Michael O'Donoghue Is Plunging Steel Needles into His Eyes From the Grave


By now the observation that Saturday Night Live has made the full switcheroo from anti-establishment bomb-thrower to establishment chin-tickler is nearly as old (and unfunny!) as the show itself. But this week's "Funny or Die" Internet sensation, in which multiple generations of Not Ready for Prime Time presidential impersonators all gather around a conscience-plagued Fred ArmisteadArmisen-as-Barack-Obama to give him a pep talk about (I'm not making this up) creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, is probably the perfect piece of audio-visual evidence. See for yourself:

Let's go ahead and imagine this cat lobbying for more intensive financial regulation

Oh, you could quibble about the laughable notion that there are "almost no regulations" on banks and credit card companies, or that George W. Bush was one of the two villains who "stripped out all the regulations" (in fact, Bush hired 91,000 new regulators and jacked up spending on financial regulation by 29 percent). You could continue to marvel at George H.W. Bush's now-complete rehabilitation as an icon of sensible governance (an interpretation that was hard to come by during his one term as president), or just point out that Dan Aykroyd is almost unrecognizably fat.

But for me the Belushi in the room here is how a show that was once almost thrillingly anti-authoritarian, where the lead writer was a rancid nihilist, where every president was not just impersonated but brutally (and/or absurdly) undermined in a way previously unimaginable on television, where every Saturday for a while there was a national exercise in "I can't believe they're getting away with that," has now devolved into begging the president to accumulate more power. All in cooperation with the Teamsters, the Greenlining Institute, ACORN, and more.

From a better time:

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  1. Every now and then I'm mildly surprised to learn that SNL still exists.

    1. Just like The Simpsons.

    2. I'm even more surprised that people are still watching it.

  2. Back in the day in the late 70s they routinely savaged Carter and Edward Kennedy. What makes it so sad is that the writers still honestly believe they are the anti-establishment and are still trying to stick it the mane.

    1. As anyone who's tried to find a safe place to put their used bubble gum during a safari can attest -- sticking it to the mane is a truly bold feat.

    2. These days, you have to tow the lion to stick it to the mane.

  3. and are still trying to stick it the mane.


    Are you trying to say they're towing the lion?

    1. They used to but Tow got a movie deal with Disney Pixar back in the 1990s.

    2. Still too pissy to use the reply to comment feature, eh?

  4. Really isn't SNL kind of a parable for the entire baby boom generation? They started out as coke snorting anarchists in the 70s, only to sell out to big money in the 80s and 90s and now sit as pathetic, humorless defenders of everything they once claimed to hate.

    1. You're right about that, but SNL is not as bad as its current reputation suggests. Maybe it's because of my age, but I never found it funny until they revamped the cast in the mid-90s. Its glory only lasted about five years, when they got Tina Fey to be head writer. Since then, the writing has been terrible, but the current cast is damn good (Forte, Armisen, Forte, Sudekis, Forte!). It's a shame they've got such terrible material to work with, but very rarely, they'll nail it: the sportscasters and their vagInal creme, McGruber (especially the one with Charles Barkley), using turd as a verb.
      Yes, the political humor completely misses the mark, but if you don't watch the opening sketch or weekend update, you can avoid it.

      My argument whenever people long for the glory days of SNL is simply: King Tut. How could that ever have been funny?

      1. King Tut never was funny. I am old enough to remember the original SNL cast. And not all of it was funny. But a lot of it was brilliant. The Coneheads were very funny. Point counter point with Akroid and Curtain was funny. The skits Akroid and Curtain used to do with her playing the crusading local journalist and him the sleazy business man selling things like the "Broken Glass Toy Kit" were funny. Belushi doing Joe Cocker was funny. Gilda Radner was brilliant and really the forgotten talent on the show.

        No, the original SNL case was a big deal for good reason. And so was the cast with Piscipo and Eddie Murphy. You are just too young to know.

        And the show was actually pretty decent in the late 1980s with the Dana Carvey cast. The lost ending to Its a Wonderful Life skit is still one of my favorites of all time.

