The writing on the Melissa McCarthy-hosted SNL this past weekend was much like the characters she played: clumsy, sloppy, and kind of offensive.
When I first heard Melissa McCarthy was hosting Saturday Night Live, I got excited. I’ve followed her since Gilmore Girls (shut up) and I know she has a lot of different powers as an actress. Furthermore, I thought it would be nice to see the show deviate from the “conventionally attractive woman is conventionally attractive” formula it often resorts to when an actress hosts. (Note to writers: “Megan Fox is hot” is not a joke. Not even a little bit of one.) Unfortunately, her episode relied mainly on broad physical comedy and the kinds of stereotypes larger actors have been forced to play for quite some time. Or, as VH1′s Mark Graham put it:
Let’s break it down by sketch. First, in the hideous “Lawrence Welk Show” sketch that refuses to die, they had McCarthy chomp on a pumpkin. Then, in lieu of a well-written monologue, they had her and Kristen Wiig pretend to dance, which was funny because duh, fat people can’t dance. If I’d known how much worse it was going to get, though, I would’ve at least savored the chance to see McCarthy looking foxy in that sparkly tunic thing she had on before they poured ranch dressing all over her.
Next, they had McCarthy play an overzealous office worker who likes to sexually harass her male co-worker, the punchline of which seemed to be that she was unattractive. It was funny in the end when Bill Hader‘s character liked her, see, because no one would ever like a fat person in real life!
The “Internet commenters deserve to be punched” sketch went absolutely nowhere, and that’s a shame, because I would very much like to see the people who troll my blog posts skewered in an intelligent way. Then, of course, there was the Hidden Valley Ranch sketch, in which McCarthy drank a bottle of ranch dressing and hated on the skinny girl because hey, fatties be gluttonous! Next, they had her play an old timey Mae West type character who falls down the stairs a lot. And lastly, she got to get hit on by Andy Samberg in a sketch that could have had potential (partly because it was the only one where the joke didn’t revolve around her being fat), but seemed weirdly abbreviated.
It’s a shame that the writers gave her such poor material to work with, because Melissa McCarthy is a great comedic actress. Glimmers of this were evident in the well-timed way she delivered the odd decent line in between slapstick gags. But on the whole, it was an especially cringeworthy episode. In all but one of the sketches, you could not have subbed her out for a thin woman, because her appearance was the entire punchline. Contrast this with the Gabourey Sidibe episode, where the writers actually came up with strange and interesting premises for sketches, and it’s apparent that someone was asleep at the wheel.
In addition to reinforcing negative stereotypes about fat people, this type of writing is just not funny. Great humor is about subverting audience expectations, not fulfilling them. What’s the use of inviting women, the overweight, and minorities into the comedic establishment if they’re just going to be forced to play boring stereotypes? Let’s hope the next thing McCarthy signs onto doesn’t squander her so criminally.