NBC’s Saturday Night Live is hardly news programming, but the late night satirical news format is a cultural waypoint for millions of Americans, a recognized forum for mocking the gaffes and hypocrisies of our political leaders. Comedy Central’s Daily Show and The Colbert Report haul in millions of viewers on weeknights and produce hours of viral content that provide color in our conversations about politics. Why then has Pres. Barack Obama come out so clean in the late night roasting circuit?
According to one of the head writers of Saturday Night Live (a program that has made a sport out of jumping the shark year after year), their reason for their light touch on our current President is simply a case of because he’s just too smart.
Co-head writer and anchor of “Weekend Update” Seth Meyers was interviewed Wednesday by Bil Simmons of The B.S. Report and asked about the political lean of the show he has a large hand in assembling
Speaking one-on-one to Simmons, Meyers excused the seemingly soft hand SNL plays when sending up Pres. Barack Obama by implying that it’s too hard to lampoon him because he’s an “overthinker” who has “thought everything through.” [Listen to a segment of the interview here.]
Perhaps what Meyers means to say is that with the duties of Obama impersonator being handed over from veteran cast member and Portlandia co-creator Fred Armisen to third-year freshman at SNL Jay Pharoah, the show will use the Obama character less for biting satire and more for goofy slapstick.
What a difference an election year makes. Was Obama a less intelligent, sloppier thinker in 2009 when Armisen delivered a hilarious satirical show opening that poked fun at the serious issue of our reliance on Chinese loans to pay for reckless federal deficit spending?
Of course, Saturday Night Live is a production of NBC, the same network that skipped a moment of silence on the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks in favor of airing a meaty interview with Kim Jenner. Also the same network that during its coverage of this summer’s London Olympics went to an interview with US swimmer Michael Phelps to avoid airing a tribute to the 2005 “7/7” London subway bombings.
Who can forget NBC’s little sister MSNBC’s coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention when attentive viewers noticed a interesting pattern: whenever minorities took the stage to speak to convention goers, MSNBC cut away. From Red Alert Politics:
When popular Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz, the GOP nominee for Senate, took the stage, MSNBC cut away from the Republican National Convention and the Hispanic Republican from Texas’ speech.
MSNBC stayed on commercial through former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis’ speech, as well. Davis, who recently became a Republican, is black.
Then, when Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno’s wife Luce’ Vela Fortuño took the stage minutes later, MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews opted to talk over the First Lady’s speech.
And Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval? Noticeably missing from MSNBC, too.
Mia Love, a black candidate for Congress in Utah, was also ignored by MSNBC.
Viewers deserve equal opportunity to laugh at the mistakes and missteps of all of our political luminaries, but more importantly we deserve to have our entertainers not pulling punches. Those who make their livings delivering political satire hold dear their license to choose targets based not on who they are, or what they stand for, but based only on whether there is humorous commentary to be made. How often have comedians crossed the line between acceptable humor and offense then swiftly reminded the public that there is only One Commandment governing comedy–there are no sacred cows.
President Obama is not a sacred cow, and NBC needs to stop making excuses and put a little more meat on the funny bone.
[featured photo credit: Anya Garrett]