For the record, I have watched Saturday Night Live since the very first episode in 1975. In the early years, we rushed home from whatever we might be doing to be front and center before the television at 10:30 p.m. (Central Time) when the opening skit aired. And over the years, Saturday Night Live has been anything but politically correct at some point in virtually every episode. So why question the taste of Saturday Night Live opening skits now?
* On October 3, 2009, President Barack Obama, played by Fred Armisen, reports to the American public from the “Oval Office.” According to the transcript of the script posted at www.snltranscripts.jt.org/09/09b.phtml, he “admits that he hasn’t accomplished a damn thing since taking office in January.” In another spot, the “President” says, “So, looking at this list, I’m seeing two big accomplishments: Jack and Squat.”
* On November 14, 2009, the show opened with actor Jason Sudeikis impersonating Vice President Joe Biden. The title of the skit was “Biden Cold Open: For the next week, Joe’s running things.” Early on, the “Vice President” says, “Now, before the President left, we talked policy; mainly, the policy about the Oval Office, and how I’m not allowed in it. [ he chuckles ] So why am I here? Because Joe Biden follows his heart, NOT instructions.” He claims that there are three major problems in the country, and while President Obama is away for eight days, Biden will solve at least one of them. He goes into a dissertation on the war in Afghanistan and says, “Yeah, some people will say Afghanistan is getting better. Well, of course it is! It’s the worst place on earth!” On the economy, he claims that things ARE getting better and describes how foreclosure lawyers, repo men and bankruptcy specialists are being hired all over the country, so jobs ARE out there. But the worst comes with regard to health care, when he says, “We’re gonna cave in like crazy. That’s right. The president wants to pass a health care bill SO BAD… that he will literally sign ANYTHING.”
* On November 21, 2009, things take a truly sick turn when Fred Armisen returns to impersonate President Obama, speaking with Chinese President Hu Jintao (portrayed by Will Forte) during his overseas visit to China. The “Chinese president” is noting (via an “interpretor”) that the U.S. owes China $800 billion and asks, “Are you going to pay back the money?” When “President Obama” answers some questions with “I don’t know,” and other lame answers, the “Chinese president” asks, “Will you kiss me?” “President Obama” says he doesn’t understand this question, and the “Chinese president” says, “I like to be kissed when someone is doing sex to me!” “President Obama” says there is no need for this, and explains we take our debt to China very seriously. The “Chinese president” suggests that he supposes he could call and pretend to be a Wall Street banker and ask for the money, but he doesn’t want to stoop to that level.
“President Obama” assures him he does not have to stoop to any level, and the “Chinese president” asks, “Say, while you’re here… are you at least going to treat me to dinner and a movie?” “President Obama” doesn’t understand this question, either, and the “Chinese president” says, “I think it’s the polite thing to do before doing sex to me,” and he turns and bends over, sticking his rear end toward the actor playing President Obama. The skit continues with “President Obama” insisting that China will be repaid, when the “Chinese president’ asks, “Do I look like Mrs. Obama?” Again there is confusion, so the question is repeated, and the “Chinese president” explains, as he bends over again…”Then why are you trying to do sex to me like I was Mrs. Obama?” From there, he continues to stay bent over, making comments such as “Just do it… get it over with…I can take it.”
Let’s be clear. Saturday Night Live has spoofed politicians and celebrities for years. We laughed when Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin did “Point/Counterpoint,” and Dan said, “Jane, you ignorant slut.” It was funny when Chevy Chase impersonated Gerald Ford and fell down or bumped his head. We snickered on January 27, 1979, when Dan Akroyd portrayed Jimmy Carter delivering his State of the Union address in obvious discomfort, with such comments as… “But, we do have problems. The most irritating of which is the constant swelling of inflation. The vessels of our economy.. are dangling in suspense.. to see how this nagging problem will be rectified. Inflation is not pretty. After a long, hard look.. I believe I’ve put my finger on the problem. We have overextended ourselves.. put too much strain on our economy for opportunists -” and “Therefore, to drive the piles for a new foundation, to deal with inflation, I will present to Congress a comprehensive legislative package that I call: Preparation-I. With diligent application, this program will hopefully shrink inflation, and relieve this burden which itches away at the base of out economy.” [quotes from http://snltranscripts.jt.org/78/78jcarter.phtml]
But these latest openers have been debasing and inflammatory. With a national crisis over health care, the war in Afghanistan, a recession, and unemployment at an all-time high nationally, this it not the time to joke about our administration in this manner. If Lorne Michaels and the Saturday Night Live producers and writers are trying to appear unbiased in their political satire, they have done that… and worse. Derogatory implications about “screwing someone over” and sex with the First Lady are never appropriate, regardless of which side of the aisle one sits.
Yes, Saturday Night Live has always pushed the envelope. Yes, viewers expect things to border on the suggestive and scandalous. But Season 36 is shoring up to be one that goes far beyond suggestive and scandalous to lewd, crude, and downright disgusting. Recently a friend shared a link in an e-mail to a video from YouTube.com that featured a skit on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson involving Carson and Dom DeLuise. In the skit from the 1970s, DeLuise fills five glasses with water and sits a tray atop them. He then places a rolled matchbook cover on the tray over each glass, with a raw egg perched on top of each matchbook cover. Then he hits the tray with a broom, and the matchbook covers fly away, while the eggs fall into the glasses. The interaction between Carson and DeLuise is hysterical, and after the trick, they get goofy with the raw eggs… even stuffing them in each other’s pants! However, no foul language is used… no innuendos are invoked… and certainly there is no blatant – much less rude and crude – sexual reference. The entire skit constitutes good, clean fun.
It may sound cliched to ask, “What happened to the good ole days?” But seriously, do we really have to stoop the level seen lately on Saturday Night LIve in an attempt to get a laugh? Frankly, it smacks of a lack of creativity – and yes, intelligence – that we have to sink to utilizing crude demonstrations of sexual acts in what supposedly is comedy these days. And in no circle does it seem appropriate to drag the First Lady into this debacle -particularly in such a lewd manner.
Some may find this sort of “humor” appropriate, but in large number, Americans are not laughing… and many are changing the channel. Maybe it was too much to hope that a show like Saturday Night Live could provide sustained laughs for almost 35 years. Maybe it’s time for Saturday Night Live to say “Good-night.” It’s not only no longer funny and very “un-PC”… it’s now a waste of one and a half hours on a Saturday evening. In the words of Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella, “Never mind!”