Saturday Night Live has a long, storied history of political satire, a reputation that was only burnished after this past Saturday's well-received Tina Fey-as-Sarah Palin skit. The venerable comedy institution has been known to move the cultural dial with some of its depictions, whether it was the spring sketch that famously declared the media to be "in the tank" for Barack Obama or its 2000 impersonation of Al Gore as a "lockbox"-brandishing scold. Still, we're a bit puzzled by some of the quotes from an event held Monday at the Museum of the Moving Image, where Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler, and Lorne Michaels met to discuss their satirical process:
“The trick with all of these people is to try to come out as fair and evenhanded as possible,” Mr. Meyers, who is also the head writer for “SNL,” said.
Mr. Meyers said the inclusion of Ms. Poehler’s Clinton character “made it safer to mention things about Sarah Palin without making it seem like an attack piece.” ...“The Palin people were happy with it as well, which was the weird thing,” Mr. Meyers said.
Well, yes, that may happen when you're taking great pains not to offend. The thing is, though: is that what SNL is about? Or is it simply another example of how the cable news reliance on equal-time talking points has obscured actual investigation all across the TV spectrum? After all, it's hard to imagine some of SNL's past, famously acerbic writers prioritizing fairness at the expense of scathing, truthful comedy. Ironically, for an institution that's presumably liberal, the show's gotten most of its modern mileage out of satirizing Democrats (with the exception of Dana Carvey's early 90's run as Ross Perot and the elder George Bush). After Will Ferrell left the show early on during the George W. Bush presidency, SNL attempted a few recasts of the role, though none truly broke out. Is that the reason the show hasn't been able to produce a single iconic Bush skit since Ferrell's departure (while satirists like those at The Daily Show made hay of the president's material), or is it simply because when it comes to making fun of Republicans, SNL suddenly needs to bend over backwards to appear fair and balanced?