In their MSNBC “debate” last week, the Democrat presidential candidates seemed to surge beyond the reaches of satire. In short order, NBC’s Saturday Night Live proved they were wrong with a performance that marked a major shift in popular culture.
“I’m running for president for a simple reason,” said Tom Steyer, played by Will Ferrell. “It’s fun and it gets me out of the house.” The billionaire climate alarmist then proclaimed, “Health care is important, but housing affects everything; where you sleep, where you shop, where you get your shoes shined, where you buy jewels, where you raise peacocks. Am I relatable?”
Fellow billionaire Michael Bloomberg, in the form of Fred Armisen, showed up swigging on a Big Gulp, which he previously banned in New York. As he asked, “Is there time for me to come in late and ruin everything?”
Cecily Strong stepped up as “tonight’s villain,” Tulsi Gabbard, who proclaimed, “I want you to know I’m wearing the white suit of your fallen hero, Hillary Clinton.”
Larry David’s Bernie Sanders was “very proud of the fact that I was the first heart attack patient to show up to the emergency room in a city bus.” For his part, Colin Jost’s Pete Buttigieg touted his supporters, “a diverse coalition of young to old, gay to straight, white to eggshell.”
Kate McKinnon’s Elizabeth Warren finds that 30 million are showing up for dinner, and on Thanksgiving the fake Cherokee will be cooking up the “the food of my ancestors. Should I say it? I’m going to say it. Maize.”
Moving on to center stage, Woody Harrelson’s Joe Biden told the audience they should be “scared I’ll say something off-color, or even worse, on color.” And Biden was always calling Cory Booker, “Barack.” And even though Putin and American voters alike don’t want him, Biden says, “I’m positive I can win the election in 2016.” And that might have understated Joe’s reality.
The SNL stars could have got more out of Biden, not to mention a slobbering old commie like Bernie Sanders. Still, as the show confirmed, it is possible to satirize Democrat presidential hopefuls with great effect, as SNL proved in the November, 1988, “Dukakis After Dark” sketch, billed as a production of the Democratic National Committee.
Michael Dukakis (Jon Lovitz) tells the audience. “I don’t have a chinaman’s chance of winning this election. I’m gonna be beaten. Badly beaten. And I see no reason to sit here tonight and pretend otherwise.” So Dukakis tells Jimmy Carter, (Dana Carvey) he’s about to lose as bad as Jimmy did because, “we represent unpopular and discredited views.” And the Democrat nominee confesses to Lloyd Bentsen (Matthew Modine) that he was going to raise taxes “through the roof.”
A drunken Ted Kennedy (Phil Hartman) chugs beer as he invites Kitty Dukakis (Jan Hooks) to Hyannis Port “for a few days.” Leroy Nieman (Kevin Nealon) paints a picture of the nuclear aircraft carrier Nimitz turned into a floating shelter for the homeless. Donna Rice (Victoria Jackson) boogies with convict Willie Horton, who thanks Dukakis for the furlough.
Joan Baez (Nora Dunn), sings of unilateral disarmament, abortion on demand, and “wars we lose or win.” At the end Dukakis says what hurt the Democrats “is the fact that Reaganomics works. It really does. I mean, aren’t you better off than you were eight years ago? I know I am.”
That classic sketch confirms the potential of non-partisan comedy. That was on hold for eight years, despite the comic possibilities of the serial prevaricator in the White House, a “pompous jive” according to former girlfriend Genevieve Cook. That lapse caused comics to go ballistic on Trump, but the SNL debate sketch signals a return to a more level playing field.
SNL will have soon have a chance to replicate “Dukakis After Dark” when Democrats settle on a candidate. In the meantime, all comics can break new ground. Dave Chappelle laments that the “alphabet people,” the LGBTQ crowd, are off limits, but there is no good reason to hold back. If nobody is above the law, as Democrats claim, no group or person should be above satire.
President Trump envisioned a scene in which a President Buttigieg deals with China’s Yi Jinping. Maybe SNL could have some fun with that. Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib et al also defy satire, but SNL has proved it is up to the task.
The current Democrat Party is a target-rich environment, and imagine the possibilities if former First Lady Hillary Clinton tosses her pantsuit in the ring for 2020. Maybe SNL could come up with some of those missing emails, or reprise her screed on those deplorables in the hinterlands.
That done, simply deck out Kate McKinnon in a white pantsuit and have her ask the audience, “are you better off than you were four years ago?” That will bring down the house, and boost NBC’s ratings. Better still, it will work for any candidate the Democrats select for 2020.