Comedy: An Unequal Opportunity Victimizer
The public holds two caricatures of Republicans: they are wealthy, austere, and emotionless, not unlike Chief Justice William Rehnquist, or they are gaffe-prone, gun-waving buffoons a la Sarah Palin. Media outlets tend to capitalize on these stereotypes. Comedy in America has a strong liberal bias.
Last Thursday marked the return of Weekend Update Thursdays on NBC, an off-shoot of the ever-popular Saturday Night Live. WUT, as its name would suggest, primarily parodies politics and other news stories. This is the first season of SNL for which WUT will be a regular occurrence.
After last year’s vastly popular 34th season, people have speculated that SNL has lost its metaphorical steam. Whatever is a comedy show to do without George W. Bush and Sarah Palin going around practically handing writers material? With both the federal legislative and executive branches controlled by Democrats, comedians are starved for Republicans to satirize.
In its first episode, WUT opened with a spoof on the Joe Wilson “You lie!” scandal. As always, the fictional Republican members of Congress were composed almost entirely of old white men, and the sole female character, played by Kristen Wiig, shouted out the stereotypically racist suggestion that Obama was a “secret half-Muslim.” The scandal itself was portrayed as an unintentional mishap, with Joe Wilson using the restroom while his Republican comrades decided against yelling such strong words. Joe Wilson’s defense of the Confederate flag was questioned, but, otherwise, the skit was funny and as nonpartisan as possible.
Other political cameos occurred during the news portion of the show. Bill Hader portrayed James Carville (3:35), trying to attack Republicans while only making himself seem all the more ridiculous; at one point he equates moderate Republicans to midgets in smart cars. The analogies only grow worse. Jimmy Carter (Darrell Hammond) and Michael Steele (Kenan Thompson) debate the issue of racism (3:40), with Hammond poking fun at Carter’s lack of any substantial political influence and Thompson parodying Steele’s failed attempts to appeal to “hip-hop settings” and “one-armed midgets.”
Overall, the show was surprisingly balanced: Joe Wilson and Michael Steele vs. James Carville and Jimmy Carter. Throw in the obligatory Bush joke (4:45), and the Republicans bore the brunt of slightly more jokes. But that is as expected.
Without the politicians of the previous year, perhaps shows like SNL will be forced to be more equal in their mockery of parties. If they run out of ideas for liberal targets, Joe Biden always has something to say, Bill Clinton never seems to leave the public eye, and Nancy Pelosi gets quite emotional over mundane healthcare rhetoric. And there is always the possibility that someone will figure out how to parody Obama; his gift-giving abilities and teleprompter love affair would make for good conservative comedy.
And, if all else fails, throw in some Bushisms. Republicans can take a joke.