Being the Ricardos and Don't Look Up are comedies. So why aren't they fun?

Adam McKay and Aaron Sorkin's new films would rather lecture than crack jokes

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Netflix, iStock)

Back in 1995, when Adam McKay was a comedy writer on his first season of Saturday Night Live, he co-wrote a sketch where a vapid morning show called Wake Up and Smile quickly descends into Lord of the Flies-style madness when a teleprompter malfunctions. Even 25-plus years ago, vapid morning shows were not exactly a fresh target, but the Wake Up and Smile sketch was notable for how far it was willing to push its satire. The affable chat-show hosts weren't just lost without their cheery script; they were panicked into horrific violence and tribalism.

Around the same time, McKay's fellow NBC employee Aaron Sorkin — whose early years on The West Wing overlapped with McKay's later years on SNL — was taking a rosier view of broadcasters. His earlier series, Sports Night, was a half-hour comedy about the dedicated professionals making a SportsCenter-like program. He would later follow The West Wing with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, about the dedicated professionals making an SNL-like comedy program. Even Sorkin's many projects that aren't directly about classic television and/or comedy are packed with zingers; he clearly believes no subject is too serious to inspire snappy laugh lines.

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