Satire in SNL’s Debbie Downer

Debbie Downer goes to Disney World Aired 05/01/04

On birthdays she brings up hurricane victims, at Disney she mentions terrorist attacks and mad cow disease, at Christmas she makes Santa depressed, and at every waking moment she’s concerned with feline AIDS (it’s the number one killer of domestic cats) …she’s Debbie Downer. 

Debbie Downer, created and portrayed by Rachel Dratch, is one of the funniest, recurring satirical characters on SNL. The first sketch came out back in May 2004 and included then Snl cast members Amy Poehler and Jimmy Fallon. In one of my favorite sketches- and a great example of satire- Debbie Downer goes to Disney World and brings down the mood while simultaneously making her cast mates completely break (also why it’s hilarious). While Lindsey Lohan is excited to meet Pluto, Debbie says, “It must be fun to work here! Although the biggest drawback to working in a theme park is that you must live under constant fear of deadly terrorist attacks.” She continues to only bring up depressing topics around her excited friends by saying things like, “”By the way, it’s official…I can’t have children!”

This sketch is a fantastic example of hyperbole, irony, and situational humor all working together. It’s ironic that at the “happiest place on earth” all Debbie can bring up are diseases and global crisis. The settings of all of the sketches take a similar approach by centering around birthday parties, weddings, and holidays- seemingly happy times. The entire sketch also exaggerates the “debbie downer” persona by only having her mention sad things for 5 minutes straight with the wah-wah sound of a trumpet after each depressing fact. 

This sketch also represents how satire doesn’t solely function to make fun of people, but instead functions as a form of social commentary and catalyst of change. While this sketch isn’t as politically-charged as more recent SNL ones are, it’s still relevant and satirical. The point they are trying to get across is that people shouldn’t just be negative all of the time. Even though bad things are happening in the world, people should avoid being a debbie downer and try to focus on positive stories as well. I think that while paying attention to world news and being aware of catastrophic events is extremely important, you don’t need to feel constantly depressed by it and bring others down as a result. I think it’s also commenting on how the news in the past decade tends to focus on really sad things. If you turn on the news at night, there are good chances that it will be about death, crime, or global crisis.

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