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Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live… hmmm… not the greatest idea. October 22, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.

Sarah Palin may be a good sport – or a politician in desperate straits willing to try anything, or both – you decide. Her appearance on Saturday Night Live doesn’t entirely tell us which.

And her famed ability to interact and convince her audience might well have made her campaign think that this was a good way to ‘humanize’ her (US spelling used deliberately). But, if that was the intention it didn’t work.

The jokes were very much at her expense. Very very much. And while idea of Alec Baldwin as typical Hollywood liberal sounds good on paper, and granted she got a good crack back at him about preferring his brother as an actor, it somehow didn’t translate into reality. His digs at her unpleasant as they were, as he ‘thought’ she was Tina Fey, simply diminished Palin, his mild discomfiture after he ‘discovered’ who she ‘really was’ hardly sufficient to outweigh her palpable unease.

The real oddity was watching Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin and then watching Sarah Palin watching Tina Fey. And in a way that wasn’t odd enough.

The shock effect that powers such humour is in the recognition of similarity in other. The idea that this is someone so close to being Palin to be able to say the things that we think, suspect or fear that Palin will say which she cannot in real life. Fey can be funny being Palin because the humour is in seeing a caricature, an exaggeration, but one the viewer believes is rooted in truth.

So when faced with the actuality of Sarah Palin it is impossible for it to function as effectively. The jokes have been vetted. Their edge watered down. She can be funny. But not as funny. The joke then really is on us.

So in a sense Tina Fey operates as a better, truer, more credible Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin ever could.

And this was one time that Sarah Palin couldn’t win by projecting her personality because the format was too constrained. Her inability to deliver others lines has been well demonstrated during the campaign to date. Her power is in delivering her own lines which have an absolute authenticity about them. One may disagree with them – perhaps even vehemently – but she is effective, and more so than she is given credit.

But this? Not good. Not good at all. And – it also harshly pointed up the vacuity of the jibes about Obama and how little he is ‘known’ by the US public. He’s been through the ringer for two years now. She for, quite literally, only a few weeks. We still don’t know her. With a bit of luck we probably never will.

Let me add… Christopher Hitchens raises a point in Slate which I’d vaguely noted previously but not thought sufficiently about.

I would like to ask her whether by this she means that creationism ought to be given equal time in science classes. And I have a follow-up: How many years old does the Republican nominee for the vice presidency of the United States believe the Earth to be? There are several other questions I would like to ask her, as, no doubt, would you. Lots of luck with that, because it seems that the Grand Old Party intends to go all the way to Election Day without exposing the No. 2 person on its ticket—the person who would become chief executive if President John McCain succumbed to illness—to a press conference.

Forget about politics and political positions and consider that Democrat or Republican, or those of us further afield, deserve a genuine opportunity to hear from a candidate for any elected office. It’s the essence of democracy and the fact that it isn’t happening here tells us all we need to know…


1. skidmarx - October 22, 2008

I think the Simpsons did jokes about his brothers winning Oscars. Or do I have the wrong brother?

Want to crowbar in a couple of things from the weekend. If I can remember it right, Justin Webb said of the idea that the Republicans might appeal for votes on the basis on maintaining the separation of powers “It’s pretty desperate, but it might hold some sway” .One or the fucking other.

O’Bama doing a Tom Lehrer impression. First Lehrer from That Was The Year That Was “China, which we call Red China, has exploded a nuclear bomb, which we called a device.” Obama-“The American working class, which we call the middle class, deserves some socialism, which I call an Opportunity”[Not his actual words]

And Colin Powell sounding like Tony Cliff- Cliff:”When the National Front said Tony Cliff is a Jew we didn’t say yes, but most of the SWP central committee are gentiles. We said we are all Jews”. Powell-“The correst answer is that Obama is a Christian not a Muslim. But the really right answer is why shouldn’t a Muslim run for president?”

Tina Fey had practice playing someone constantly befuddled in 30 Rock.


2. Eagle - October 22, 2008


I dont’ know. I think the SNL sketch did do Palin some good, but not the campaign. We’ll see. She will hardly be a loser if McCain loses on Election Day. She’s now a national figure and that can’t be a bad thing if she harbors ambitions beyond Alaska. And, don’t forget, she’ll still be governor. She’ll have to run for reelection in 2 years, but she can spend the next 4 years doing a lot of learning and polishing.

I’m nearly certain that if Hitchens did ask his question about the age of the Earth Palin would respond with a figure in the billions of years. I say this for three reasons.

1) Her father was a high school science teacher in the public school system. He would never have gotten that job if he wasn’t willing to teach evolution. and he would have been in the news years ago if he’d tried to teach his religion too. So, I’m pretty sure Palin’s father believes in evolution and I doubt she’s rejected what she learned from her parents on this matter as it would have been a big deal to reject the father’s teachings when he’s taught hundreds (thousands?) of local high school kids. What she said on the matter was that the teacher shouldn’t run from the topic of creationist interpretation if it’s raised in class. That’s how it was dealt with in my high school. I can remember one kid saying something about the Earth being 6,000 years old and the teacher just said, “We can’t talk about that” and made the kid feel like s**t. There has to be a better way to handle it than that.

