Let’s Get Small: The Rise of Artisanal TV Comedy

TIME

On Feb. 15, Saturday Night Live marks its 40th anniversary. What is there to say about the show that wasn’t true on its 25th, that won’t be on its 50th, 100th, or whatever numbering system will be used by the sentient cockroaches who take over civilization and SNL? That it’s a TV legend. That’s it’s shaped decades of American comedy. And that it isn’t what it used to be.

Of course, people have been saying that SNL isn’t what it used to be since, oh, 1976. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be, though: not so much a show as an institution, like a comedy Meet the Press, weighing in on the news, enshrining pop culture phenomena and tapping future megastars. If it doesn’t excel at any particular thing, it’s because it needs to be everything, a broad show with big cast of flexible mimics that can strike…

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