Why Tonight’s SNL with Betty White and Jay-Z Will Be a Success No Matter What


If you read the Internet at all this week, you might be inclined to think there’s a cross-generational, interracial sex tape about. As it turns out, all of the buzz is just based on an episode of Saturday Night Live, airing tonight, with host Betty White and musical guest Jay-Z. The show will also feature appearances from SNL veterans Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, and Rachel Dratch.

The Golden Girls‘ Rose and Password star landed the hosting job thanks to a viral campaign online beginning in January called “Betty White to host SNL (please),” which hit about half a million members before the show agreed to let it happen. White, 88, will be the oldest host in the show’s history.

So sure, it’s a bit of a senior citizen Cinderella story, but everyone endlessly hyping the episode is choosing to willfully ignore just how uneven and disappointing Saturday Night Live tends to be. But more importantly, it speaks to the age in which we live, with regard to television, and especially comedy.

It will be interesting to see how the ratings do pan out, but the safe bet is that we’re not going to be seeing Two and Half Men numbers. Despite the build-up and excitement that seems to surround this particular episode, the truth is, many will still fail to tune in. It’s not unlike the massive rallying of support seen online for Conan O’Brien during the Late Night debacle and the question that came up both often and not enough: Where were all of these Team Coco fans while his ratings were floundering?

The answer is obvious: They were online, the same place they made all of that noise, watching just the good parts of a show charged with being funny for far longer and more often than it’s possible to be funny for. That’s the problem with the late night shows, Saturday Night Live, headlining stand-up acts, etc. It’s really fucking hard to make people laugh for an hour straight every day or week or even month, or to quickly come up with smart, original takes on everything happening in the world, always. Ask a blogger.

Which is why the Internet is the best thing to happen recently to people like Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien, and now Betty White. They’re immortalized online at their best and not a ton of people are watching the original broadcast anyway. Meaning, no matter how high the Internet set the bar for White’s performance tonight, they’ll refuse to be let down by just slicing and dicing the show down into only its best moments, making sure the “comedic history” we’re all writing tonight is very carefully edited. When we all get home late tonight — or when we wake up hung over tomorrow morning — we’ll all have a good few minutes of laughs waiting for us.

Now if only Jay-Z would play the old shit.