It’s a sad truth, at least for me: the more you know about comedians and comics, the harder it is to laugh at them. There are notable exceptions of course (and as always): Martin Short, John Candy, Carol Burnett and a few more apparently are or were genuinely nice and relatively normal human beings. As a rule, however, extraordinary comedy talent is nourished by misery and emotional pain, and misery and emotional pain have a strong tendency to produce broken, sick, untrustworthy people.
For a lot of audience members, this isn’t a problem. For me, it is. I love great comedy, I’ve directed comedies, I’ve written comic scripts, revues, parodies and essays, and I’ve performed comedy. But once I learn that a comedy genius was or is a horrible human being, or acts like one sufficiently frequently not to be trusted, I just don’t enjoy watching and listening to that performer any more. The list of those who have landed on my “Can’t Make Me Laugh List” is too long to compile, and I really don’t care to encourage debates about whether it should matter that Charlie Chaplin was sexually attracted to little girls, or that Danny Kaye was a cruel misanthrope. It matters to me.
There are a few compensating advantages of this mindset, though. I haven’t watched a single minute of Saturday Night Live for so long I don’t even remember exactly when I started finding the show repugnant after years of never missing an episode. The reason I stopped watching was the show’s increasingly smug political bias that began to swallow the satire whole. I know it was somewhere around the George W. Bush presidency. (I had a similar experience then with David Letterman and The Daily Show.) SNL’s conversion into a full-time shill for progressives and Democrats became especially nauseating when it became addicted to using left-wing thug Alec Baldwin as a guest. There is no one on Earth I hate enough to find Alec Baldwin mocking him or her funny, and when it comes to Baldwin’s Trump impression, only the biases of Saturday Night Live directors and audiences can explain its popularity. As a director, I’d consider his amateurish routine unacceptable in a Cub Scout skit.
Fortunately, a recent emerging scandal looks like it will give me a new reason to detest the show that has nothing to do with politics.
A woman, so far shielded from being identified in public, filed a lawsuit alleging that comedian Horatio Sanz sexually abused after “grooming” her for exploitation 20 years ago, when she was 15 to 17 years old. Sanz at the time was a in his early thirties and a.cast member on Saturday Night Live. In fact, he was one of my favorites among the SNL fat comics: his impression of Today Show film critic Gene Shallit used to make me hysterical. The woman’s allegations against Sanzare corroborated both by evidence such as the emails from the period and text messages he sent her in 2019 desperately seeking forgiveness for his conduct. The lawsuit also names SNL and NBC as co-defendants, because, it appears everyone connected with the show, including show creator Lorne Michaels, saw what was Sanz was doing and allowed the abuse to continue
The complaint, which you can read here if your gorge will stay down, was filed under a New York law that allows child sexual abuse survivors to sue their abusers past the statute of limitations.
According to the complaint, from 1999 to 2002 the plaintiff ran and participated in fan sites dedicated to SNL and Jimmy Fallon. SNL employees and cast members read these fan sites. I will repeat this: SNL’s employees and cast members read these fan sites. In January 2000 Sanz initiated contact with the plaintiff, then 15, after reading her comments on an SNL fan site that was popular among the shows cast and staff. Sanz contacted her from an NBC email address. So apparently, did Jimmy Fallon, that really nice, boyish gut who now hosts the Tonight Show after becoming a star on SNL. In October 2000, the woman and Sanz met after an SNL taping, where the complaint states, he “was flirtatious and physically affectionate with the then 15-year old Plaintiff by kissing her cheek and putting his hands on her waist.” When she was 16 the next year, she was a regular at the notorious SNL post-show parties. She drank alcohol in the presence of cast members, and they observed Sanz being physically affectionate with her. The complaint alleges that Sanz used AIM to ask her for”revealing photographs,” to have sex-related banter, and to warned her not to tell anyone about their interactions. The complaint alleges that these exchanges grew increasingly sexual and controlling, leading to long-term psychological harm to the plaintiff.
Fallon’s involvement is likely to give the lawsuit more public awareness that would have occurred if it only involved Sanz, whose show business success has declined in direct proportion to his weight. From the complaint…
Seth Simons, who writes a newsletter about the comedy industry, sagely opines that the lawsuit will never see the inside of a courtroom and will be settled quickly. He is absolutely correct. Simons concludes his piece about the Sanz suit noting,
“[T]here are too many people implicated for NBC to let it go to trial. In addition to Michaels, Shoemaker, and Fallon, the potential cast members around to witness Sanz’s conduct would have included Will Ferrell, Ana Gasteyer, Darrell Hammond, Chris Kattan, Tracy Morgan, Chris Parnell, Molly Shannon, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Jerry Minor, Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, Dean Edwards, Seth Meyers, and Jeff Richards. (Remember, at least two other cast members allegedly harassed the plaintiff’s friends.) Then there’s the writing staff for those seasons, which included Robert Carlock, Jim Downey, (current SNL producer) Steve Higgins, Michael Schur, Paula Pell, Ken Scarborough, Robert Smigel, Louis CK, Max Brooks, Andrew Steele, and Jack Handey.
“These people are not responsible for Sanz’s actions—well, except for the ones who were literally his superiors—but to the extent that any of them saw what was happening, they are very much responsible for their own failures to intervene. It takes a village to facilitate this sort of abuse and it takes a village to let the abuser get away. This lawsuit is another reminder of what success in Hollywood’s most vaunted institutions requires one to overlook. If only it would be the last.”
Or was the first. Since there will be no trial, we will never know whether or which allegations in the complaint are true: that’s how this kind of thing can continue indefinitely. Of course, 90% of the people named above, if not all of them, would tell you that Bret Kavanaugh was guilty of sexual assault because female victims must be believed. At least the episode gives me a justification to avoid Saturday Night Live other than the show’s alliance with the ongoing progressive efforts to manipulate public opinion through our popular institutions. It reminds me that these artists who claim wisdom and knowledge far beyond their expertise are also, in addition to being imposters, are usually disgusting human beings.
I should have known all along.