The same people who say the show is kissing up to Clinton at the expense of Obama are the same ones who go around claiming the show is irrelevant because nobody watches (almost like the Yogi Berra-ism, “Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded”).
PERSONALLY, I CAN’T remember the last time I watched a full episode of the show (although I recently watched a DVD of episodes from the show’s first season and occasionally catch cable television reruns of earlier years), but I am skeptical that any portrayal of Clinton would be enough to sway the Mood of America.
Throughout the years, the NBC program of comedy sketches that in some ways is little more than a rip-off of that Chicago institution, “The Second City,” has incorporated the politics of the times into its humor.
Everybody still remembers Chevy Chase’s “impersonation” of then-President Gerald Ford, although it really was nothing more than Chase stumbling around and acting stupid – just because of the two times Ford fell on the airport tarmac. Chevy Chase and Dana Carvey are two of the few Saturday Night Live cast members who actually dictated the way the public perceived a politico. I doubt Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton is going to make this duo a trio. Just off the top of my head, I also recall Dana Carvey as President Bush the elder (and as whacked-out Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot), and the impersonations done by Dan Aykroyd and Norm MacDonald of one-time Senate leader Bob Dole that cemented the impression to many people of the Kansas politico as a mean, bitter old man.
BUT THIS IDEA that the show’s political humor somehow tars or praises every single politico is just wrong. Anyone who is trying to blame a television program for a political candidate’s flaws is just looking for excuses.
Ultimately, reality triumphs over dramatic interpretations, particularly when it comes to a political character with such a well-defined personality as Hillary Rodham Clinton. There’s nothing that Amy Poehler (the one-time Chicago actress who these days is doing a “Clinton” character on the show) could say or do to change their perception.
Now for those fans of the show (personally, I think it died after the Aykroyd/John Belushi pairing left in the late 1970s) who cite the examples of Chase, MacDonald and Carvey as examples that I’m wrong, I’d say they are proof that I’m right.
That is three actors during the run of a show that has lasted 32 years. That’s not many, even though the show usually tries to lead off every single episode with a sketch of political parody.
JUST LIKE MANY people only think of the name Brad Hall as “Mr. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss,” there are a lot of Saturday Night Live actors who did political impersonations, but nobody remembers.
Although people still remember the sketch when Ron Reagan Jr. appeared as himself and danced around “the White House” in his underwear as a parody of Tom Cruise in the film “Risky Business,” does anybody remember who played Reagan the elder in that sketch? (Randy Quaid, with Terry Sweeney as first lady Nancy – I had to look it up).
And while Phil Hartman kind of had the ability to parody President Clinton’s southern drawl, neither he nor any of the follow-up actors who impersonated Bill have really gotten his mannerisms down.
I’m sorry, but it just isn’t sufficient to say “I’m Bill Clinton” while wearing heart-covered boxer shorts and acting like a lecherous pervert around ladies of the twenty-something generation.
EVEN CHASE’S IMPERSONATION was more a product of its era (the mid-1970s), rather than any serious interpretation of what President Ford was really about. Watching those old Jerry Ford sketches is agonizing because they have not aged well – they are about as awful as listening to all 18 minutes of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”
I wonder if the reason Obama supporters are looking to this lame excuse for the primary losses in Texas and Ohio is because Saturday Night Live has not come up with a quality Obama character.
“All publicity is good publicity,” and Barack as the focus of a humorous sketch every week would benefit him. They didn’t complain when The Second City devoted an entire series of their live comedy shows to an Obama interpretation entitled “Between Barack and a Hard Place.” Obama himself attended the show.
Obama has also had his share of pop-culture moments on national television. I still remember his spot from two years ago where he appeared to be declaring himself to be a presidential candidate, but all it turned out to be was a Monday Night Football spot that plugged the Chicago Bears.
JUST THIS WEEK, Obama is on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. For anyone who’s about to say that Rolling Stone is for old fogies, I’d argue so is Saturday Night Live. Obama-mania has had its share of high-profile moments. To claim he is somehow being neglected is silly.
I’d be more concerned if Jon Stewart were doing fawning Hillary bits on The Daily Show. Even though Stewart always makes it clear he is an actor (the fourth-male lead in “Death to Smoochy”) who does a “fake news show,” too many people take his comedy bits too seriously – as though one can get a serious understanding of the world from Stewart’s jokes.
Most of Poehler’s “Clinton” work is destined to be watched by people flipping around their cable channels who happen to stumble across the E! network just after midnight.
Eventually, it likely will turn out to be like Dana Carvey’s 1988 impersonation of J. Danforth Quayle taking the oath of office as vice president. The gag was that his intellectual capacities were so diminished that he had to be fed the oath word by word by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, but it is not among the more memorable.
WHEN IT COMES to Saturday Night Live political humor, there is one sketch I remember. It was the show’s parody of the 1992 presidential debate (Hartman as Clinton, Carvey as both Bush and Perot), which started off with long-time NBC announcer Don Pardo telling us that the ’92 presidential campaign was the, “challenge to avoid saying something stupid.”
To this day, I hear Pardo’s voice reciting that line in the seconds before I deal face to face with any political person – regardless of their party or views on the issues. Stupid statements just have a knack of rolling from the tongues of the politicos.
They even come from the lips of political followers who try to blame a comedy show that has seen its best days for Obama’s flaws of recent weeks.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Too many L.A. geeks take television way too seriously. It (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/tv/la-et-snl13mar13,1,6959732.story) is just the “boob tube,” nothing more.
Is it that the modern media trivializes politics, or is it the trivial nature of modern politics (http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080313/OPINION05/803130304/1006/OPINION) that causes the content of too much news programming to be, for lack of a better word, stupid?