Why Does “SNL” Still Think Two Men Kissing Is a Joke?

Two straight men kissing for laughs isn't edgy or shocking, it's lazy and homophobic

john krasinski and pete davidson on snl
How is this a punchline?

In many ways, the world was a different place when Saturday Night Live went on its winter hiatus last year. While the show has been off the air, we’ve experienced an insurrection at the Capitol, an impeachment (again), the inauguration of a new president and some stock market goofiness that feels straight out of The Wolf of Wall Street. Naturally, when the sketch comedy show made its return on Saturday night with host John Krasinski, viewers were eager to see how it would tackle the slew of major news stories it missed while it was away.

While the show did address some of those current events in its cold open, Krasinski’s monologue felt trapped in the past. Using the “audience Q&A” format the show often relies on for host monologues, the general premise was everyone confusing Krasinski for Jim, his popular character from The Office, with Kenan Thompson appearing at one point and insisting that the host “kiss Pam.” (The Office debuted in 2005 and has been off the air since 2013, so jokes about people confusing Krasinksi for his character feel a little stale.)

Eventually, Pete Davidson appeared to try to explain why the show was doing a Jim-and-Pam bit in the year 2021 (and perhaps subtly plug the fact that The Office is now exclusively streaming on NBC’s Peacock service): “I think what’s happening is everyone’s been stuck inside for a year watching The Office non-stop so Jim and Pam are, like, really real for them,” he said. That, of course, prompted Thompson to ask if Davidson was Pam, resulting in the comedian and host deciding to just give the people what they want and smooching to end the monologue.

Get it?? They’re two straight men, but they KISSED! Again, it’s 2021 — why is Saturday Night Live still using two men kissing as a punchline? The show has a long, sad history of using same-sex kisses for laughs, but it’s especially disappointing that it continues to this day. What exactly is the intended joke here? Would the bit make sense if Davidson was swapped out for, say, Cecily Strong or another female cast member? SNL acts as though two men kissing on television is somehow shocking or edgy, but it hasn’t been for at least 25 years. Bits like these were already lazy and unfunny when they were still commonplace in the early aughts.

Jokes that are rooted in homophobia are always a disappointment, but Saturday Night Live‘s latest feels especially egregious now given that the show currently has two openly gay cast members, Kate McKinnon and Bowen Yang, and regularly tries to position itself as a more open-minded alternative to the conservative viewpoints it so often satirizes. How must McKinnon and Yang feel to watch their coworkers still engaging in same-sex kisses as a joke?

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