Aaron Sorkin is more than your average TV writer. So naturally, he’s going to get more than your average amount of scrutiny. Especially if his new show’s chosen milieu is the notoriously persnickety world of comedy. In the nerve center of New York’s underground theater scene, the boards are abuzz: Studio 60, the rumblings rumble, is tone-deaf when it comes to the actual business of making people laugh. (Though I suppose the same could be said of its ur-text, Saturday Night Live.)
Ah, but there’s more: Some of the more gimlet-eyed laughologists have noted certain, um, resonances: For instance, there’s this evidence of a suspected repetition of Sorkin’s Sorkinese (plucked from a private, unlinkable board):
Sports Night, 4/27/1999
Dana Whitaker (Felicity Huffman): [barges in] You are a sleazy, slimy, adolescent, over-sexed, overpaid blowhole!
Studio 60, ”Cold Open,” 9/25/2006
Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson, pictured): [barges in] You are an adolescent, over-sexed, whoremonger with the sensitivity of a head of cabbage.
To be fair: First off, ”head of cabbage” is clearly a post-9/11 reference, right? Second, if you’re going to steal from anyone, steal from yourself, says I. Ah, but that’s not the most interesting echo from the past.
You may recall that Sorkin hired Mark McKinney, late of Kids in the Hall and SNL, to oversee the sketch comedy on the show-within-the-show. (He’s listed as a story editor on ”Cold Open.”) Well, last episode featured a repurposing of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Major-General’s Song.’ (”I am the very model of a modern Major-General,” etc.) Now it just so happens that SNL did the very same act on January 21, 1995, during McKinney’s stint on the show. The host was David Hyde Pierce. (”I’m hosting Saturday Night Live, I’m nervous, I’ve got shaky knees/I love the show, although I haven’t watched it since the ’70s.”)
Coincidence? Probably not. Nefarious? Hardly. But it’ll be awfully fascinating to track which SNL moments Sorkin and McKinney
plunder pay homage to next. No pressure, guys, but there are, like, a million hungry comedians watching you. And they have loooooooong memories.