This Thursday, Saturday Night Live will air a prime-time debate between President "Barack Obama" and former "Governor Mitt Romney." Coming off of a very successful season premiere, I feel that for the first time, both sides will get an even dose of the humor.
Based on the Jay Pharoah interpretation of Obama, the program has officially solidified itself as an even-handed satire of both men. I don’t get the sense that SNL will pull punches in unleashing the satire on the president, just because the audience likes the president doesn’t mean the writers should hold back in making the audience take a good hard look at him.
This is what good political satire does. It frames the candidates as the people we see, but lets the characters take over, and hopefully we are left looking at the real thing a little more closely. They have to be smarter than that. So we dig, listen, weigh, and debate and hopefully, political satire has forced us to make a good, informed, honest, real political decision.
In the realm of political satire in comedy, Republicans and the right are overwhelmingly easier to make fun of than the left. They are, in many ways, marginalized. Maybe it is because the majority of the writers for shows such as SNL, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report are leftward leaning. It is hard to make fun of something you support. Even the laughter and support from the audience gives away certain persuasion as to who they want to hear jokes about. When Jon Stewart cracks a joke about Obama, you might hear some laughter, but you never get the whoops and jeers that a rousing mash-up of Mitt Romney gaffes gets or a poke at the pundits over at Fox News.
On most shows, it feels like the left is hit with a jab on the shoulder, while the right is slugged in the face with a hammer. Even though that’s what I like to see, it is stacked, and political satire needs to be done evenly. Both sides should be brought to their knees.
Enter Jay Pharoah. Following the opening sketch of SNL this past weekend, I feel confident that the show will pull no punches in their portrayal of the president, someone who is arguably hard to make fun of, nor will they shy away from Romney. Jason Sudeikis as Mitt Romney should go down as one of the great SNL characterizations of all time, along with Darrell Hammond’s Al Gore and Will Farrell’s George W. Bush. That was another period where I felt both sides got dealt an even hand of satire from SNL and I hope to see it again this year.
Saturday Night Live is the high-water mark for political satire on television. While The Daily Show and The Colbert Report do a great job night after night of holding public figures and television pundits responsible for their actions, SNL is looked to as the father of them both. While the Stewart/Colbert duo come back strong every night, SNL has to come back really strong once a week. The debate this year will bring a master’s touch in the way only SNL can. It will be a one-time deal so it will have to be good and that is where the show shines. SNL knows how to stay relevant and play fair, no one will escape unbruised.
PolicyMic will be live blogging the program. Check out the live blog here.