Obama Shot Down Saturday Night Live Cartoon About Islamic Terrorism

"During the flight, please do not blow up the airplane."

This Hollywood Reporter story is about Saturday Night Live trying to play up their last hurrah of participating in the smear campaign against Sarah Palin. It was the last hurrah because under Obama, the show fell off the map. It had zero impact on the 2012 election. (via Ace of Spades)

But this is an odd anecdote from those last days.

Robert Smigel, writer: It wasn't until my last season that the network refused to air a "TV Funhouse." It was a live-action one that was meant to be about racism and profiling, an airline-safety video with multilingual narration, and whenever you heard a different language, they would cut to people of that nationality. First, typical white Americans, then a Latino family, then a Japanese family, all being instructed about seat belts, overhead compartments, et cetera. Then it cuts to an Arab man, and the narrator says, in Arabic, "During the flight, please do not blow up the airplane. The United States is actually a humanitarian nation that is rooted in the concept of freedom," and so on. … When the standards people freaked, Lorne fought them. Standards pushed back hard. They even got someone at NBC human resources to condemn it. … Lorne said, "I have a plan." Obama was doing a cameo in the cold open. Lorne told me he would show my sketch to Obama. "If Obama thinks it's OK, they won't be able to argue it." I thought it was a brilliant idea, except why would Obama ever give this thing his blessing? What if word got out? "Hey, everybody, that guy over there said it was cool. The one running for president of the country." But I loved Lorne for caring this much and being willing to go that far to get this thing on TV.

Michaels: Obama said, "It's funny, but no, I don't think so."

It's the kind of gag that can be read more than one way. Downey is accused of being a conservative by talentless clown Horatio Sanz, but no one would accuse Smigel of that.

SNL ran nastier jokes than this. It's telling that Standards and Practices shut it down, clearly not over language or recent fears of terrorism.

It's also telling that Barack Obama wouldn't okay it either putting him in the strange position of censoring SNL. And there's another Smigel story.

Smigel: My last cartoon, in February 2008, was "The Obama Files" — about candidate Obama's efforts to distance himself from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton without alienating them. It turned out that on the same show, Hillary Clinton made a cameo in the cold open. She was planning to leave right after, but Lorne liked the cartoon and asked her to hang around for 20 more minutes and watch it. She was laughing a lot at the cartoon. Then about halfway in, I remembered that the ending might not be as much fun. It had Sharpton and Jackson falling through a trapdoor and landing in a "community van" with other political liabilities, including Bill Clinton, who then asks the driver to head for spring break. Relatively tame, but still it's her husband. Fortunately, Poehler walked in just before then. Hillary still saw it and chuckled politely, but her focus was split and awkwardness was averted. Later, I saw Lorne, and the first thing out of his mouth was, "I forgot about the Bill part." I assure you, the fact that it was my last cartoon is a total coincidence.


That's another line that can be read two ways.