Some things never change, and Saturday Night Live is never as funny as it used to be. The latest season has struggled to find a mojo in a post-Trump world, but came up with comedy for the ages in Bowen Yang’s The Iceberg that Sank the Titanic routine that aired April 2021. A deserved viral hit, Yang’s five minute bit isn’t just good for a laugh, it’s profoundly great in that it’s not just a take-down of any one person or thing, but nails a specific idea, the notion of a lack of responsibility, or let’s call it irresponsibility as we experience it day by day in 2021.
Wearing a large chuck of iceberg on his head and deathly white of pallor, Yang takes the stage for the Weekend Update slot as The Iceberg opposite host Colin Jost, showing admirable straight-man chops here as they discuss the anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking. As Jost opens the questioning, the Iceberg notes that ‘This is always a very weird time of year for me’, setting just the right self-regarding tone. Jost’s line of inquiry is rebuffed ‘These aren’t the questions we discussed…I thought you said you were going to be my Oprah?’ complains the iceberg, before launching an attack on White Star (‘You built a bad boat and that’s on you, honey”), the water (‘Did these people get ice-berged to death? No, they drowned’) and constantly down-sizing the death toll, despite the host’s steadfast accuracy with the numbers. The iceberg, you see, is actually here to promote its new album, ’12 tracks, no skips…a hyperpop EDM nu-disco fantasia’ which we get a fleeting taste of before the wrap-up.
SNL’s Trump and general celebrity bashing often feels stale and sell-by-date stamped, so it’s refreshing to see a blast of genuine satire that hits every target. You could see this sketch as being about Trump, or Cuomo, or Gaetz, or Sia, or Megan Markle, or any number of tarnished pop-culture figures, but ultimately what it’s about is the modern trend for ignoring your own complicity in what’s going wrong and talking yourself up beyond the point of ridiculousness. Questions of taste are irrelevant; the target is not tragedy, but lazer-focuses on those who easily give themselves a pass for their involvement in fiascos of any kind. SNL seem to have struggled to know what to do with Yang until now, but on the strength of this one sketch alone, they should be building their next series around his deadpan comic talents.