SNL More Than A Joke: A Political Mastermind


Natalie Wexler Saturday Night Live. Lorne Michael’s hit TV show that has been launching the careers of comedy megastars since the first group of not ready for primetime players hit the air in 1975. They don’t go on air because they’re ready, they go on because the clock hits 11:35 EST. Political humor— which has recently gained particular attention— has been woven into the fabric of the show since it first hit the air. But what most people don’t realize is the power that SNL’s comedy actually holds, the significant impact that it’s been making on elections and political candidates since the show’s beginning. When SNL decides to have one of their cast members or a special guest play a political character, they go all out. As former head writer, Weekend Update anchor, and Sarah Palin impersonator Tina Fey described in her 2011 book Bossypants, the team at SNL tried for weeks to get the exact shade of lip color that the VP hopeful wore. It wasn’t until Sarah Palin herself made an appearance on SNL and brought her makeup artist along that it was revealed the lip color was a combination of Chapstick and lip pencil, and the show in the future used those same products with incredible precision and attention to detail. The makeup, hair, and wardrobe staff are so precise that many newspapers such as Dominican newspaper “El Nacional,” American TV channel Fox News, among others have mistakenly printed photos of Fey as Palin and, just recently, printed a picture of Alec Baldwin believing him to be Trump. SNL plays a large role in elections because how somebody is portrayed could make or break their campaign run. After SNL portrayed Palin amicably, presidential hopeful John McCain personally called to thank Tina Fey for helping the campaign. Yet, the sketch wasn’t intended to help or hurt the campaign— it was simply intended to provide a satirical point of view into the 2008 election. But the skits made a difference. Eventually, the impressions started to hurt the McCain-Palin ticket as 45% of young Republicans said that they didn’t plan on voting for McCain-Palin after seeing Fey’s Palin character on SNL. In 1934 there was a rule created called the “Equal Time Rule” that states that in order to maintain political fairness, broadcast platforms must provide an equal amount of time to an opposing candidate if they request it. Some shows, such as talk shows, can be considered exempt on a case-by-case basis. SNL most recently honored this rule in 2015 when Donald Trump hosted and appeared on camera for a total of 12 minutes. Saturday Night Live is just one of many outlets that broadcasts the politics going on in our government, and like anything presented, whether it be fact or opinion, everything should be taken with a grain of salt.]]>