“Saturday Night Live” just won a Peabody Award for
its political satire during the presidential race, beating out
tough competition in a year where seemingly every comedian declared
open season on the candidates -- especially Sarah Palin.
The Peabody folks, who hand out awards for excellence
in “electronic media,” said of “SNL”: “The late-night legend stole
the election-year thunder from its satirical competition on cable
and may have swayed the race itself.”
Even with the “may have” hedge, that’s a pretty
bold statement. Did Tina Fey’s dead-on, wickedly funny Palin imitation
really change the course of American political history?
Satire, at its best, is a reflection of the times
– we laugh because we get it. But determining whether laughter
can change minds – and political fortunes – is an imprecise undertaking.
Did Chevy Chase’s klutzy portrayal of Gerald Ford – who, head-bumping
incidents aside, had the strongest athletic pedigree of any U.S.
president – sway the 1976 election? Or was it Ford’s pardon of
Richard Nixon and the long shadow of Watergate?
Did Fey’s Palin romps seal votes for Barack Obama?
Or was it the Alaska governor’s own record and gaffes – not to
mention her role representing the party headed by a deeply unpopular
president during a time of war and fiscal crisis? The comics skewered
Palin, but she had a relatively short roast in the national spotlight.
The other candidates – particularly John McCain
and Hillary Clinton – found themselves on the wrong end of far
more punchlines during the seemingly interminable primary and
general races, getting knocked around on “SNL” and elsewhere.
Even if Fey and “SNL” didn’t sway the election,
they did get the last laugh, thanks to Palin – and now they have
the award to prove it.
Tina Fey "May Have" Swung the
Election for Obama By Jere Hester
Published at 11:51 PM EDT on Jul 13, 2009