SNL started the Adam Driver / Olivia Rodrigo episode with a terribly offensive sketch about the campus response to Jew-hatred.
I haven’t chimed in earlier because writing about the unfortunate rise in Jew-hatred during the past two months has been emotionally exhausting. Where Pete Davidson said something in the first SNL following the attacks, this past Saturday’s episode took a turn into the offensive territory. It isn’t that comedy is subjective but there are lines that comedians and sketch comedy series should not cross. What happened is that SNL crossed that line. Is it surprising? Not really–this is the same series that welcomed back Dave Chappelle and apparently had no problem with his antisemitism.
Compare the SNL response to the hearing with that of Israeli sketch comedy series Eretz Nehederet. The Israeli sketch took a much better approach and did so through a Harry Potter lens. Rather than Jews, Dumbledore is asking about whether or not calling for the genocide of mudbloods would be bullying and harassment under the Hogwarts code of conduct. This is what SNL should have done but failed to do so and that’s one of the reasons why the longtime NBC series is getting called out.
There is absolutely nothing funny about calling for the genocide of Jews. I’m not going to rehash the sketch but I’m glad that Cecily Strong decided against performing in the live show. I’ll get into my own issues with Elise Stefanik below but the display by university administrators last week was an embarrassment. Nobody should be okay with calling for the genocide of Jews. Ever.
Days before the sketch aired, then-Penn President Liz Magill resigned after her terrible response during the recent congressional hearing on campus antisemitism. Board of Trustees Chair Scott L. Bok also resigned with Julie Platt replacing him.
After the weekend, we learned that the Harvard Corporation is backing President Claudine Gay following her remarks at the same hearings. This came after faculty and alumni signed letters of support. One can only hope that Harvard will follow through by doing better in responding to Jew-hatred on campus.
Congressman Jamie Raskin responded to Rep. Elise Stefanik, who grilled the Penn, Harvard, and MIT presidents last week. Here is Thread 1 and here is Thread 2, where Raskin believes Stefanik’s account to be hacked. Moreover, Rep. Stefanik asks for President Joe Biden’s response days after Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates released a White House press statement. Raskin is not wrong to do so because Stefanik is inconsistent in calling out Jew-hatred. On one hand, she is right to grill the presidents for the abhorrent levels of Jew-hatred on campus. However, she has yet to call out the same Jew-hatred from the right-wing. Where was she in calling out Donald Trump and others? The same Trump that hosted a white nationalist at his residence! It otherwise makes her look performative–the inconsistency is prevalent across the political spectrum.
It’s one thing to support freedom of speech and expression. However, there need to be consequences when such speech and expression crosses a line into hate speech. Say what you will about the U.S. Constitution but one would think that bullying and harassing Jewish students–which we know has happened–would be a violation of university policies. We’ve already seen some universities taking action, such as Brandeis, in suspending certain organizations over violating policies.
As I write this, the Department of Education is launching Title VI investigations about alleged ethnic discrimination at Stanford, UCLA, Rutgers, and UCSD. These investigations join dozens of others–including Harvard, Penn, Columbia–about both antisemitism and Islamophobia.
I rarely watch SNL these days because of the open transphobia that tends to take place. While I watched SNL for a number of years, I’m not so sure that I can ever watch again. Not after one of the worst sketches in their entire history. Jew-hatred and the act of calling out Jew-hatred is not nor will it ever be funny–even when it comes to the Holocaust, there is a fine line to walk. Comedians and comedy writers should know better.