Live From New York, It’s Mitt Romney!
Or not. As Ed Morrissey jokes about Romney’s possible appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, “Don’t worry, Republicans — Romney has made an impossible demand to ensure that he has an escape hatch. The skit would have to be funny:”
In an exclusive interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Romney denied he had already been approached to appear on the show, but said he thought a gig on sketch show sounded “like a lot of fun.”
Romney said he was still deciding whether to appear SNL, which almost weekly skewers the presumptive GOP nominee.
“I haven’t made a decision on that, just heard about it,” he told “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer in an exclusive interview today when asked about the show’s invite. “Of course it would depend on the nature of the skit. I want it to be funny.”
Ed himself adds:
Making an appearance on SNL and engaging in a little soft self-deprecation could do wonders for his ability to connect on a personal level with the younger late-night comedy audience. Since the Obama administration has already begun painting him as an uber-wealthy One Percenter stiff, a little bit of relaxed joshing might just be the ticket — as long as that’s all that takes place.
It won’t — even if SNL serves up the softest, Carol Burnett or, heck, Osmond Show-friendly sketches for Romney, they’d very likely, as Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad wrote in their book Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, “fake the pants off” off the GOP presidential candidate, just as they did to Ron Nessen, Jerry Ford’s press secretary, 36 years ago:
[SNL creator-producer] Lorne [Michaels] will forever maintain that Saturday Night did not intentionally, as he put it, “take the President and shove his press secretary up his ass.” Nessen happened to host the show while NBC was in the midst of a strike by its technical union. Much of the studio equipment that week was manned by management personnel, so that the complexity the show might ordinarily have had was reduced. All week long Lorne was telling the writers to “simplify, simplify,” and by Saturday he was forced to use sketches that called for as little camera movement as possible. That ruled out, Lorne says, a lot of the more subtle political material that had been written for the show.
But many of the show’s writers say there was more to it than that. They say, without equivocation, that Saturday Night was out to get Nessen. The attitude, [SNL writer] Rosie Shuster said, was: “The President’s watching. Let’s make him cringe and squirm.”
They did that by placing Nessen into softball sketches where he was fine. The rest of the show, as Hill and Weingrad write, was filled with “some of the raunchiest material ever presented on Saturday Night.” Much more on that, here.
A more subtle, but equally damaging (certainly to NBC’s reputation) hit occurred to former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann just this past November, when she appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show, also produced by Lorne Michaels. By all accounts, Fallon’s interview with Bachmann went fine; it wasn’t an ambush. A network representative ambushed her just the same:
“I’m gunning for Bachmann,” Questlove, a vocal Obama fan, told Rolling Stone. To put a time stamp on the comment, the magazine wrote that during the interview, he was “looking up walk-on songs for next week’s shows.”
Continued Questlove, “I want to try and do Fishbone’s ‘Lyin’ Ass Bitch.’ I just don’t know if I’m gonna tell Jimmy.”
This is NBC; long before MSNBC went on the air, the rot seeped deeply into the atmosphere of its parent network. If he ultimately agrees to host SNL or appear in a skit, I hope Romney knows what he’s walking into.
Related: “They Shoot Cats, Don’t They? Recollecting the time Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes actually apologized.”
Update: At Big Hollywood, Christian Toto sounds like he agrees with my assessment, and adds, “Both Sarah Palin and John McCain appeared on the program during the height of the 2008 presidential campaign, and we know how their ticket fared:”
Romney will have more than enough opportunity to show his funny side. Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” couch is always open, and presidential candidates have endless hours of press interviews where they can flash their wit.
An argument could be made that “SNL” and its mainstream media sidekicks will turn Romney’s “thanks, but no thanks” response into a new meme. He’s a coward who can’t handle live television comedy, or he holds a grudge for all those snarky sketches about him.
Romney can turn the tables on that effort, saying he’s simply too busy assembling his future staff and talking to regular Americans to lose several key days memorizing the script.
And, ultimately, we aren’t electing a Comic in Chief. President Barack Obama could have a killer punch line for any occasion, but his sorry record and ability to shatter nearly every campaign promise from 2008 means he’s not worthy of re-election.
Last week, Jonah Goldberg advised that “Romney Should Play It Uncool — In the battle for young voters, nerd chic will beat the audacity of hype.” As Mark Steyn noted in 2004, John Kerry’s attempt to ingratiate himself with MTV by discussing his love of rap music didn’t help propel him over the finish line. Or as Steyn quipped, “Really? You’re ‘fascinated’ by rap and ‘listening’ to hip-hop? You’re America’s first flip-flopper hip-hopper?”