Martha Thomases: Lampooning The Lumpen
Like many old farts, I think it’s been a long time since Saturday Night Live was reliably funny. A lot of this is nostalgia for my youth, when I was cool and cutting-edge. More, alas, is that I think Lorne Michaels tends to stick to what he thinks works and not to take chances and rock the boat. Too many sketches rely on catch-phrases or stock characters, or the surprise visit of a guest star.
For me, the last straw was letting Trump host the show when he was running for president. I thought it was antithetical to humor to suck up to power that way, and Trump’s racism, sexism, xenophobia and general lack of class are pretty much what good comedy is supposed to attack. It’s much funnier to point out that the Emperor has no clothes than to laugh at the naked peasants.
So you can imagine my surprise when I find myself, in general, liking at least the first half-hour or so of SNL lately. I mean, I’ve liked Alec Baldwin since at least Beetlejuice, and Kate McKinnon might be my spirit animal, so I liked a lot of the campaign. Since the election, the humor seems sharper, going after Trump’s ego and narcissism and ignorance rather than just his appearance, or the size of his hands.
And then, this.
Melissa McCarthy does angry better than anyone. My favorite parts of Spy are her manic rants against Rose Byrne. Even in a mediocre film like The Boss, her angry outbursts make me laugh. Therefore, I was going to laugh at her impression of Sean Spicer even if she didn’t actually copy his mannerisms.
In his response to the skit, Spicer showed that he has as little understanding of how comedy works as his boss. From the link, “Extra asked Spicer for his thoughts on the sketch, and his reaction was that McCarthy “could dial back” with her impression and she “needs to slow down on the gum chewing; way too many pieces in there.”
Because it’s only funny if it is factually accurate? I mean, I know this administration has trouble understanding the difference between fake news and satire, but this is something a kindergartner would get.
I confess I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that McCarthy is a woman and Spicer is a man. She nailed the confrontational tone of the administration’s attitudes towards the press because that is her jam, not her gender. However, SNL might have accomplished more than that, for a change. According to this, Spicer’s job might be threatened. To quote, “More than being lampooned as a press secretary who makes up facts, it was Spicer’s portrayal by a woman that was most problematic in the president’s eyes, according to sources close to him.”
Politico was not the only media source suggesting that Spicer’s days might be numbered. CNN also had the story.
If all it takes is some cross-dressing on television to rein in Hell Presidente (thanks to Steve Grant for the nickname!), then I’m all in. Rosie O’Donnell has already agreed to play Steve Bannon, an easier way to get rid of him than calling all my elected representatives every week. Let’s use Trump’s misogyny to our advantage.
NBC has noticed that SNL is getting buzzier, and they’re looking for ways to monetize this trend. I get that. Given that SNL has such a spotty record, and that “Weekend Update” is among the spottiest, I’m not sure how this would work. Could a network show be as opinionated as The Daily Show or The Colbert Report?
I don’t know if they can pull it off, but I’d love to see them try.