Saturday Night Live has been on TV since pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock and observed topical humor about Pocahontas and beavers before screaming “live from New Amsterdam it’s Saturday Night” at about 6 PM to a handful of Puritans who didn’t much care for the aggressive nature of that proclamation.
Since its inception, the monologue has been the touchstone of any episode, it sets the show off and introduces you to the host. Louis CK recently chose to do a stand up bit complete with hand held microphone and it was one of the best opening monologues ever. Others, particularly hosts who don’t make their living with comedy, often struggle through monologues so terrible that you, as an audience member, feel twisting, diarrhea-like gut pain just watching it. Did you see Eli Manning? Paris Hilton? January Jones? I could embed a couple of those but I won’t because they suck and I don’t want to see them again.
Several elements need to come together to make a really abysmal SNL monologue, so let’s break it down.
The key ingredient to failing your SNL monologue is to not be a funny person. At all. Eli Manning probably has made someone laugh before, but a football in the groin makes people laugh and it’s not the same thing. Likewise Steven Seagal is the exact opposite of funny. Steven Seagal could take a stand up bit written by Louis CK, George Carlin, Patton Oswalt, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks, perform it and not only not get a laugh, but probably make a few people so upset they have to leave before the show is over.
January Jones recently hosted SNL and the entirety of her monologue was on the shoulders of three cast members pretending to be obsessed Mad Men fans. January Jones, the person, has less personality than a coat rack. Her fame exists in a cosmic bubble of nonsense that no one understands since she is boring in every way and isn’t nearly attractive enough to justify why she gets any acting roles at all. Her career as an actor makes as much sense as Sean Penn being the next Pope since he played a priest in a movie once.
If you find yourself in a position to host SNL, make sure your fame is dubious at best and most mentions of you in the press are mocking ones. Once on set, try to argue with cast and writers over what they want you to say and deliver your lines with the tone deaf monotone of a humorless zombie ordering the Sunday brains special at a rundown diner for the 1000th day in a row.
If possible, try to be famous for a non-acting reason. Athletes, media personalities and musicians often fail the worst at hosting, but if you are an actor make sure you’ve never had a role that made someone smile. Ever. Steven Seagal.
SNL writing is like a dark fantasy stew whereby one person can have a bite and gain fantastical powers and the next person has a taste and dies of mega-dysentery right on the spot. You would think after so many years they would hire some copy editors to go over the final script and point out all the shit that is horribly unfunny, but no one has done that yet, so every episode is like a mortar range of hilarity under fire from blind guys. Some hits and some terrible misses. Some sketches still seem to be entirely the fault of Horatio Sanz, even though he’s no longer there. God damn Horatio Sanz.
You will need to direct your monologue writer towards something just abysmal. Do you have a new movie coming out? Talk about it, because people in the audience care and don’t know already that you have a movie coming out. If you’re not an actor, talk about whatever other reason you’re currently a trending topic, being the only reason you’re the host of SNL and what everyone already knows about you, then use it to awkwardly segue into maybe a musical number or a “funny” story about the time you had worms.
SNL monologues tend to ascribe to no topic at all – Louis CK’s stand up bit was brilliant because it wasn’t on a particular theme, he talks about a few things, as stand up comedians are wont to do – or they latch on to a terribly uninteresting topic and shake it to death. Like Taylor Swift’s monologue song. Some people really liked that. Some people. Some people also like to get peed on.
If you have nothing funny to say during the monologue you really shouldn’t say anything. Paris Hilton did her monologue mostly focused on one of her little shit trickle dogs. Then Kenan Thompson came out with another little dog and the dogs had a conversation and it was preposterous and sad for all involved, especially the dogs.
I think back in the day Milton Berle did his monologue about vagina and it’s considered one of the bad hosting gigs in the history of SNL but I have to admit it sounds appealing. It still may have been awful though. Maybe it was about bad vagina.
To really bomb hard, and this comes with some sincerity from my own worldly experience, maybe focus your entire monologue on mocking a popular religion such as Catholicism, or just Christianity in general. Failing that, a really hardcore misogynist rant, something about how you hate New York, or an empathetic soliloquy about Hitler.