Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a pillar of American TV culture. It has a lot of history, it has a very talented team of writers that still get laughs out of the target demographic, but it’s not afraid of resorting to the obvious joke in a given scenario because the point of the show is to be kind of rushed. It’s live, and they only have a week to plan it, and there’s no do-overs. When you consider the format and compare it to something like ‘The Simpsons’, which has continually gotten simpler and simpler with jokes until they’re barely jokes at all despite having more time to write the episodes, it’s honestly kind of impressive that SNL has been as consistent as it has over the years.
However, by the nature of the industry, they end up churning through cast members and writers at a decent pace. This does more good than bad, usually. The material naturally freshens up with new eyes on it, and outside of a few select incidents (the Elon-Musk-as-Wario episode truly lives in infamy) the show is able to keep marching despite the turnover. It’s still a juggernaut, and while there may be more good TV out there than ever, it’s still beloved by many.
You don’t end up on SNL accidentally. The guests may be random one-offs from a variety of professions, but the core cast is entirely comedians with years and years of experience. Of course Musk and any other number of guests have sucked – the guests are usually famous for something other than comedy, and comedy is really hard. Especially when you have to rush it out in a week.
Jake Novak, who – if you know him at all – you likely know as ‘some guy on TikTok’, is better known for his singing and rapping. As many people in the comments of his videos and subsequent criticism videos have put it, he’s a theater kid. He’s heavily inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and lead actor in the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, and it shows quite a bit. His songs might sometimes be funny, but other times they’re political, and many times they’re just telling a story.
Jake Novak has a TikTok and Youtube account, but has either purposefully or accidentally left out any sort of other experience that SNL would be looking for, like… a comedy career offline, or standup experience, or experience writing for a TV show. In his ‘audition’ song, he says he wants to be the next SNL cast member, but he doesn’t point to years of experience or tried-and-true comedic routines, he points out how similar he is to Lin Manuel-Miranda and that he’s good at songwriting. That’s nice, but it’s not what SNL does. It’s what Lin-Manuel Miranda does. He says he wants to give them the next big thing and that he’s good at acting (which he tries to demonstrate in the video) but doesn’t give anything else. He hasn’t released anything new since the SNL ‘audition’ video. It’s as of yet unclear if he’s going to abandon his TikTok altogether – he hasn’t posted since then.
I Want To Be Cancelled
Worse still was one of the first videos he ever posted to his TikTok channel, one in which he says he wants to be canceled so everyone will know his name and he can get enough recognition to be verified on Twitter. This is understandably the last thing any current TV show wants one of its people to say. It is a nightmare for a studio. Right now, DC Comics is trying to handle Ezra Miller getting themselves cancelled for a number of things they did while in Hawai’i, and it’s not going well. Jake Novak is obviously joking by listing out cancelable crimes that he’d never do, and at the end says he could get by with being canceled ‘just a little’ for something minor and stupid, but making the joke in the first place feels desperate if not tone-deaf.
You want to be famous, and you’ll do anything to get it? Including being cancelled or doing something cancellable? You made a whole song about it because you’re ‘jokingly’ jealous of how much (negative!!) fame and press the cancelled people are getting for their very real cases of sexual harassment? And the ‘a little cancellable’ items he lists off aren’t exactly great either – ‘misgendering a tadpole’ rings a little too much like the right-wing joke of ‘did you just assume my gender?!’ for the audience he seems to be trying to attract. This is exactly the kind of video that comes back to haunt you after you ‘make it big’, and that alone may have made him too radioactive to hire, the kind of thing that would get you cancelled. Assuming he was ever actually a possibility in the first place. Which he wasn’t.
There was a misunderstanding somewhere between skills he perceived were needed and what a TV show like SNL actually wants its staff to do. If Pete Davidson did a song about wanting to join SNL as a gag, it’d be funny… when Jake Novak does it, it’s just sort of cringe, because he seems to be assuming he’s on the same level as the staff that’s already on the show because he’s big on TikTok and he has flow. He perceives himself to be their peer, at least in the video. He is not.
This divide is the difference between ‘old media’ and ‘new media’. Old media is generally the stuff like newspapers, TV shows, movies, etc. that a team of people make and is generally regulated. New media, on the other hand, is the stuff you see on Youtube, made with minimal or no staff aside from the presenter, and not subject to the same rules about presentability or censoring. New media has made it possible for nearly anyone to become famous given a little luck – you don’t need to audition to be a Youtuber! But old media remains much as it used to, relying on certain markers to identify who will be successful in a given role and who won’t be. It’s rare for a non-reality show to be recruiting from social media because it doesn’t work as well as traditional methods of finding funny people do.
If anything, the track record so far has been kind of bad, with new media stars being given shows they have to write for and discovering how hard writing is when you have to fill 22 minutes with something. A huge chunk of comedy is timing, so when you get used to being able to make the show as long or as short as you want, a hard time limit feels suffocating for both the viewer and the writer.The Annoying Orange, for example. Or Fred, or Jake Paul. All of them famous online, none of them capable of handling a TV show.
TikTok is especially new – the set of skills to make a 45 second long song don’t clearly translate to the writing room for a 5, 10, or 15 minute bit. SNL rarely uses singing anyway. He addresses his videos directly to Lorne Michaels which might be for the sake of rhyming or getting his point across, but it comes across as incredibly arrogant, especially when the rest of the song seems to imply he’s auditioning for the show itself, to be next to all of the big important comedians, and not just a bit writer somewhere in the back. His one thing is the singing, and that’s plenty for new media online, but not nearly enough for a TV show. This is the kind of audition you’d make if you wanted to make a short with another Youtuber or TikToker, not a fully staffed old-media TV show! Formatting and content aside, this wasn’t a genius attention grab anyway. Famous online does not equal famous enough for TV.
All that said, don’t bully the guy – he was doing what he loved and the video blew up unexpectedly on him. His audience, wherever they may be now, was interested enough to follow him.