Election 2016: Saturday Night Lively

Arthur  Schaper
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Posted: Oct 20, 2015 12:01 AM
Election 2016: Saturday Night Lively

Saturday Night Live must be feeling the love this election season. SNL alumni have waded – or rather splashed – into the election season, from Seth Meyers’ interview spots with (Presidential candidate? VP Pick?) Elizabeth Warren to Jimmy Fallon’s self-image interview with Donald Trump.

Then there’s the show itself.

Hillary Clinton made a guest appearance as a bartender named Val, playing opposite Kate McKinnon, who has dished out her self-involved Clinton impersonations so well -- and oh so funny. Before that, McKinnon had given us the Hillary “Selfie from Hell,” accompanied by Darrell Hammond’s spot-on impression of Bill “Did someone say ‘women everywhere’?” Clinton.

The Clinton-Val skit was cringe-worthy yet accurate, capturing Madame Clinton’s desperation for spontaneity, both the actress and the candidate, or vice versa. It also mocked – and very well I might add – how desperate Clinton is to be on the “left” side of issues without really saying anything. Val says she opposed the Keystone Pipeline. “Hillary” says it took her awhile to get there. Boy, did it! Did SNL push this skit to boost Hillary’s flagging numbers? Of course they did! But the little scene also exposed what a selfish little politician Clinton really is, too.

The cast has done some pretty good spoofs of the presidential debates, especially their latest, blasting the five Democrats in their first debate. Larry David from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” was the perfect casting choice, and even Alec Baldwin as former US Senator Jim Webb fit right in. I did not recognize the actors playing Governors Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee, and yet those were brilliant casting decisions, too – since no one recognizes the candidates in real life anyway! The O’Malley character said it best: “I governed Baltimore so well, they made two TV shows about it: “Homicide” and “The Wire.” Hysterical and right on the money. Like a deer in headlights, Chafee tells everyone: “I was Senator. That was fun. Now I’m here! This is fun, too.” Perfect unseriousness.

I must admit: Saturday Night Live is pretty good political commentary, exposing the exceeding, and self-defeating, ambition of Hillary Clinton, the media’s non-stop juggernaut to crown her president, plus the jockeying between Senator Sanders and the rest of the also-ran candidates who don’t have a laugh-tracks chance in a comedy club of winning the nomination.

This just in: The Donald is going to be the guest host for Saturday Night Live, too. I will do everything I can to make sure I have nothing to do that night.

Now, what can we say about this strange amalgam of comedy and presidential politics? Does this spell the demise of our informed political process? Has democracy been demoted to death by remote control?

Perhaps, and yet perhaps not.

More Americans should be involved in knowing what our elected leaders, and their potential successors, want to do for the country. The fact is – if anyone wants to make it big in national politics, they have to be good on stage, in front of a live studio audience. Why not angle for a spot, or a guest hosting gig, on SNL?

Richard Nixon learned this lesson of national pop culture exposure early on. With his weird spots on “Laugh In” – Sock it to. . .me? -- the country was laughing with him. Not only did Nixon speak for an angry and frustrated “Silent Majority,” Nixon knew that if he could make them laugh, he could make them vote him into the White House.

How about Ronald Reagan? The Great Communicator, they called him, and he didn’t get his polished panache before camera through elocution lessons. From acting in Hollywood movies to promoting General Electric around the country, Reagan the Leader came through to the American public as a well-seasoned Reagan the Speaker.

Yes, words matter, and so does presentation. Just ask Gerald Ford (tripping down stairs, followed by “There is no build up in the Eastern Bloc”). Now, it is important that our candidates – and later elected officials – have something worth sharing, and a record worth running on. Style matters, though, or substance gets lost in the shuffle. So, Republicans are starting to stride toward the limelight more, doing better on the camera as well as in the legislative chambers or the governor’s mansion.

How has else has Saturday Night Live made Election 2016 more lively?

We are getting honesty from the actors who play the candidates, rather than from the candidates themselves playing a part. Funny their talking heads, and more accurate than the op-eds, SNL reveals the slimy and shady about our political class.

Hillary Clinton – the best scripted candidate out there, and McKinnon voice what everyone in America is slowly learning. Even seasoned politicos in Torrance have called her a “Romney-bot.” Bernie Sanders is very much the old, doddering busy-body. Conservatives – and anyone who knows that socialism just does not work – cannot help but laugh at every meandering, wandering spoof which came out Larry David’s mouth. Sanders comes off that way - out of touch but still out to win. People like the old fuddy duddy, and SNL reflects that strange mixture of admiration and mockery among millennials.

Jim Webb? For conservatives, he is the best Democrat on the Presidential ticket, and Alec Baldwin took advantage of that. He played up his frequent demands for more time and attention on the stage, plus his “too” conservative credentials. You have an A+ rating with the NRA? I’ll pass. You once called affirmative action racist toward white people? I’ll pass. Of course, the real Jim Webb did not pass on anything, but SNL also channels the general sentiment of elite liberals who dominate the marginalized media markets in New York and Los Angeles.

Election 2016 might as well have “Live From New York! It’s Saturday Night!” as a tag line, and overall that’s not a bad thing. Even if the average viewer gets most of his political learning from late night TV, it’s still pretty accurate, and conservatives are getting more stage time.