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Lorne Michaels Won’t Come Clean on ‘SNL’s’ Liberal Bias

Legendary show's founder can't hide from fact his creation has lost its way

Lorne Michaels got political in the very first season of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”

The TV producer cast Chevy Chase as President Gerald Ford, turning the Republican into a stumbling, bumbling Commander in Chief back in 1975.

It didn’t matter that Ford’s athletic background was beyond dispute. Michaels and co. turned Ford’s rare missteps into a recurring bit.

The impression did more than make audiences howl and leaving Chase with chronic back pain.

“The news coverage was harmful, but even more damaging was the fact that Johnny Carson and Chevy Chase used my ‘missteps’ for their jokes. Their antics — and I’ll admit I laughed at them myself — helped create the public perception of me as a stumbler. And that wasn’t funny.” – “A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford.

“SNL” became the go-to source for political humor. The series lampooned whoever held power, from the hapless President Jimmy Carter to President Bill Clinton (and his voracious appetites). That ended when Barack Obama took the oath of office in 2009.

The comedian tasked with impersonating President Obama said the show “gave up” on mocking the first black president after a while.

Now?

“SNL” all but ignores flawed Democrats like President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and, of course, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Even show legend Rob Schneider called it out during a lively chat with Glenn Beck. The show even serenaded Obama in absentia when he left the White House in 2016.

Except the mastermind behind “SNL” won’t admit it.

RELATED: RYAN LONG SHAMES ‘SNL’ (AGAIN)

The New York Times interviewed Michaels about the show’s 48th season, starting Oct. 1. The conversation touched on sizable cast changes, Michaels’ future with the show (he’s not leaving) and “SNL’s” liberal bias.

The Times scribe didn’t frame it as such, but it’s clear that’s what he meant.

“Do you pay attention to criticism from people who say they don’t feel represented by the show’s politics anymore?

Michaels offers a rambling answer, ending with a revealing quote:

“But the first priority can’t be not offending people you like or who are powerful… and if someone does something stupid, it would be glaring to not deal with it.”

Like this?

'Gaffe machine': Biden makes another stumble on the world stage

Or this?

Another Kamala Harris word salad goes viral

Or this?

Pelosi mocked over ‘bizarre’ behavior on Ukraine

Or this?

Kamala Harris offers 'word salad' in a two minute non-answer

None of these snagged an “SNL” skit last year. VP Harris’s gaffes, her fleeing staffers and results-free methods similarly didn’t get name-checked on “SNL.”

The show pretends she doesn’t exist, at least as a satirical target.

To be clear, Michaels isn’t afraid of offending Democratic politicians. His bigger concern? A sharp satirical haymaker can have real-world consequences, from Chase’s Ford to Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impression.

Both reduced the politician in question, and Michaels and co. can’t risk that. It explains why late night hosts strain to avoid mentioning Biden’s mental state or Harris’s word salad jamborees.

The Times reporter, sensing Michaels’ dodge, reframes the question about “SNL’s” liberal bias. Michaels, again, ignores it.

“Between the pandemic and presidency, people were truly frightened … We went through a really scary times, the last four years. Hopefully, we’re coming out of it and it’s just the old scary things like a depression or war.”

He’s being pithy, but he still won’t torch the administration playing a role in both calamities.

There’s zero reason to expect “SNL” season to reverse course and skewer both sides of the political aisle. If Michaels can’t even address the show’s glaring bias in a New York Times interview, he has no intention of restoring the show to its satirical roots.

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10 Comments

  1. We need to stop hoping SNL will become anything but a left wing propaganda factory. If we want more even-handed comedy, we need to either get off our butts and make it, or invest in people who can.

  2. While I haven’t watched that cringe worthy show since the the mid to late 90s, I do remember someone from the show being quoted saying, in effect, that Obama was simply impossible to mock, because there was nothing to mock; in other words, he was perfect. Ummm…sure.

  3. NBC’s Saturday Night Live jumped the shark with the 1998 firing of Norm Macdonald. The then Weekend Update anchor often lampooned OJ Simpson and NBC’s then boss ordered that Michaels fire Macdonald – and he did. In 1980, Al Franken did a Weekend Update feature mocking then NBC president Fred Silverman presiding over a network with no primetime programs among the top 10 most watched. Franken wondered, “why do they have a limo for that lame-o Fred Silverman, but they don’t have one for me, Al Franken?” That Monday, Silverman called Lorne Michaels and demanded Franken be fired. He refused and eventually left Saturday Night as executive producer over this as well as other conflicts with Silverman. Too bad he didn’t do likewise for Macdonald.

  4. Good piece – SNL’s refusal to depoliticize comedy is they Gutfeld is dominating the late night…not because the media is carrying him (in fact the opposite is true) but because that is what the public and voters want to see…

  5. I have not watched SNL in years, I occasionally watch a few clips on YouTube and am amazed at how bad these skits are compared to the past when everyone just made fun of anything and nothing was hands off. I guess Liberals can’t laugh at themselves or their political figures.
    Might make them question why they are liberal in the first place??

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