Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obama Is Funny

It looks like the media's reaction to SNL's clumsy Obama-McCain debate sketch is going to be "hey, did you see Tina Fey as Palin again?" Darrell Hammond plays McCain well enough (Dana Carvey's Bush in a squat body), but with Obama set to win, they need to spend the next two weeks figuring out what Barack Obama's "game" is (my girlfriend is in a UCB-taught sketch comedy group so I've been learning the lexicon).

Obama's "game" is not the Chicago politics no one cares about (if the sketch inspires McCain's campaign to start yammering about Rezko, it's going to be, at worst, annoying, but still...), and it sure as fuck isn't "playing the race card." The latter bit was so off-key that they're either flailing perilously or acceding too much ground to "Ann Coulter pal" Jim Downey, with the show since 1976. "Fair and balanced" doesn't mean they have make up negative qualities. But the problem with mocking Obama is that what makes him such a promising and heroic figure in America isn't something you really want to mock unless you don't like him. For fans (which I assume most of SNL consists of), it's almost like trying to do a parody of Martin Luther King. What they need to realize is that he's not Martin Luther King.

Nothing on the show makes me laugh harder than his Nicholas Fehn, but Fred Armisen is all wrong for Obama. Obama is a nerd (remember Ellen's dance party?), but for a nerd, he's got some swagger. Those smooth Diddy-esque shots of Obama leaving planes in a great suit and sunglasses are probably the best source of comedy material about him (the Scarlett Johannsen joke got closest to it), but Armisen doesn't incorporate that stylishness into his caricature. Instead, he gives us with a halting, closed-off wonk.

SNL needs someone who can come off confident and unflappable. Someone who can hop from serious expressions to bright grins. Someone who can capture Obama's charm in a slightly oversized way, and make us laugh from the recognition. They need Tim Meadows.

So why not let Armisen off the hook and call him up? I'm sure he's got less to do these days than Tina Fey! And btw, Michelle Obama's going to be the first lady soon. Let's not give make-up artists a migraine trying to make Kristen Wiig presentable for the role.

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