Amelia Nielson-Stowell: Former BYU humorist returns as a Sundance film critic

Published: Thursday, Jan. 28 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Eric D. Snider, a BYU graduate, is covering the Sundance Film Festival as a movie critic. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News) Eric D. Snider, a BYU graduate, is covering the Sundance Film Festival as a movie critic. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News)

PARK CITY — During hard times or sober moments, the cliche phrase is often repeated: "Someday we'll look back on this and laugh."

But Eric D. Snider's philosophy is "Why not laugh about it now?"

The popular humor writer has made a career laughing at the serious, sacred and stupid things in life — a passion that found its legs in the Beehive State.

"I've noticed that, if I got an idea for a serious thing, a love song or something with sentiment, I think 'How can I make this funny? How can I take this beautiful thing and make a parody of it?' " Snider said.

Today Snider, 35, is a popular film critic, using well-played satire to turn a run-of-the-mill movie review into an entertaining daily must-read for his thousands of fans.

Eric D. Snider, a BYU graduate, is covering the Sundance Film Festival as a movie critic. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News) Eric D. Snider, a BYU graduate, is covering the Sundance Film Festival as a movie critic. (T.J. Kirkpatrick, Deseret News)

"He's the best writer I have, by far," said Laremy Legel, Snider's film.com editor. "He's the only writer I'm jealous of when I read his stuff."

Snider is in his 10th year covering the Sundance Film Festival, reviewing films for sites film.com and cinematical.com. He's seen the festival change dramatically over the decade.

In 2000, he was writing about the festival for the Daily Herald, when online movie critics were in the minority. Today, he's filing reviews for two entertainment Web sites.

"Now the print people are few and far between. There's not as much of a stigma writing for an online source," he said.

Originally from Lake Elsinore, Calif., the current Portland resident is lodging in Park City out of his own pocket. He's proof that if there's one aspect of celebrity-infested Sundance that has remained independent, it's the writers who come purely for the films.

"A lot of the movie bloggers are here on their own dime. No one ever makes money covering Sundance," he said.

His foray into humor writing began when he was young, influenced by humor greats such as Mad magazine, Dr. Demento and Dave Barry. During his sophomore year of high school, he began a weekly humor column, "On the light side."

"It wasn't too mean or funny — so Jay Leno-style," he said. "I hardly got any angry letters in those days. I've fine-tuned how to construct a joke, learned the mechanics of humor writing."

His freshmen year at BYU, his column continued at the Herald. But it wasn't until it was published in BYU's paper The Daily Universe with the name "Snide Remarks" that it took on a cult status.

Snider's well-read columns and songs, like a spoof on the "Titanic" movie and a parody of "Under the Sea" mocking neighboring college "UVSC," took him down the publishing track, writing two books and recording a handful of CDs.

Hired full-time at Herald after graduation, Snider wrote Snide Remarks twice a week, covered the entertainment beat and asked to be the Herald's film critic, reviewing three to four movies a week on his own time until established as the official critic.

"I've always liked analyzing things. And I've always liked movies. It seemed like a natural progression," he said.

After being fired from the Herald in 2003 over a conflict of interest charge, he thought about projects where he could cater his writing to the local LDS culture, where he had an audience of fans (and haters). He charged $3 a month for Snide Remarks on his site ericdsnider.com.

"In Utah, there was plenty of comedy material," he said. "For a while, I thought I'd focus on the Mormon market. Continuing my show, doing my songs. But the thing is, there's a finite number who you can make money off of. There's an even smaller niche that likes satire."

After the move to Portland, numerous freelancing jobs and "liberating" Snide Remarks to a free column on his site, he began his current film critic jobs in 2007.

His duties at film.com include two regular features — "What's the Big Deal" on classic movies and "Eric's Bad Movies" on, well, bad movies.

And after spending 10 years in Utah, he still has a loyal local fan base.

Utahn Carina Hoskisson first heard of Snider through mutual friends who performed in the comedy troupe Garrens with Snider. She's been reading him since his first days of Snide Remarks and calls him "downright funny."

"His film critic work allows him to expand past his well-deserved humorist reputation," she said. "I can trust Eric's reviews, I know he tells his audience the truth, and with a wry spin that makes his criticism a pleasure to read."

Adds Provo resident Alan Seawright: "I like that his work so effortlessly conveys the ludicrous." He lists Snider's "Rejected Twilight Screenplay" as a favorite.

Snide Remarks is no longer a regular feature on his site ("It turns out there's only 24 hours in the day and Snide Remarks doesn't pay anything," Snider said), but a recent column saw a different reaction from readers.

In the column "The Great Depression," Snider detailed his 6 1/2 year battle with clinical depression, sharing how his anti-depressant medication quit working two days before his 35th birthday.

He wrote openly about his struggles and still managed to blend in humor — like the fact that he was searching for a therapist the night of his birthday.

"I was astonished at the response. It's not often I write stuff that inspires people," he said. Snider received e-mails from readers saying his column influenced them to talk to their doctor about their depression. "This is cheesy, but true — humor helped me get through it."

e-mail: astowell@desnews.com

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