'SNL' Flexes Its Political Muscle Again
For the second week in a row, NBC’s Saturday Night Live made itself an indispensable part of the presidential political conversation – this time not just by imitating Hillary Clinton, but by featuring her in a surprise guest appearance.
The “fake” Hillary, played to impish perfection as always by Amy Poehler, came first, recreating the previous week’s MSNBC Democratic debate between her and Barack Obama. Fred Armisen, in his second go-round as Obama, had a little more fun with the sound of the voice, but Saturday’s spoof had the same central message as the one from the week before: the media are gaga over Obama, and giving Clinton a much tougher time, and much tougher questions.
The comic highlight of this came when a line of debate questioning aimed at Poehler’s Hillary turned into a virtual interrogation – so much so that we suddenly heard the familiar “ch-chink!” sound from the NBC Law & Order franchise, followed by Vincent D’Onofrio, appearing from nowhere, to lean threateningly over her shoulder.
“What do we have to do,” he asked in those quietly menacing tones of his from the Law & Order: Criminal Intent series, “to convince you that this is not a joke?”
The faux debate ended with Obama congratulated as “our winner,” but SNL wasn’t through yet. An editorial response followed, featuring the real Hillary Clinton, live in the studio – and the loud ovation she got was testament of support, if only for being a good sport.
“I simply adore Amy’s impression of me,” she said, which was Poehler’s cue to enter, wearing the same outfit, and laughing nervously and loudly. (“Do I really laugh like that?” the real Hillary asked, wincing a bit.) Clinton – the actual one – got to end the skit by addressing the nation and announcing, with a broad smile, “Live, from New York, it’s ‘Saturday Night!’”
There’s no way this isn’t considered news, as well as entertainment, in the days before Tuesday’s crucially important primaries. And even though the real Obama visited SNL for a surprise appearance last November, in the last show before the writers’ strike stopped production, a return visit in the imminent future is a very good bet.
On the same show, by the way, former Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani (and former NYC mayor, and former SNL guest host) popped in during “Weekend Update” to blame his failed presidential bid on “wearing a dress” during an SNL skit. (“The Florida plan was solid,” he insisted jokingly. “I stand by that.”)
Giuliani, in the end, likened his presidential campaign to a Saturday Night Live skit: “It started strong, but you really don’t have an ending.”
David Bianculli has been a television critic for a very long time. He writes the "Bianculli Review" column for Broadcasting & Cable and is TV critic and guest host for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He also teaches television history at New Jersey’s Rowan University, and offers nightly viewing recommendations and observations on his website, www.tvworthwatching.com.