Watching SNL is like following startups, because SNL cast and writers have to come up with new ideas every week to perform live. This year’s cast is so new that nearly all of them are trying to prove themselves, and the new featured players are forced to chase good ideas that look like bad ones to the main cast. Venture capitalist Chris Dixon said, there are “good ideas that look like good ideas, and good ideas that look like bad ideas… we’re in the business of all the things left over.”
Sure, a main cast member will do the Obama impression, but the new featured players that are forced to be both writer and actor will be looking for those surprise laughs when they stumble on a subtler good idea. For example when Al Franken decided that he couldn’t really write Stuart Smalley for someone else, or when this week former writer Mike O’Brien did “Rick’s Model T’s” the world’s first used car lot and TV commercial; “lots of firsts today, folks” you get to see something with imagination.
Startups and SNL both have to make sure their platforms fit the right paradigm. So whether that’s Nick Burns the computer guy fixing desktops, Al Pacino checking his bank balance on his mobile phone, or Fred Armisen reviewing Google Glass, the medium is more important than the message. Also, neither startups nor SNL can go too far ahead of cultural behavior. Video startups fail often, because the devices and networks we use aren’t ready to make it as easy for users to create, share, and consume as easily as photos, and it has taken big leaps in product design from Vine and others just to make headway.
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