There’s not much time for sadness in Saturday Night Live’s Studio 8H. Writers’ rooms and sets are filled with over-the-top sketches, ridiculous characters and suspensions of reality.
Thus, it comes as a welcome surprise to see three SNL alums taking on much darker subject material – death, specifically – in new, much subtler dramedies hitting theaters today.
Tina Fey co-stars in “This is Where I Leave You” about a family banding together after the death of their father. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig co-star in “The Skeleton Twins, ” which centers around a brother and sister who reconnect after they both attempt suicide.
The SNL all-stars’ jump from blatant humor to quieter, emotional dark comedy isn’t that farfetched.
The recent deaths of comedians Robin Williams and Joan Rivers have brought to light the more painful elements of comedy. Williams struggled with depression and Rivers dealt with bankruptcy and her husband’s suicide.
If you’ve ever watched any of Louis C.K. or George Carlin’s stand-up, you know that some of the best comedy bits evolve as a way to cope with sadness and to feel connected.
Wiig and Hader’s film is getting especially good reviews, and their chemistry from SNL definitely helps. It goes to show that a great performer is a great performer, no matter the context or subject matter.
Putting actors and actresses known solely for comedy into films about death, mental illness and suicide is also perhaps a way for us to feel more comfortable talking about these subjects openly.
No one is solely serious or lighthearted, and it’s great to see Hader, Fey and Wiig proving that by tackling another genre.