Melissa McCarthy Deserved Better Material For Her SNL Hosting Gig

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.

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    • Just Stop Eating So Much

      Thank you so much for being one of the few people to call out this very hateful and sloppy humor. I recently blogged about this myself. As an actress who has recently earned her more-than-deserved share of clout in the entertainment industry, I would have expected Ms. McCarthy to take a stand against performing what was essentially the same fat joke over and over again. Would it have been so wrong for an equal amount of the show’s skits to not have anything to do with girth or an over-hungry attitude?

    • Tyler

      I’m curious to know how much influence McCarthy had in those sketches, being a Groundlings alum.

      • Maria

        Two of the sketches I actually saw a few years ago almost verbatim at The Groundlings- The Hidden Valley Ranch and The Co-Worker Crush w/ Horse Balloon. Both were absolutely hilarious in person and nearly impossible to explain to others. I believe I recall her having a writing credit on both of those, but I can’t be positive. While I wish they had diversified some of her characters, I was glad some of her own material was in the show.

    • @nateharris

      I don’t see it at all. Not a bit. The only sketch in which her weight was a punchline at all was the stairs one, and even then I’ve seen other reviews that thought the joke to be the idea that someone simply can’t operate stairs. It seems to me that you’re conflating physical humor with fat jokes simply because she is overweight, when in fact her size is merely incidental to nearly every laugh in the show. Might some people have been laughing because she’s overweight? Sure, there are all sorts of simpletons out there. Was the material complicit in that? Not at all. Creatives can’t be held responsible for every way in which their material might be interpreted.

      You may have found her unattractive in the first sketch but to project that upon Sudeikis’ character when he at no point indicates that to be the case (he is in fact put off because, uh, he’s a married man and being grievously sexually harassed) is unfair, especially when the idea that she’s unattractive is quickly subverted by Hader’s interest in her.

      Why was the Hidden Valley Ranch sketch insensitive…? Because it involved food? Is that the only reason? The joke of her spraying the bottle on her face had NOTHING to do with gluttony or being fat but rather is sourced in her character’s over-enthusiasm (evident from the first beat of the sketch) and desire to please. It’s not like she was cramming dressing in her face and yelling “GET OFF ME, I’M STARVING”; her character was an already-overstated and offbeat woman that acted out in an attempt to impress the proctor. And it was delightful.

      The internet commenters sketch had no tangential connection to her weight (and you skimmed over it), nor did the final sketch, as you noted. The cold open cast McCarthy and Wiig opposite each other with all sorts of ridiculous prostheses; to object to her inclusion but not Wiig’s seems odd, as though overweight people can’t be made to be ugly.

      I don’t know what your solution here would be, that the writers pretend she’s thin? Giving her a bunch of Gabourey Sidibe material would have been cutting off her considerable talent at the knees. The writers have to tailor their work to the strengths of their host. THIS is why they write “Megan Fox is hot” jokes; not because they’re idiots, but because Megan Fox is not a comedic actor and her only significant talent is being really hot.

      I’m sorry, I think it does a huge disservice to everyone involved to discount all the beautifully subtle, hilarious things that McCarthy did in between the broader physical comedy just because the material didn’t treat her as a fragile flower that could only be put in situations or premises without any physicality or food.

      Also it’s really annoying that I can’t cut or copy my own typing in this box without the Meebo share module popping up and preventing me from doing so.

    • Rachel

      I also have more or less followed her career from Gilmore Girls and I have no idea what her appeal is every since she took on the stereotypical fat/gross role in everything she does now. I don’t get what’s funny about it and why everyone acts like her role in Bridesmaids was comedic genius when it was pretty much the most unintelligible humor ever. That whole movie trying to appeal to men and women by appealing to idiots and somehow her fame has only risen and is now expanding into fashion?! what woman would want to identify with this? ‘megan fox is hot’ in not a joke’ but being fat is not a joke either and by no means does it automatically give anyone comedic credibility. What a waste

    • Lauren

      If you are watching SNL for intelligent humor, you may want to start tuning into a different program. It’s rare that an episode of SNL is going to be anything other than slapstick easy laughs.

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    • Marilyn

      I absolutely agree with Jamie’s review and most of the responses. We’re in the 21st century–isn’t it time to retire the “fat people are funny/obnoxious/laughable/unsexy/clumsy/gluttonous” so-called humor, or at least criticize the parade of one-note fat-joke sketches the writers of SNL came up with for Melissa McCarthy. Although I missed the beginning of the show, the sketches I did see were devoted to such unfunny perspectives as “isn’t the fat woman ugly or man-crazy (and unaware of how revolting “normal” men would/should find her) or so fat she falls over or such a pig that she drinks a whole bottle of ranch dressing.” As Jamie astutely notes, no one would have written any skits like these for a thin or average size woman. (But it’s also true that the SNL writers rarely write well for women, period.) I’m surprised McCarthy would let herself portray these unfunny stereotypical characters, unless she’s willing to be the butt (literally and figuratively) of any unfunny “joke” in order to be the host of SNL. Would SNL writers have written “isn’t it funny that X actor/famous person is black–so let’s make fun of his or her being black” skits? There’s already way too much anti-fat prejudice in a country in which more than half the population is overwight. It’s the last “safe” prejudice. Women are always being judged on their physical appearance in a way that men aren’t in this culture. But SNL also has a habit of putting fat people in the regular cast just because they’re fat and in order to be in skits that “poke the fatty” (see old Chris Farley skits in particular).

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