At first it seemed like an uncomfortable coincidence, and then they showed the chart.
Right there on “Saturday Night Live,” a little white line was showing the rapid pace of America’s heroin epidemic. Up and up it went, as the announcer said, “Heroin use in America is steadily on the rise.”
Then came the punch line.
“But productivity among heroin users has remained stagnant.”
“That’s why ‘Heroin A.M.’ combines heroin with five milligrams of caffeine and a small pile of cocaine,” says Kate McKinnon, playing a mom who just sent her kids to school.
“And now available in gummy bears! Which you can melt down and inject,” chimes in Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the episode’s host.
The skit was a fake ad for a product to help people remain productive while using heroin, with boxes that look, uncoincidentially, just like the packaging for Vicks DayQuil.
SNL has created commercial parodies about everything: chia pets, Spanx for babies, an app for kids whose moms want to add them on Facebook.
It’s not unusual for those commercials to make light of serious news of the moment. Remember, this is a show that has made comedy out of the swine flu, police brutality and ISIS. There will always be people who chuckle along, and (usually more) who take to the Internet in a rage. With “Heroin A.M.,” SNL struck a nerve again.
Just saw the most disgusting thing I've ever seen on network television. Saturday Night Live's "commercial" for "Heroin AM." Disgusting.
— Dave Beck (@davidbeck120) April 17, 2016
#SNL Heroin/AM "commercial" NOT FUNNY! Too many people are dying FOR REAL.
— Maggie MacDonald (@nymaggie) April 17, 2016
You probably laughed at the Heroin AM sketch on #SNL, but I'll bet no one in Northern Kentucky did.
— Justin Rumao (@Jrumao) April 17, 2016
In 2001, fewer than 2,000 Americans died of heroin overdoses. In 2014, there were nearly 12,000. In New York, where SNL is filmed, the number of heroin deaths increased from 215 in 2008 to 478 in 2012.
The main premise of the sketch is that the happy people taking “Heroin A.M.” aren’t your “typical” drug users, but are two moms and a mini van-driving boys’ soccer coach. Comedy, in this case, mimics reality. The drug is killing people of all ages, incomes and occupations. Just this month, a high school dean in New Hampshire was charged with having heroin in her school office. A 16-year-old in Ohio overdosed on heroin provided by his mother and grandmother. In Iowa, two brothers died of heroin overdoses on the same day.
“My younger, and only brother died from a heroin overdose 5 years ago in February,” a YouTube commenter wrote beneath the video. “That’s not why I don’t think this isn’t funny. This just wasn’t funny. Weak sketch is weak. I expected better from Julia hosting.”
“To all of the ‘addiction isn’t funny’ comments: Think back to the dozens of edgy jokes that you have enjoyed,” another wrote back. “Those are okay, but not this one, just because this happens to resonate with you personally? That’s a bit hypocritical, don’t you think?”
“It’s ironic how SNL does a skit on what is killing so many — heroin. A substance that took so many [of] SNL’s comedians,” one Twitter user wrote. SNL legends Chris Farley and John Belushi both died after combining heroin and cocaine — the same formula for “Heroin A.M.”
Watch the full skit here:
This story has been updated.