Saturday Night Politics


Enjoy this post from our February archives, where writer Hannah Mercer comments on the the world of political humor.

Since October 11, 1975, NBC’s sketch-comedy variety show Saturday Night Live has cunningly dominated the art of political humor. However, writing televised political comedy can be very sticky due to vastly contradicting opinions and views among an audience. This thin line has subjected SNL’s inordinately vocal, left wing democratic creator, executive producer, and writer Lorne Michaels to heated criticism. Despite his longstanding claims that the show is politically unbiased and lampoons all political figures equally (regardless of their party), critics continuously pounce on Michaels for “favoring democrats.” In reality, though, the writers are simply dramatizing real characteristics and behaviors; not painting a fictional image.

Specializing in witty, sharp satire, SNL has dexterously (and hilariously) depicted over four decades worth of Supreme Court members, government officials, congresspeople, presidential candidates and presidents in a way no other show has or can.

“The people on the other shows who have to do it every day, take little bites,” Michaels said (Josh Compton interview). “We come in with a big take, and we have people playing them and that’s a different approach.”

The 2016 presidential election was a huge blessing for SNL. In addition to gifting the writers with endless golden material for political parody sketches, the nonstop controversy gave Micheals an opportunity to do one of the things he does best- ease the nation’s pounding politically-induced migraine through humor.

Absurd, childish, belligerent, immature behavior makes undeniably great T.V.. With an orange spray tan and a wispy, blonde comb-over wig, Michaels and the rest of the SNL writers have perfectly captured and expressed all of these things and more. Saying Alec Baldwin “hits the nail on the head” with his killer Donald Trump impersonation would be a massive understatement. His beyond accurate representation of Trump’s personality, mannerisms, facial expressions, and overall essence evidently reigns supreme over the other five men who’ve taken on the role in the past. That said, the raging controversy surrounding everything relating to him causes Trump himself, as well as many of his supporters, to strongly disapprove of the way the show portrayed (and continues to portray) the not-so-sagacious businessman turned “politician.” Per usual, notorious Twitter user Trump once again exercised his immature, impulsive social media habits when he attacked SNL on Jan. 15, 2017.

Trump tweeted in response to Baldwin’s impersonation of him.

Based on the many 45th president oriented sketches throughout season 42, it’s apparent that Trump does, in fact, seem to be portrayed in a somewhat negative light. However, like all other political figures featured in the show, the writers are simply exaggerating his actual characteristics and behaviors. Everything Trump publically does, says or tweets is fair game for the writers to run with, even if he “doesn’t like it.”

“I don’t think that (Baldwin’s) imitation of me gets me at all, and it’s meant to be very mean-spirited, which is very biased, and I don’t like it,” Trump told Matt Lauer on Today.

Saturday Night Live has been masterfully twisting even the most serious and shocking political scandals from Watergate to Monica Lewinski for the past 42 years. The pasquinade is a weekly reminder of how lucky Americans are to live in a country whose Constitution grants citizens total freedom of speech. Nationally broadcasting a show that directly calls out and pokes fun at government members (ranking as high as the president) is not a privilege, but a fundamental right in the United States, which, compared to other countries in the world, is a privilege in itself.


“If a culture doesn’t allow you to laugh at the leaders or at things that your eyes and ears tell you are actually happening, that’s not good,” Michaels said to

Dramatization does not automatically mean SNL favors one political party over the other or that they’re biased. Instead, the show amplifies political figures’ defining personality traits, mannerisms etc., in attempts to lighten inevitable political austerity and transform it into subtle jabs, clever punchlines and most importantly, laughter.

Photos: Wikicommons