STORY BY TIM WEBBER
Despite its innocent and perhaps endearing name, one sketch from last week’s “Saturday Night Live” has created a firestorm of controversy — pun mostly intended.
On the Saturday Night Live website, the sketch is titled “Father Daughter Ad,” a moniker which, while completely true, also represents about 5 percent of what’s actually involved in the clip.
If you haven’t seen it already, I urge you to go to your nearest computer or other video-streaming device and look it up immediately, mostly because I don’t want to ruin anything for you.
Consider this your spoiler alert. Go. Now. I’ll wait.
Finished? Good. Now that you’ve seen the clip, you can probably see how the sketch has been perceived as insensitive and controversial. It’s almost taboo to laugh at ISIS because ISIS is terrible, made up of terrible people who do terrible, terrible things.
But that’s exactly why it’s important to laugh at them. Laughter humanizes something. If you can’t laugh at ISIS, it becomes a dark, serious organization that borders on invulnerability.
If laughter can’t defeat the enemy, what can?
While I was trying to formulate my own opinion on the sketch, I kept thinking about Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” a scathing satirical work from 1940 that parodied Adolf Hitler.
“The Great Dictator” was controversial as well, but fared extremely well with Western audiences and eventually landed on the National Film Registry.
“Father Daughter Ad” isn’t going to win any awards, but it brings a necessary edge to the ISIS discussion.
Recently, several teenage girls — no doubt the source of SNL’s satire — travelled from Britain to join ISIS. They weren’t alone. ISIS aggressively recruits young people to join their organization.
“Father Daughter Ad” puts those decisions into ridiculous perspective. It seems so foolish for Dakota Johnson’s young woman to hop into a vehicle with Kyle Mooney’s “Death to America” jihadist, but it also seems foolish for her dad, played by Taran Killam, to just let her go.
She could, after all, stay for another year of high school.
And underneath it all, the sketch subtly points towards the government — how could such a massive organization, which puts so many resources into combatting terrorism, allow people such as the titular daughter to flee to ISIS?
It’s an edge that SNL hasn’t had in a long time, certainly not since the mass exodus from its cast two years ago, which included head writer Seth Meyers.
There have been glimpses of SNL’s potential bite before, like an unaired sketch about the Ferguson protests from December. But up until “Father Daughter Ad”, SNL has rarely strayed into controversial territory.
However, I feel that most SNL fans, myself included, would prefer the writers to take more risks and border on controversy more often, rather than simply stick with the same tired material.
In comedy, you can’t get complacent.
If that means going after ISIS and potentially angering fans, the show will come out the better for it.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels famously asked then-mayor Rudy Giuliani, “Can we be funny?”
SNL would go on to prove then — as it does today and will in the future — that when times are darkest, we need comedy most of all.