The upcoming presidential election is going to be a crazy one. People are fed up with high unemployment, and the Republican primary is still up for grabs. With all the political chaos and tensions rising, one show is able to capture the key moments. Right on cue, Saturday Night Live is back to its usual stretching the truth, bending the rules and mocking presidential candidates.
Now in its 37th season, SNL continued its gut-busting political satire with a skit on the Republican National debate. Among others, Rick Perry (Alec Baldwin) was portrayed as a yawning old man, Herman Caine (Kenan Thomson) as an illegitimate candidate and Rick Santorum (Andy Sandburg) as a nervous wreck.
SNL is known for imitating presidential candidates during the election season. For years, skits have brought out the negative aspects of a candidate’s character to bring humor to politics.
Lake Research Partners is a Democratic public opinion and political strategy research firm that has helped advise campaigns and inform public officials from the local level to Vice President Joe Biden. Rick Johnson, the current Managing Director, joined Lake Research Partners in 2004 as a senior analyst.
“Politics is an easy target,” Johnson said. “The parodies that go on in SNL are perfectly tailored for [politics].
According to Johnson, SNL parodies do not change people’s votes, rather they change the way people perceive a candidate’s character.
Dave Sackett, a partner at the Terrance Group, one of the largest Republican strategic research and polling firms in the nation, agrees. “[People] realize it’s pure satire and [SNL] pushes things over the top,” Sackett said. “They take candidates to the extreme so people know it’s just a character.”
According to Sackett, SNL also does not have the power to change many votes because the show only airs once a week.
However SNL’s political skits can create negative perceptions of candidates that can really stick. Although SNL mocks everyone, candidates feel compelled to appear on the show to get into the media spotlight, and SNL is just the humorous place to do it. Candidates also need to redeem their public image by showing viewers their fun side.
“Once the candidates are frontrunners, it’s almost mandatory for them to go on the show,” Johnson said. “It shows they don’t take themselves too seriously.”
The bright lights of comedy and the agonizing scrutiny of politics are worlds apart, yet they are brought close together. SNL has never failed to expose the flaws and blunders of politicians.
“People can get frustrated with politics,” Johnson said. “It’s good for the country to laugh at what goes on in politics.”