Thursday, March 13, 2008

Politics Ain't Funny

For years, Saturday Night Live was seen as a television dinosaur, an old show that had long ago run out of funny bits and was broadcast out of habit. Enter a political season that has candidates going for jugulars, and finally there's something to mock.

Political strategists, however, have no sense of humour whatsoever. Nothing is funny to them because everything is serious. Poll numbers, public opinion, a spin here or a retort's war.

The writers of SNL are in the entertainment business. They keep an ear to the ground, to pick up on current events that will resonate with viewers for one particular evening. This isn't writing for the history books. It's more fast food than haute cuisine.

Before Jim Downey touched a key and composed a line, plenty of other pundits had noticed that Senator Obama was getting press coverage as if he were the Second Coming. When the first bit aired, featuring a fawning press and a debate that sought to crucify the female candidate, people laughed. They saw it aired on news programs and they laughed again. They talked about the bit at work, and more viewers became aware that SNL was funny again. Mr. Downey did his job, and did it well.

Not so fast, sir, said the Obama handlers. You're clearly backing Ms. Clinton with your satire. We don't find it amusing in the least. That actor playing Obama, he isn't even black. Thanks a million, went the Clinton campers, for letting the public see how unfair the media have been.

The SNL writers are said to be pro-Obama. Their job is to make people laugh, and it doesn't make any difference who they skewer. That's the nature of political satire.

Obama's handlers come from Chicago by way of the Daley machine. They must not have ever spent a Saturday evening at The Second City. Even they had, they wouldn't have gotten the jokes.

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