'Saturday Night Live' Stops Accepting Jokes From Freelancers

Sep 14, 2017
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

People who write jokes on a freelance basis are losing a precious customer - "Saturday Night Live's" "Weekend Update." Here's NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Late-night comedy shows burn through a lot of material.

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JIMMY FALLON: Meanwhile, I saw that Hillary's going on a cross-country tour to promote the book. And Democrats said, oh, so now you'll visit some swing states.

(LAUGHTER)

BLAIR: They need a lot of jokes, so for years they put out a call to freelancers. Dan Pasternack used to write jokes for Jay Leno. He says the way it typically works is shows send writers a list of the day's news stories. He'd wake up and get to work.

DAN PASTERNACK: It was like, oh, great. I'll get up in the morning, I'll have a cup of coffee and I'll write 20 jokes. You know, it was my version of doing the crossword.

BLAIR: According to the comedy website Splitsider, "Saturday Night Live" sent out a message to its pool of freelancers that said, starting this season, "Weekend Update" would no longer be accepting joke submissions. NBC preferred not to comment. But Pasternack says most shows have stopped the practice.

PASTERNACK: I think these shows started feeling like it was more trouble than it was worth. They were being bombarded with a lot of haystacks and precious few needles.

BLAIR: Pasternack says SNL has developed a tight and talented group of writers, including "Weekend Update" co-host Michael Che.

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MICHAEL CHE: Nazis, Confederates - what's with all these old-timey threats making comebacks? What's next, Vikings, polio?

(LAUGHTER)

BLAIR: Freelancers used to be able to make about $100 per joke. But writers have also said getting a joke on the air was rare. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE MOHAWKS' "PEPSI") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.