Tuned In

The Morning After: SNL’s Early Election Returns

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Over the weekend on Saturday Night Live, President Barack Obama stepped aside and was succeeded by President Barack Obama. The show make a deft meta-comment on the casting, having former Obama Fred Armisen introduce Jay Pharoah as the President, quipping, “Wouldn’t want his job, right?”

As was often the case in politics, surface change was easier to achieve than more fundamental change. The first cold open of the Pharoah era showed him up to the job of getting the Prez’s tone, affect and mannerisms (he does indeed say “Uh” a lot, sometimes for uncomfortably long stretches). But after an off period that offered up so much potential material, the portrayals of both Obama and Romney felt generic, producing a sketch that could have aired any week in the campaign.

After the drama of the conventions and the week of political sniping amid the uproar in the Middle East, we got from Jason Sudeikis a picture of Romney as an awkward campaigner, tying himself in knots as he struggled to connect with regular folks. It’s a portrayal with a basis in some of Romney’s more awkward past moments on the campaign trail–and Sudeikis does at least have the candidate’s body language down—but it felt tentative and basic, when there was so much to draw on from the last couple weeks’ campaigning.

As for Pharoah’s Obama, beyond the “Ums” and the intonations, there was at least the germ of an idea. “I’m not worried,” he assured his audience. “I probably should be.” There’s something there, at least, that suggests SNL has a concept for the Pharoah Obama character: an aloof, hard-to-figure guy who can be almost disconcertingly calm, a few bars of “Let’s Stay Together” notwithstanding.

The stronger election bit (online here though I can’t embed it) was an absurdly over-the-top parody of Obama’s Bain attack ads, including a worker who recounts being followed from job to job as Bain buys his companies for the sole purpose of laying him off. (Also, Pharoah’s delivery—”I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message. Uhhhhh, but I’m not real proud of it”—was worth more than the entirety of his cold open.) As for Bill Hader’s “Clint Eastwood and Chair” spot: funny, but it would pretty much be comedy malpractice not to get laughs out of that raw material.

As for the rest of the season premiere, per my usual practice, I Gong Show’ed my way through it watching on DVR, one finger on the fast-forward button. Seth MacFarlane is a good live performer but was a little conspicuous in reading the prompter, and—well, let’s just say I’m glad we got the “Gangnam Style” sketch out of the way. Now I only need to dread the eventual obligatory Glee performance of the song.

SNL viewers: cast your votes in the comments.

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meetsenior
meetsenior

 Recently I found a great dating site for 50+ senior singles--50R○mancé. C○m  

lawrencetokill
lawrencetokill

myers is very competent, but very stale in the northeastern witty male writer mold, and the pointedness of the writing and purposefulness of the hirings won't really get fresher until they bring in a new captain with drive, perspective and connections, like another tina fey. i'm always excited to see new faces, but at some point they become the same ole new faces. hopefully the next leader will be someone who knows the seasoned riggles and koechners and ferrells and watkinses and poehlers, who come in with big ideas and the cajones to push for them.

Kaptin_Gimpy
Kaptin_Gimpy

Hate to be a wet blanket, but the only thing less funny that Pharoah's exaggeratedly pausing Obama is the fact that there's no Boardwalk Empire Watch.  Don't be a dewdropper, Poniewozik. 

lawrencetokill
lawrencetokill

and yes, i would like validation that mueller the chicago gangster is an exciting idea and not just a very silly one.

korrector
korrector

the puppet school sketch was an instant classic

anon76returns
anon76returns

The votes are in:  it appears Tuned-Inlanders don't watch much SNL.

lucelucy
lucelucy

 I haven't watched regularly since the Belushi/Curtin/Radner/Aykroyd/Chase days.  Probably missed some good stuff, but then I think I was spared a lot of bad stuff too.