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SNL, PALIN & THE END OF JOKES

October 20, 2008

by Kevin Egan

Recently, for a very brief moment, one had the feeling that Saturday Night Live, after years of catering to the mainstream, had once again strayed away, regenerating the controversial balls they had lost years and years ago.  Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin was not only hysterically funny on a comedic level, it was satirically accurate, in regards to the Vice Presidential candidate’s ignorance of the issues, refusal to speak with the press, and condescending manner in which she addresses the “average American.”  It was a satirical indictment of what is very, very wrong with the McCain/Palin ticket.  Anyone in this country with half of a brain cheered the portrayal, since we all felt the McCain/Palin ticket were taking us for fools.  It also articulated a frustration many of us had been feeling since 2000, when the most inarticulate and most grammatically incorrect President in the history of our country seized control of our nation, driving its future into ruins.  Although over the past eight years, SNL rarely criticized, mocked or satirized the Bush Administration, it seemed as if they finally were once again taking an anti-establishment stance, by taking legitimate comedic jabs at the most unqualified and frightfully conservative Vice Presidential candidate this country has ever known.

But that was then.  By now, SNL has already had Palin appear on the show, doing her own comedy routine, “responding” to Tina Fey’s portrayal, alongside the show’s creator, Lorne Michaels.  Her appearance on the show, no doubt, will show what a “good sport” she is and how she can take any criticism that comes her way, including the most accurate interpretations of her patronizing of “Joe Six Pack.”  SNL, as they have always done since the mid-eighties, have once again played it “safe,” by bringing in the brunt of the joke and allowing them to respond in their own charming way.  Although they have been selling themselves for over twenty years as “cutting-edge,” the truth is, the last thing they would ever want to do is upset the powers that be.  And in case that happens to be McCain and Palin down the line, it must have seemed like a good idea to soften the accuracy of the joke by allowing Palin proper response time.   No doubt, the fact that NBC is owned by General-Electric had something to do with this.

 The problem here is not only political (which it is, and we’ll get to that), or economical (which it also is, TV=money), but it lies in the most fundamental aspects of good comedy that have been betrayed by Lorne Michaels, servant to the establishment and killer of all things funny.  From a comedic standpoint, there was no need to bring Palin in to “respond” to Fey’s portrayal.  The joke had been executed effectively and that should have been that.  Time to move on to the next zinger. I don’t remember Gerald Ford being brought onto the show a week after Chevy Chase portrayed him as a clumsy, imbalanced goofball.  Nor was Mr. Rogers ever brought on the show to challenge Eddie Murphy’s  hilarious version of Roger’s program, set in the ghetto, “Mr.Robinson’s Neighborhood.”  To bring in MR. Rogers himself would have been going for the cheap laugh, stealing away the effects of the social satire that Murphy was articulating.    

Palin’s presence was an insult to Fey’s spot-on, and more than truthful, performance, which should earn her an Emmy, if the gods above are just and fair.  Bringing Palin on the show was the equivalent of the chicken returning to the scene of the crime to justify “why he crossed the road.”  Pointless.  Senseless.  And most importantly, not funny.

Politically speaking, obviously, Michaels cowardly chose to not “take a stand,” so he did what was fair and brought Palin in to make light of the entire affair, again, weakening Fey’s indictment of a campaign that is ruthlessly crafty in their approach to politics.  The problem is, and this also brings us back to the fundamentals of comedy: a joke always takes a side.  It has to.  Otherwise, it’s not funny.  There has to be a victim.  Jokes are never fair and never polite.  There is always a subject addressed in the joke and that subject is always ridiculed.  That is the point of jokes.  Groucho Marx never came out at the end of a Marx Brothers movie and apologized to Margaret Dumont for mocking her throughout the film.  To do so would’ve robbed us of all the laughs he generated by ribbing her from all angles.  Abbott never apologized to Costello and Charlie Brown never kicked that football.  If it had been any other way, we never would’ve watched. 

 What Michaels did, by allowing Palin on the show, was apologize for the hilariously wonderful examination of Palin’s posture, presentation, and inabilities by Tina Fey. Michaels should have stood behind the joke and should have stood behind Fey.  What he had done was an insult to Fey and her abilities as a comedian.  He took back every laugh we enjoyed, as we relished in the fact that we were lucky enough to have someone as bright as Tina Fey to bring to light the stupidity, the patronizing tone, and the frightfully effective touches of the Sarah Palin character.

Kevin Egan is a writer and musician living in Austin, TX

 

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7 comments

  1. I loved the article…keep up the good work.


  2. Kevan Egan must be very stupid


  3. Kevan Egan must be very stupid


  4. Go back to writing music that I will never hear…. I only fell on this article because I thought that I was going to comment on the fact that SNL is producing segments that go after all ends of the political viewpoints rather that the far right Bush bashing of the past number of years… I was wrong and so are you.


  5. Kevan Egan may be a writer and musician but I will never buy his articles or listen to his “music.” He has it all wrong..


  6. hate, hate, hate… move on buddy no one cares.


  7. what do u know u moron!!!!



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