Saturday Night Live writer criticizes talk shows for being too political

The comedian doesn't like what the medium has become.
First Presidential Debate; Biden vs Trump
First Presidential Debate; Biden vs Trump / Anadolu/GettyImages

Politics have sucked up most of the oxygen in the room when it comes to late night television. Since the 2016 election, it's become virtually impossible to watch an episode of a late night talk show that doesn't have some allusion to politics or Donald Trump.

This has been effective for ratings, but some industry veterans feel it has had a negative impact on the late night medium. One of these veterans is Alex English. The multi-faceted comedian has been a writer on Saturday Night Live since 2021, and he recently talked about this political shift during an interview with Wired.

Alex English misses the old late night format

Alex English
2024 Writers Guild Awards / Theo Wargo/GettyImages

English told the outlet that the late night monologue used to be a device to bring viewers together, but has now become a source of divide:

"The late-night show[s] definitely [don't bring people together]. The political monologue. It’s all Trump this, Biden that."

English compared the current model used by Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert to classic late night hosts, who relied on broad comedic topics to charm their viewers. "I miss the days of Johnny Carson where they were just sitting on a couch talking and being naughty for an hour," he opined. "It was actual late-night TV."

SNL has also been accused of leaning into political humor

Saturday Night Live - Season 48
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Pictured: "Saturday Night Live" Key Art -- (Photo by: NBCUniversal) /

Alex English also recalled watching Arsenio Hall put similar practices into play when he was watching late night TV as a child. "I watch old clips of Johnny Carson and Arsenio Hall," the writer said. "Rarely would you hear them make a political comment, much less a joke. I wish that would come back. Because at this point, there’s no joke to make about what’s happening."

It's worth noting that Saturday Night Live has also been accused of leaning heavily into political material during the years in which English has been a writer. He didn't comment on this discrepancy, and given that the U.S. is in the thick of a presidential election, it's safe to assume the political content is just going to increase.

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