2) Palin’s not a fundamentalist. I’m not sure how you’d describe her religious beliefs, but I know from reading various things that the fundamentalists are hopping mad that her brand of Christianity is being included in with them. Here’s one column on the topic. If she’s not a fundamentalist then she’s more than open to the theory of evolution.

3) I just don’t believe she’s the ignorant redneck that the media would like us to believe. Does she know enough about the world? No, I don’t think so. But, I bet if you asked her how oil came to be under large areas of Alaska she’d give an answer that would include dates and timelines that go beyond 6,000 years.


3. Eagle - October 22, 2008

By the way, I never even heard of Tina Fey until these Sarah Palin sketches started appearing online. Should I have known who she was?


4. John Green - October 22, 2008

Depends what you mean by “should.” Are you a student?


5. Eagle - October 22, 2008

No, unfortunately. It’s been a couple of decades (and then some) since I was an undergrad.


6. John Green - October 22, 2008

Well, then, you’re excused. 😉


7. ejh - October 22, 2008

I doubt she’s rejected what she learned from her parents on this matter as it would have been a big deal to reject the father’s teachings when he’s taught hundreds (thousands?) of local high school kids

Sorry, what sort of an argument is this? Somebody can’t believe something contrary to what their parents taught, because they taught it at school?


8. Eagle - October 22, 2008


Yes, if you’re a conservative. You don’t reject handed down truths.


9. ejh - October 22, 2008

Heh. Well, I’ll happily let you argue that case if you want.


10. Eagle - October 22, 2008

By the way, did you see that SNL recorded its best ratings in 14 years the other night? Palin may not be a winner in November, but this is still doing her no harm at all. Six weeks ago nobody knew who she was.


11. smiffy - October 22, 2008

“I’m nearly certain that if Hitchens did ask his question about the age of the Earth Palin would respond with a figure in the billions of years.”

Surely the real point Hitchens is making in his piece is that there’s no way of knowing what she’d say, as she – and her handlers – refuse to have any questions put to her. Indeed, the fact that she’s happy to spend time on Saturday Night Live but won’t hold a single press conference speaks volumes about her own party’s confidence in her as a candidate.


12. CL - October 22, 2008

Palin’s SNL appearance was a flop. She looked like a fish out of water. The fake Palin looked more real, ..and cheaper too. Although not as stimulating… for the retail sector.
“Palin’s clothes came from retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York, and expenses included nearly $5,000 for hair and makeup. Maybe this is actually her one-woman economic stimulus plan. Lord knows the retail sector needs it”-(Who said the Republicans are not Keynesians?)


13. Eagle - October 22, 2008


Palin was inaccessible, but lately she’s been far more available to the press than has Biden.

It might be surprising to some to learn that Sarah Palin is now talking to her national press corps more often than Joe Biden.

While the once silent Palin has taken questions from reporters that travel with her three times in the last week, Biden has not offered the same type of access to reporters who cover his every move on the campaign trail in almost two months.


14. WorldbyStorm - October 22, 2008

I take your point Eagle that this was not the year for her. Some other time… perhaps. Interesting about Biden. Not entirely accurate though. I found a report that he had spoken to the Press five weeks ago. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/09/23/biden-not-holding-press-conferences-either/
He may have done it more recently, or maybe didn’t. Prior to that he’d given – according to his campaign 89 national and local press conferences. But look at McCain. Not exactly wordy… 🙂


15. PamDirac - October 25, 2008

There’s more than one report saying that Palin has become more accessible than Biden:


Whether this will help or not, it’s hard to say. But Palin does seem to be gaining her land legs more solidly as time goes on. She’s been on a very tight learning curve, too. It may be too late (and there’s only so much a VP candidate can do for the top of the ticket). But no matter how the election turns out, IMO Palin has been a net asset for McCain despite the early awkward interviews and the bad press, not all of which has been fair. I don’t mean to say that she’s ready for the top spot or that she doesn’t have more to prove. But those Republicans gearing up to blame her for the projected loss are mistaken, I think.

As for Biden….he’s a decent man but I think even Obama’s most fervent supporters would have to concede he’s done far less for the ticket than the campaign presumably expected. Thanks to the financial panic and boatloads of cash, Obama is likely to win this election, but by choosing Biden he made it harder, not easier.


16. WorldbyStorm - October 25, 2008

That sounds about right PamDirac. Still in the odd way race operates in this campaign do you think Biden sends a message?


17. PamDirac - October 28, 2008

If Biden, or the choice of Biden, sent a message, it’s a mixed one. It was gracious of Obama to overlook the ‘clean and articulate’ remark but it might have occurred to him that the gaffe might have been a harbinger of gaffes to come. (And there have been times when Biden seems to have been suggesting that Obama doesn’t quite know what he’s doing, but never fear, Joe will be there to hold his hand.)

But then it’s very rare for any VP candidate to make a significant difference in an election.


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