Because it aired on ratings champ CNN, I missed their November interview with Chevy Chase. But at Big Hollywood today, Andrea Shea King catches his interviewer surprised that Chase’s impersonations of President Ford during the first two seasons of Saturday Night Live were partisan — which also explains, in reverse, why Lorne Michaels’ show pulls their punches when satirizing the current president. Regarding the latter sketches, King writes:
To paraphrase Groucho Marx, a child of five could improve on this immensely. Anyone could make these parodies of Obama funnier. Obama’s mannerisms, speech patterns, physical oddities (ears) etc. are ripe for satire. Add Michelle Obama and Joe Biden to the mix and it only gets better. The audience would be rolling in the aisles. Obama presents a comedy writer with the potential for endless comedic situations. Obama is a unique character who offers a buffet of satire, pregnant with possibilities.
But the folks at SNL know they can’t appear partisan by NOT parodying Obama, so they have to do something. They present a bland milquetoast version that gently mocks Obama. And they do it in the show’s opening segment, typically the strongest segment of the program, the attention-getter that sets the tone and hits you hard with the punch line “Live! From New York! It’s Saturday Night!”
Now they’re busted. Chevy Chase’s interview only serves to bolster Marlow’s case. In that CNN interview, Chevy Chase says his lampooning of President Gerald Ford was driven by his support for Jimmy Carter. And he makes no secret of the fact that SNL does this as standard operating procedure.
Chase: … And I certainly, obviously my leanings were Democratic [just a bit — Ed] and I wanted Carter in and I wanted [Ford] out and I figured look, we’re reaching millions of people every weekend, why not do it.
CNN: You mean to tell me in the back of your mind you were thinking, hey I want Carter …
Chase: Oh, yeah.
CNN: And I’m going to make [Ford] look bad.
Whew — good thing Cooper dodged those allegations of left-wing bias, though!