Lorne Michaels Talks "Narrowcasting," 'Saturday Night Live' Tribute to Chris Farley
"When you are doing political work it means that you have influence, particularly in the kind of world we are in now, in the red states as opposed to performing for the blue states and preaching to the choir," he said of being on network TV.
Speaking at Cannes Lions, Lorne Michaels downplayed 2019's political sketches on Saturday Night Live, saying that the tradition of skewering leaders and personalities has always been part of the show, and that the message is a way to bridge the gap between the coasts in a polarized political era.
The NBC late night mainstay's creator and producer said even the subjects love the parodies — including President Donald Trump, who has hosted the show in the past. “Everybody who is in a position of power, who should be offended, is also a fan,” he said. “They go, 'Why did it have to be me?' But they understand that it's not personal. I think if you're hitting the president of the United States, you're hitting everyone else."
Michaels added that the political comedy tradition stretches all the way back to the first episodes, which touched on the Vietnam War, Watergate and the security situation of New York City at the time. "The politics, the music, that is all from that time."
But, Michales argued, SNL would never get the green light today. "You couldn't do this show now, mostly because of budget," he said. "We're in an age of narrowcasting, and we are in broadcasting."
The wide reach of network TV — as opposed to niche viewing and bingeing — allows for the show to continue to reach a diverse audience. "The comfort of being in broadcasting, we are broadcasting in all 50 states. And when you are doing political work it means that you have influence, particularly in the kind of world we are in now, in the red states as opposed to performing for the blue states and preaching to the choir.
"So there's some other level of a small town, you are reaching people," he added. "There are people all over the country that are smart, sophisticated."
Michaels also discussed Adam Sandler's recent tribute to the late Chris Farley when he hosted the show in May. "What was interesting about Sandler's tribute to Chris Farley, [is that] Chris was on the show in the late '80s and early '90s. What was striking was watching the current cast, who grew up on those guys, and those guys who grew up on the original cast, we sort of saw the continuity from the beginnings all the way to season 45," he said. "You sort of see people standing on the shoulders of people that came before."
Michaels added that he feels that once the show passed 40 years, it was enshrined as an institution with an aura of "permanence," and will continue even after he has left the show, though he has no plans to do so anytime soon. "I'm going to be there as long as it continues," he said.