If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that one of the biggest groups of the 2023 awards season has been the Irish.
Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy, The Banshees Of Inisherin, was one of the buzziest films of the awards trail, amassing nine nominations from the Academy, including Best Picture and Best Director.
On top of this, Irish actors made up for a quarter of the Oscars’ 20 acting nominees, with Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, and Barry Keoghan all copping nods for their performances in The Banshees Of Inisherin, along with fellow Irishman Paul Mescal, who received a nomination for his leading role in Aftersun.
Eager not to miss out on the hype, Saturday Night Live poked fun at the Irish takeover during a sketch that aired the day before last night’s Oscars ceremony.
The cold open featured cast members Marcello Hernandez and Heidi Gardner as presenters interviewing celebrities on the Oscars red carpet, with Kenan Thompson and Chloe Fineman impersonating Mike Tyson and Jamie Lee Curtis.
Toward the end of the sketch, the presenters welcomed “the stars of The Banshees of Inisherin,” with Mikey Day and Molly Kearny then appearing as Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.
Heidi asked the pair: “How do you guys like your chances tonight?” They responded in thick, unintelligible accents.
After the actors walked away, Marcello’s character quipped: “Wow, and they haven’t even started drinking yet!”
SNL shared the clip on Twitter on Sunday, alongside the caption: “All the stars are out tonight,” and it wasn’t long before backlash started piling up.
Among the responses, many viewers took issue with the fact that that part of the sketch relied heavily on “bigoted” and harmful Irish stereotypes centered on alcohol consumption and being difficult to understand.
“I’m sincere when I say that this is horribly offensive. Would you consider it ok to reduce and mock any other nationality or accent like this? You should be embarrassed,” one person wrote in response.
“Apart from stereotyping and being incredibly offensive to Irish people, it's also just not funny,” added someone else, echoed by others who urged the show’s writers to “do better.”
“God, this is absolutely dreadful stuff @nbcsnl,” they tweeted. “I’m Irish and I find this more disappointing than I find it offensive - if worn out Irish stereotypes are the best your writers can come up with then I think SNL’s future looks like it’ll be pretty unremarkable.”
As noted by one critic, the joke about their accents also comes less than a month after Paul Mescal made headlines for raising awareness of the Irish language by giving an interview in Gaelic at the BAFTAs in February.
With this in mind, plenty of others highlighted how reductive it was for the show to depict Irish actors like Brendan and Colin simply as unintelligible, “boorish alcoholics,” particularly in light of their powerful performances this year.
“You wrote, filmed and edited that and STILL thought it was a good idea? Considering how many talented Irish actors are nominated this year, this is dreadfully insensitive,” someone wrote.
“@nbcsnl 25% of all actors nominated this year are Irish, 14 Oscar Nominations and the first ever nomination for a film of Irish language, and we STILL have to deal with these stereotypes,” another person echoed, calling the sketch “so unfunny.”
And, on top of all of this, one of the biggest complaints among viewers was that the joke about drinking was particularly insensitive given that Colin has spoken candidly about his sobriety.
For context, Colin first entered rehab in 2005. In an interview three years later, he admitted he’d struggled with alcohol and drug use since the age of 14, saying: “I was very drunk or high for about 16 years, it was a tough life change. But I was dying, and I’m one of the lucky ones.”
The actor has been sober ever since, but he checked himself into a rehab facility in 2018 as a “preemptive measure,” with sources confirming to People at the time that he wasn’t drinking again.
In light of how openly Colin has discussed his sobriety in the past 17 years, having discussed the topic in detail alongside Jamie Lee Curtis as recently as December, people were shocked and disappointed to see SNL joke about him drinking under the guise of a worn stereotype.
“sorry but i’m still so wound up over this,” one person tweeted in response. “colin farrell has been so outspoken about his struggles with sobriety this is just in some of the poorest taste imaginable.”
“Colin Farrell is a recovering addict who has been sober for 20 years. This is terribly offensive,” someone wrote, echoed by another person who described the joke as “abysmal.”
“i know that the irish drinking stereotype is never ending but maybe don't joke about someone who’s shared his struggle with sobriety ??” someone else added.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the SNL writers who capitalized on the success of Irish talent to make a few stereotypes live on air.
While asking audience members “fan” submitted questions during last night’s ceremony, host Jimmy Kimmel mocked Irish accents by asking Colin, “What were you saying?” in The Banshees of Inisherin.
In response, the actor subtly nodded toward SNL’s parody, telling Jimmy: “I’d like you to go on YouTube, check out SNL last night, and you’ll have a good idea.”