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article imageOp-Ed: Happy Birthday SNL and the Birth of Political Comedy

By Sadiq Green     Oct 11, 2008 in Politics
Since its beginning Saturday Night Live has been on the cutting edge of political parodies. Starting with Gerald Ford it has wound its way through Ronald Reagan, both Bushs' and up to the current presidential nominees and political personalities.
Tonight marks, to this day, the 33 year anniversary of Saturday Night Live. They have come along way since Chevy Chase's unflattering portrayal of then President Gerald Ford in 1975. Chase mimicked a real-life incident in which President Gerald Ford tripped while disembarking from Air Force One. The only part of the parody that resembled Ford was the fall, because Chase did not appear at all like President Ford, but it was still genius.
Later on Chevy Chase would appear as a more recognizable Jimmy Carter, setting the trend for some very genius and undeniably recognizable Presidential parodies. The late Phil Hartman did some spot on impressions of Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Dana Carvey and Will Ferrell were equally dead on and hilarious portraying the Elder George Bush and the current US President respectively. Carvey likewise played 1992 independent presidential candidate Ross Perot.
Throughout the years, an array of presidential aspirants have also made their way on to the show appearing as themselves. Al Gore and John McCain have had some memorable appearances as themselves and playing other politicians. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani even appeared in drag. Hillary Clinton has appeared along side her comedic double Amy Poehler and It has been announced that the newest, rich political target, Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, will be making an appearance on October 25th.
And the political personalities who have been lampooned has not been limited to former Presidents or those seeking the Office. SNL's Weekend Update has been a staple of the program since its inception. With Chevy Chase as the host he did his best impression of himself as a Walter Cronkite type personality, his trademark introduction being, "Good Evening, I'm Chevy Chase and you're not" drawing laughs every time. Weekend Update has featured the late Chris Farley playing General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., Fred Armesin playing IRA leader Nicholas Fehn and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee playing himself.
The current king of SNL political parodies is cast member Darrell Hammond. He is probably best known for his segments impersonating Hardball's Chris Matthews and more recently John McCain. To date Hammond has played political characters Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ted Koppel, Bill O'Reilly, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Jesse Jackson, Tim Russert, Jimmy Carter, Dan Rather, Rudy Giuliani, Al Gore, and George W. Bush.
SNL has sure provided some memorable political sketches from speeches to blunders during their time on the air. Tonight, they have made a blunder of their own, by ironically airing a rerun tonight on its 33rd birthday. That could be due to the fact that SNL will be seen every Thursday as well as Saturday all the way up until the US election with Weekend Update segments. This past Thursday focused on the second Presidential Debate with Hammond as John McCain and Armesin as Barack Obama. Next Thursday's will surely focus on the third on day before its air. Stay tuned.
A look at some of the more memorable parodies can be seen here.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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