In familiar form, Saturday Night Live’s spoof of the Biden-Ryan debate last night hit on the vice presidential candidates’ glaring weaknesses and oddities, skewering them both in fashion. Above all, the skit’s goofiness and bizarre thread of conversation highlighted, well, the goofiness and bizarreness of the candidates themselves, but it also served as a reminder that the VP debate just generally does not have much impact on the outcome of the election. SNL took no time hammering the point home, with host Martha Raddatz – played by a solid but unremarkable Kate McKinnon – opening up the debate by telling the candidates that their performance is “extremely unlikely to affect the outcome of the election, so just have fun with it.”
Fun they did have, with Jason Sudeikis once again donning his creepy white wig as Biden and Taram Killam (who, by the way, does the best Michael Cera ever) adopting a sharp Wisconsin accent and equally sharp widow’s peak as Paul Ryan. As usual, Sudeikis had the whole obnoxious-and-slightly-buffoonish-yet-relatable-and-endearing thing down. He was particularly spot-on lampooning what HuffPo called Biden’s “flurry of eye rolls, interjections, and accusations” that at times barely allowed Ryan to spit out complete sentences last Thursday.
Meanwhile Killam’s Ryan was appropriately smarmy and vague with a wee bit of charm. Though overall there weren’t very many knee-slapping moments, his hilarious use of hand gestures in attempt to be more specific about the Romney-Ryan tax plan made me LOL, as did his closing speech, during which Usain Bolt came out on stage to remind Ryan that he did not win the 100 meter dash at the Olympics, as fast as me may proclaim himself to be.
Overall, SNL gave a commendable effort – a mediocre but enjoyable skit that at times had to dig deep for punch lines but in the end deserves due respect. Though it does not hold a candle to the famed Palin-Biden skits of 2008, which starred an unforgettable Tina Fey (but when is she forgettable, really?) that may have actually affected the outcome of the election more than the real debate itself, the blame cannot fall on the writers or actors but on the VP candidates themselves. Quite simply, they have not provided nearly as superb material as Palin did in 2008. Indeed, by the end, Palin was a demi-goddess in the sketch comedy world for her one-liners and endlessly entertaining family anecdotes. Alas, the Bidens and Ryans are far too put together to lend themselves to the positively gleeful comedy we had back in the day.
That said, if the Romney-Ryan ticket loses, I, for one, am 100% behind a Ryan family reality show. And, ultimately, it’s probably for the best that comedians across the nation are not being spoon-fed golden punch lines from this year’s candidates. Funny as the political arena can be, and ridiculous as election-time claims can get, it is a little reassuring that the 2012 Republican candidates are not as prone to full-blown mockery as 2008’s.