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4 reasons why MAD TV was (and still is) better than SNL

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SNL is a show that runs hot and cold; it’s had good years (mid70s, early 90s) and bad (most of the 80s). Now nearing the end of its current season, it seems to be in another of its mid-decade slumps. The new faces in the last few seasons didn’t add much to an already mediocre cast, and with his lucky penny Kristen Wiig who let’s face it, carried the show in recent years, already gone and other longtime cast members soon to follow, somewhere show creator Lorne Micheals is probably in panic mode.Watching SNL be only ‘kinda funny’ makes fans of sketch comedy wish they could see new episodes of MAD TV instead of just re-runs on cable. Ok: so it didn’t run as long as SNL or have alum that continued on to semi successful yet stable movie careers. Sure, SNL had better guest stars, opening monologues and live music. But at its peak MAD was stiff competition for the late night laugh kings from a viewer standpoint until stronger cast members left, taking a lot of the laughs with them and creating a ratings decline that not even a change of studio or format could help save it from cancellation. SNL will always be entertaining, but in recent years, it’s been inconsistent. MAD TV was hilarious throughout its run and deserves more than to be remembered as a poor man’s SNL when in fact it was a much better show. Here are 4 reasons why.
1. Funnier Original Characters
When it comes to original characters, SNL’s Kristen Wiig was a goldmine. Gilly, Dooneese, movie critic Aunt Linda, the Target lady – she played each one so convincingly it was like she had multiple personality disorder. It’s no surprise she was used in practically every skit from the time she became a regular cast member in 2005 until her departure in 2012. But outside of those characters, there are few memorable ones from recent seasons. Stefon (played by Bill Hader) Drunk Uncle or any one of the Californians comes to mind and The Nunis  if you go a little further back, but they’re an acquired taste.
During its 14 year run, MAD TV introduced us to lovely people like Bunifah (Bunifa Latifah Halifah Sharifa Jackson to be exact) Dixie Wentworth of Cabana Chat, the Vancome lady Kathleen “Kathy” Wajonowski, Xing Lao “Johnny” Gan and Pongo, Miss Swan, and (Can I have your number?) Darrell among others. Meanwhile over at SNL during those same years there was Goat Boy, Mango, the Spartan cheerleaders, Margaret Jo and Terri of The Delicious Dish and middle school music teachers Marty and Bobbi Mohan-Culp and Debbie Downer. SNL does have bragging rights thanks to movie spin-offs of several characters. Whether the movies were good (Wayne’s World) mediocre (Coneheads) or just plain bad (It’s Pat!) it’s something MAD TV can’t claim. Still, in a character head to head, Mary Catherine Gallagher vs. Stewart Larkin, kid sis Kaitlin vs. Dot Goddard – MAD’s got SNL beat.
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2. Better Celebrity Impersonations
You don’t have to be an expert to know a good celebrity impersonation when you see one. It’s not just about capturing a look, but also the voice and embodying any little quirks or mannerisms a celebrity is known for. There may have been a time on SNL  when cast members actually looked like the person they were trying to impersonate, but these days for every spot on Sarah Palin and Ellen there’s a way off Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus. On MAD there was no doubt about who the impersonation was of and cast members did an overall better job. Even their version of Oprah was superior.
3.  Sharper Music Video/TV Show Parodies
SNL and MAD are similar shows with a definite difference in their humor. Watch parodies of the same show done by both (The View for example or Sex and the city) and you’ll realize SNL’s version often seem to just ‘poke fun’ while MAD’s which might have bordered on offensive and insulting, at least paid off in hilarity. MAD also occasionally took classics like Bewitched and All in the Family and gave them a modern twist. But what really differentiates one show’s sense of comedy from the other can be summed up by ideas like this.
Over at SNL music parodies are called ‘digital shorts’ and in the past few years they were all about Andy Samberg and his frat boy antics eventually put to music. Samberg always reminded me of that kid in your elementary class who’d act up to get everyone’s attention, by high school, he was the “funny guy” but instead of telling him to stop acting stupid, he was rewarded with laughter which encouraged him, and now he’s considered a comedic genius to anyone under 30. The ‘shorts’ might have surprise celeb appearances by the likes of Justin Bieber or a gangsta-rapping Natalie Portman  but who wouldn’t trade in Andy Samberg’s dick in a box for a Shakira/Britney/Beyonce music video parody any day?  The lyrics alone are enough to sway anyone’s vote.
4. More Ethnically Diverse Cast
This is where MAD TV really kicks SNL’s ass. Surprising no one’s called SNL on this before. It’s a show that’s been around since 1975 but has only had 3 regular black female cast members (Damitra Jo Vance, Ellen Cleghorne and Maya Rudolph) and almost no other ethnicities at all. From its first season in 1995, MAD TV’s had more of a mix of people. Deborah Wilson, Danielle Gaither, Nicole Randall Johnson, Jordan Peele, Keegan Michael Key Phil Lamarr, Bobby Lee, just to mention a few non-white faces.  Lorne Michaels – is it so hard to find a funny black female or Asian comedian, man or woman? Yes, there’s always your 1 or 2 token black males (in case you need someone to impersonate a black celebrity) but where’s the diversity? Don’t tell me there’s no funny Asians out there. Or was Bobby Lee the ONLY one, and MAD snapped him up? It might be 4 years since MAD TV has been nothing but reruns, but it’s the cast of SNL that’s been nothing but repeats. ?  Imagine the cast of SNL looked a little less like this and a little more like this? Now that’d be something to really laugh about.
– Dasilva Arthur

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