstrate 'continuity and innovation,' relevance and convention, 'Live, from New York!' since 1975. Chapters re-examine common narratives about SNL and bring new attention to the series’ post-millennial transformations and extensions. 'Saturday Night Live' and American TV represents a critical model for understanding and assessing the characteristics of those rare 'old' and 'new' media entities that exhibit long-term success and ongoing, cross-generational, national, cultural relevance in an era of presumed ephemerality.”
 — Victoria E. Johnson, Author of Heartland TV: Primetime Television and the Struggle for U.S. Identity

“All the essays are scholarly and clear, and all end with a substantive bibliography. . . . The book is equally useful as a cohesive book or as a series of self-contained essays for a variety of disciplines. . . . Highly recommended. ”
 — Choice

“Readers looking for an informative collection of essays from challenging vantage points will find a lot to love here.”
 — PopMatters

“If you like the variety show that weekly brings us outstanding sketch comedy and popular music, you'll find this book worthy. ”

“Readers looking for a more analytical approach to SNL will want to check out this interesting collection of essays. . . . The book is undeniably interesting as it explores the show from angles that many readers probably haven’t encountered previously.”
 — Booklist

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Situating Saturday Night Live within American Television Culture / Nick Marx, Matt Sienkiewicz, and Ron Becker
Part I: Live from New York on NBC
2. The Evolution of Saturday Night / Michele Hilmes
3. "Live from New York!" / Susan Murray
4. Michael O’Donoghue, Experimental Television Comedy, and Saturday Night Live’s Authorship / Evan Elkins
Part II: Staying Alive on Saturday Night
5. Politics and the Brand: Saturday Night Live’s Campaign Season Humor and Cultural Relevance / Jeffrey P. Jones
6. Speaking Too Soon: SNL, 9/11 and the Remaking of American Irony / Matt Sienkiewicz
7. Live Music: Mediating Musical Performance and Discord on Saturday Night Live / Alyxandra Vesey
8. Going Backstage: Network Heritage, Industrial Identities, and Reiterated Mediation of Saturday Night Live’s Work Worlds / Derek Johnson
Part III: Social Politics and Comedic Representation
9: Bringing the Black: Eddie Murphy and African American Humor on Saturday Night Live / Racquel Gates
10. "Is this the Era of the Woman?": SNL’s Gender Politics in the New Millennium / Caryn Murphy
11. "Reading Fauxbama: ‘Honeyface’ Performance on SNL" / Mary Beltrán
Part IV: Beyond Saturday Night, Beyond Television
12.Skits Strung Together: Performance, Narrative, and the Sketch Comedy Aesthetic in SNL Films / Nick Marx
13. Andy Samberg’s Digital Success Story and Other Myths of the Internet Comedy Club / Ethan Thompson and Ethan Tussey
14. Sketches Gone Viral: From Watercooler Talk to Participatory Comedy / David Gurney