Monday, October 27, 2008

Saturday Night Live characters: Past Presidents, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin

saturday night live, amy poehler, lorne michaels
In a revealing panel discussion for The Museum of the Moving Image, key members of the SNL staff spoke on the role the show has played during the Presidential races of the last 30 years.

They recounted SNL Presidential characterizations of the past and touched on various subjects familiar to readers of this blog; The bending of reality when politics and satire collide, charisma and even a Jesse Ventura wrestling reference.

The panel consists of Lorne Michaels (Series creator and executive producer), James Downey (veteran SNL writer), Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers (cast members and Weekend Update co-anchors).

- Listen and Download the 'SNL' and Presidential Politics panel discussion
- View the 'SNL' and Presidential Politics transcript

Selected highlights:
On partisanship and SNL's influence on elections
...You can't think about the fate of Western civilization. You know, we're part of it, but we're not—honestly, nobody's going into the booth, and [saying], "You know I watched SNL and now I'm clear (Laughter) on what to do...
We don't try and deal with it in that grandiose way of what's best for the country. And again, none of this stuff works unless it hits pretty close. You can't go out there and just do a partisan rant. I mean, you can do that if you're on MSNBC (Laughter) but you can't really do it in comedy, because if you lose the audience, you lose them really fast.
On SNL enlisting Jesse Ventura to fill in for Al Gore
[Al] Gore was very much tougher to convince than Bush. Bush was like, "Yeah, I'll do it (Laughter)". Gore... needed a lot of hand holding. Franken interceded because Franken knew him very well, and so we were able to talk him into doing the stuff.

But then we didn't have a "Live from New York" thing... but [Gore thought] "I just don't feel this would be dignified"... we got Jesse Ventura to do the "Live from New York."

... one of our producers, calls the Minnesota governor's office. Jesse's in the background... "They want you to do, 'Live from New York.'" (Gruffly) "Yeah, fine!" (Laughter)... I just knew that if Jesse Ventura could do anything, he could do a "Live from New York." But he did the perfect professional wrestler kind of thing...
On the difficulty comedians may have satirizing Obama
Yes, because he's so fucking smooth! (Laughter) He's like a master jewel thief, like in a 1950's movie, who never leaves any finger prints. No one ever saw anything. No one heard anything. I'm saying he's just really impressive as a figure. I talk to people from other—the South Park guys say the same thing. Other comics and stuff, they go, "Wow. He doesn't have many handles, does he?"

For someone like me, Al Gore was a gift that would keep on giving. (Laughter)... I thought Gore was a much richer thing. Whereas Obama is just—he's tough. And I don't know any one... I've seen people who think they have the handle, but I don't think it's that good...
snl saturday night live presidents clinton bush
'Saturday Night Live' Presidential Bash
Image made with the aid of brilliant SNL resource - SNL Archives
- Watch a video collection of SNL's Presidential impersonations