Well folks…this is it…the End of Days…the point where we jump off the cliff without any form of parachute to save us, or any form of airbag that will break our fall…the time of our lives where all the news networks could theoretically pull up the stakes and go elsewhere because nobody will care after November 9th. Tuesday is Election Day, and depending on who wins or loses, there’s a very good chance all Hell could break loose……I say facetiously, of course. So while we’re waiting for our impending doom to doom us all, join us as we lighten the mood at the times when SNL exposed the American Political System as the Joke it Truly is…sometimes.
Because the size & scope of political humor is pretty vast, and also because this is the 2016 Election, we are Supersizing this list so that we can present the TOP 16 SNL Political sketches of all time–And since SNL has decided to put on a Special in Prime Time on Monday, This is going to be a 2 PART LIST. The First Half right now, the 2nd half on Monday. No Criteria per se, we’ve already done a list of “Debate” sketches, so for redundancy purposes, those sketches are disqualified. Otherwise, as long as Politics on either a National, Regional or “Local” level is highlighted, it’s in. The Only Disqualifications I’m going to make are to the sketches of the past 2 years—largely because (1) Most of it is still fresh in people’s minds, and (2) I’d also be wasting a lot of time if I were to fill 16 spaces with the words “Kate McKinnon and/or Alec Baldwin is Awesome”; and you’d be wasting your time in reading it. That being said, let’s stuff a ballot box.
- RUDY GIULIANI’S ENDORSEMENT COMMERCIALS (11/2/2002) – Believe it or not, there was actually once a time when “America’s Mayor” wasn’t a highly vilified mouthpiece for Mr. Tan in a Can; he actually had some credibility and gravitas to lend to more deserving people after 9/11 occurred. This sketch spoofs some of that goodwill as we see Darrell Hammond pre-record some endorsements for people who were running in mid-term elections (Something the Real Giuliani did that year). Sort of in the same spirit as ‘96’s “Tom Brokaw Pre-Tapes”, the endorsements get a little more harder to swallow as time marches on, including one named after a Nazi (Which—now that I think about it—might’ve been a joke both behind & ahead of the times). Giuliani was one of Hammond’s more stable characters, but compared to how Whackadoo the Real Giuliani became in recent years, the impression is tame in comparison.
- CRISIS GAME ’83 (12/1/1983) – With a list this big, Of course time saving is gonna be inevitable (Check out the 8/2/2016 entry on the S.O.S.N.L. page). The one thing I’ll add to this, however, is that the Ebersol years missed out on a lot of chances at political humor during those 4 years—especially since Ronald Reagan was just as big a respected figure as he was an easy target. Case in point…
- THE NUTTY PRESIDENT (10/30/1982) – Admittedly, Joe Piscopo’s Reagan impression was Run of the Mill at best–But anything involving an homage to Jerry Lewis (or any old school comedy for that matter) earns bonus points in my book. Though I’d be lying if I didn’t think his “Jerry” sounded like more of a cross between Gilbert Gottfried & Prof. Frink from “The Simpsons”. If you watch this sketch for the Very first time (as I did), the back & forth between Reagan & Jerry is naturally surprising. After a while, it does grate a little, but you gotta applaud Joe for trying.
- BOB DOLE’S PEP TALK (11/16/1996) – In comparison to other years before & since, 1996 was probably one of the more lackluster election years in SNL’s history…partly because—even to those living under a rock—they probably knew Bill Clinton was gonna win in a landslide anyway, so they might as well have kept it light. But that didn’t stop them from trying; enter Norm MacDonald making his single biggest Non-Update contribution to the show by playing everybody’s favorite lamb to the slaughter, Bob Dole. “But Wait!” you say, “Didn’t SNL already know somebody who could do a more credible Dole impression?” Indeed, I’m sure Aykroyd would’ve loved to appear on the show semi-weekly. But at the same time, you have to realize that this was done in an era before constant stunt casting was considered commonplace (coughBALDWINcough); also, I think he was taping his sitcom “Soul Man” at the time (Not related to the Cedric The Entertainer show of the same name…but as usual, I digress), so Norm did Dole anyway—and even though he didn’t really like playing him–or Characters in general, the audience somehow ate it up. So when the real Dole lost the election and Norm wound up bummed out about it, Dole took it upon himself to not only give Norm a much needed pep talk, but also help the show resurect a long standing tradition of politicos laughing at themselves after a humiliating defeat (Just ask Mike Huckabee, Jon Huntsman, and “Oh, God, HIM again!”). Stay classy, Bob—Still alive (as of this writing) at age 93!
- “IT’S A WONDERFUL NEWT” (11/19/1994) – There I go saving time again; take another look at “Wonderful Newt” on the “Season 20” analysis. For the most part, this was one of Two times they got political humor right in the beleaguered season. The Other time they got right you can see in entry #10.
- AL FRANKEN’S ELECTORAL MAP (11/5/1988) – This may be one of the RARE times I will include a “Weekend Update” piece either here or ANYWHERE else in S.O.S.N.L., But I wanted to include this one just because of how unique it is. Supposedly, the future Senator picked up the ability to draw—from memory, no less—a map of the United States from a long ago bar bet in the 1970s, and he uses this skill to predict the outcome of the 1988 election. He attempts to do this by throwing in the names of random celebrity endorsements along the way, and ultimately concluding that Mike Dukakis would win—but we all know how that turned out. As for the actual Map drawing trick itself, it is pretty cool to see something of a grand scale come together the way it did—so much so that some people have argued that Franken is really following a light pencil outline in order to get this done in just a few minutes…to which I call Bullshit on that. I’ve seen this video a number of times and in 1080p resolution…Trust me, It’s ALL Al here. In fact, he STILL does this trick to this day whenever he needs to get a point across about something. And THAT, ladies & gentlemen, is why he’s a Senator…he has to know the country pretty well in order to serve as one.
- CLINTON AUDITIONS (9/29/1994) – “Clinton Auditions” might’ve been the only other time Political Humor was done right in Season 20; while at the same time, letting the audience in on an otherwise meta joke. Phil Hartman had just left the show, and along with him went probably the most accurate impression of a politician the show had at that point (at least until Darrell Hammond came along a year later). So with that, the show had to scramble to find a suitable replacement. The usual suspects of the era (Farley falling down, Spade doing it “Hollywood Minute” style, Sandler with his Guitar) try and fail nobly. Then, Chris Elliott comes in—while getting a warm “welcome to the show” applause—and does bubba a la W.C. Fields…that fails miserably, so we get to the punchline of Tim Meadows doing his best until ultimately conceding “I’m not gonna get the part, am I?” None of them did, with the spot ultimately going to waste with Michael McKean. Nobody knew just how bad the year would be when this sketch kicked off the season…almost like a “calm before the storm” of sorts.
- BUSH TWINS AT THE INAUGURATION (1/22/2005) – When one tunes in to SNL to see the President being mocked, it’s usually whoever it is that’s playing the President that’s doing the mocking at his own expense…This is one of the RARE exceptions to the rule, and it’s even rarer considering it required Tina Fey to do something outside of her “Update” comfort zone. Fortunately, her anchor-partner/BFFL Amy Poehler was there to team up with her to give us something that not only needled into the unexpected re-election & inauguration of Dubya, but also did so in a way that was almost sweetly innocent………almost. I especially liked it when they spoke in their “Twin Language”, only for Daddy Dubya to be completely baffled by it…If it weren’t for his paintings in recent years, BOY how I miss making fun of Bush Jr.
(*REFEREE BLOWS WHISTLE*)
And that signals Halftime on this list, join us again on Monday for the Thrilling Conclusion…