Relax, everyone: I’ve figured out the problem with SNL.

It’s okay. You can all stop tearing out your hair. I’ve got this.

Recently, my wife and I burned through some of the latest episodes of Saturday Night Live. There was some great potential in the hosts: Kristen Wiig, Zack Galifinakis, even Jennifer Lawrence, who seems pretty naturally hilarious. And while each episode had a sketch or two that drew a soft chuckle, I was left mostly with disappointment. And anger. Yes: anger.

Why was I angry? On the simplest level, I was angry because these comedians have a responsibility to make me laugh, and they blew it. Three times in a row. And they’ve been blowing it season after season, if I may be so bold. But underneath the anger was frustration; I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so bad. Of course, I knew it was the writing; the talent is there, if sorely underused (*cough* Kate McKinnon *cough*). But I couldn’t seem to nail down what exactly had changed, until this morning.

From the seventies until the departure of Comedy Writing Genius Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live gave us art to imitate in life. Each week, they created new avenues of humor through wild characters and scenarios we couldn’t have dreamed: A door-to-door shark serial killer, a Catholic school girl with anger management problems and a penchant for Lifetime movie monologues, Samurai warriors who run a deli. These comedians were in the business of changing, and deciding, what was funny in America. They gave us new things to laugh at and added a whole slew of catchphrases and inside jokes to pop culture. We never knew what they were going to determine was funny on any given Saturday night, but it almost always was. And even if it wasn’t, at least it was something different.

But now, life imitates art…and life isn’t all that interesting. The majority of each episode is packed with Internet humor that’s already weeks old, so the whole show ends up looking like one big live-action meme. The whole Internet has already discussed and bagged on rich housewives, Game of Thrones, and cougars. What could the writers at SNL possibly add to the discussion that is new and, more importantly, funny?

This doesn’t mean that everything the other writers and casts have created was genius, or original. Sure, there were pop culture references and parodies and impressions. But now, instead of SNL giving us inside jokes, they’re trying to keep up with the online community’s humor attention span, and it’s just not possible. For instance: when Seth MacFarlane hosted (a genius writer who really could have been tapped), they did a “Gangnam Style” sketch. Really? The video is old as soon as you see it.  Face it: any reference you make to any online craze is just making you look old and behind the times.

So stop trying to keep up with stuff that isn’t that funny anyway! (Yes, I’m now talking directly to you, SNL). Nothing online is; we see it, we snicker to ourselves, we move on. You’ve forgotten your responsibility to decide what makes us laugh and are resting instead on what you know already has. But we don’t laugh that hard at any of it, and–speaking for myself–kind of hate all of it, deep-down. As in seasons past, you shine when you do something out-of-the-box and fresh: new characters, new scenarios. The highlight of the Kristen Wiig episode wasn’t the ten-year-old Ring reference; it was the (admittedly hard-to-watch) acupuncture sketch: three women (and their straight man) really going for it. No Internet inside jokes, no dead horses.

For the future of humor in America, I beg you: take back the reins. We’re idiots. We don’t know what’s funny. It’s your job to show us.

The What.

Last night, my wife and I were talking about writing. Given that I am a writer, you may think this kind of thing happens pretty regularly.

You would be wrong. And so was I, in at least one way.

The conversation began as a discussion of What Writers Talk About. For her, in most cases, the stuff we say to one another isn’t all that interesting; as a reader, she wants to know the What–the subject of our work–and all we seem to talk about is the How: the process, the edits, the self-loathing and general despair. As a result, we then turned toward the Why: why don’t we talk more about what we’re actually writing?

If you can believe it (as you should, from reading this blog), my response was: fear. A fear that my idea will be found wanting, or that the listener won’t understand the concept, or that my explanation will outshine the work itself: that someone will find out that I’m not really a writer at all. Instead of telling, I keep it inside, thinking I’m the only one who can understand, until everything is perfect and ready to be shared.

But it’s funny: as soon as I started talking to a non-writer about the What, I wanted to keep talking. I confessed that I haven’t touched my novel since January, because I’m scared of the hard parts (file under: Crying While Writing). I told her that the ideas are there, ready to be written, but putting my fingers to the keys brings everything back so clearly that hiding seems so much better of an idea. I mentioned the raw-beyond-raw short story that’s been slowly growing momentum since last summer, and not in terms of abstract ideas. I told her the plot. The What. I suddenly wanted to read it to her; it was the craziest thing. In telling her the What, I had given her advance access to the fledgling world I was creating. It made me want to take her even further down into it.

Why on earth had I waited? Did I think she was going to knock around inside the new world like a proverbial bull? That she would peek behind the scenes, tell me my seams were showing? Sharing even this greenest part of my writing got me excited to write again. Rapture replaced fear, and I read her the opening scene. My brain buzzed the rest of the night with new ideas spawned from our conversation and the simple act of reading words aloud.

I realized then that, while I sometimes told myself that I didn’t share my stuff with non-writers because they wouldn’t understand or I feared they would take it personally, the real reason was that I didn’t think it was worth sharing–that it needed to get to some enlightened, pristine level before anyone who didn’t fully understand the process could read it. I’ve squandered years on this kind of doubt, all while an incredible source of encouragement and feedback sat two feet from me on the couch, wanting to be let in.

We need readers; I know that writers always say that. But we don’t need them just to read. We need them to listen, even in the earliest stages. If you have a reader in your life who you’ve been afraid to let into the deeper levels of your writing life, just do it. Today. No matter how scary it seems. Tell them everything.

See what happens.