Saturday Night Live has a masterful knack for making headlines for any reason other than producing good sketches, and last weekend’s Miles Teller-led premiere was no exception. This time, the problem stems from a skit that plays on the lovable Charmin bears, blue toilet paper mascots known for their passion for wiping. In the sketch, Miles Teller plays a young Charmin nervously revealing to his family (Kenan Thompson, Heidi Gardner, and Punkie Johnson) that he doesn’t want to attend Toilet Paper College.
Admittedly a pretty softball skit, the Charmin Bears bit still managed to stir up some controversy for two main reasons. The first is a Charmin toilet paper ad that, per Variety, aired directly next to the sketch on the show’s live Peacock stream. The not-so-subliminal messaging sparked conversation over just how much reach advertisers have into SNL’s content (although NBC asserts the choice was “coincidental”).
Beyond the advertising, the series has also drawn criticism for apparently heavily lifting concepts from an animated sketch made last summer by YouTube creator Joel Haver. The skit, “Toilet Paper Bears,” also follows a Charmin family with an artistic son attempting to leave the family business. Although Haver calls the similarities between the two bits “pretty alarming,” he also sees it as a case of “parallel thinking.”
“When it comes to the Charmin bears thing, there’s a lot of coincidences that would have to line up to make it truly a coincidence, but I don’t think it was malicious,” Haver states. “It was either a subconscious borrowing from somebody on their writers’ staff who saw my video, or it was a wild coincidence.”
However, Haver also allows that were he in a different position as a creator, he might be more inclined to take the series to task for pilfering his ideas.
“If I still was a smaller creator, which I was for a long time, I could see it rubbing me the wrong way and me being a little more likely to believe they did steal it,” he says. “I have to recognize I’m in a position to not be bothered by it.”
Update, 3:21 P.M: A source close to the show confirmed to The A.V. Club that SNL’s Charmin Bears sketch was a case of parallel thinking.