        I am not seeing it with the mid 1990s cast. I have never found Tina Fey to even be the slightest bit funny.

        1. The original cast, the fake ads, the weekend update of that time, were funny. Some skits were funny only because they recurred (cheeseburger cheeseburger cheeseburger, scotch tape store, samurai whatever (which seemed to be a long lead in to the Samurai Night Fever skit which was brilliant)). Mr. Bill was funny in its inane-ness and, again, repetition.

          Have not watched in some time. Do so once a season ... boring.

          1. Oh, and as for fake ads, the Mink-o-matic has stuck with me for, what? 25-30 years?

    2. The first years were the best. Gilda, Jane, Dan, Bill. Lots of Steve Martin. "Mangled baby ducks." Emily Litella. The three women doing a girl band spoofing Chevy's celebrity: "Chevy, Chevy, I love when you fall down, each Saturday night on my TV. And every time you take that fall, I wish that you were falling for me." I have the LP from the first year somewhere.

      There are subsequent peaks, like Eddie, but they never rise up to the mid-70s.

  5. Remember the Mane: Hair today, gone tomorrow.

  6. It's the new Humor. Trash conservatives and libertarians, praise liberals and progressives, everyone laughs. It's the only thing that can explain the Daily Show.

    1. And don't forget to make jokes about how Obama is a superhero and just too cool to be President.

    2. I watch the Daily Show almost every night. Stewart has been sticking it to everyone. He asked (regarding Pelosi vis-a-vis her backing Rangel despite the ethics committee's findings) "Speaker Pelosi, does botox also freeze your moral compass?" He regularly rips on Obama as well.

      1. There's a clear liberal bias on the Daily Show, but that's not a bad thing in itself.

        I think Conservatives and Libertarians just need to produce better comedians.

        1. You're assuming that all it takes to get a comedy pulpit is to be a good comedian. No siree -- you have to please a ton of gatekeepers on the way up. And a conservative who takes shots and liberal principles ain't gonna please them.

          1. A case in point is Michael McDonald, the sometime FOX comedian on that show that is programmed at the same time as SNL, and friend of Kathy Griffin. I saw him at the DC Improv where he has some jokes about Chris Matthews and the tingle up the leg. He really had to be oblique and pull his punches and I could tell if he had an audience that got it he could murder with jokes about Demwits. But many would be clueless no matter how funny they would be.

            Meanwhile Bill Maher can say boring shit and the sheeple laugh. Though this week he actually had jump from his table with the Greek goldigger/greencard whore, and march into the audience and demand that they laugh at his lead balloons.

        2. We've got Doug Stanhope, Penn & Teller, and possibly the late Bill Hicks. My sense is quite a few comedians have a libertarian bent.

          1. +1 for qualifying Bill Hicks' support. Tho I think that the reason commentariat could be called "the people who hate people party" without too much grumbling.

          2. How could you forget Drew Carey? 🙂

            1. Or South Park?

        3. Doug Stanhope is about as funny as they come, and definitely as edgy as they come.

          Didn't he get banned in Ireland or something?

      2. Like many liberal shills dressed in comedian's clothing, he creates the illusion of "sticking it to everyone" by making fun of Democrats for minor, incidental issues (like Edwards' expensive haircuts, or Pelosi's wrinkles) but savaging the basic principles of Republicans and limited government philosophy.

        Stewart never made jokes about the Dems bending over backwards to make sure union coffers don't take a hit during the recession or any budget cuts, for instance. That would actually be questioning liberal philosophy, which is off-limits to his ilk.

        1. savaging the basic principles of Republicans and limited government philosophy

          And therein lies the problem: He is either mocking a straw man or he's conflating libertarians and Republicans. He just doesn't know enough about the ideas/ideals of his subjects to effectively create humor.

      3. Granted, it's been a few years since I watched the Daily Show, but as I recall the formula was:

        Bush sucks.
        Cheny sucks.
        I wish I could have thrown that shoe at Bush.

        1. And whats with a comedian changing his name from Lebowitz to Stewart? The comedy world discriminates against Jews?

          And why Stewart? Why not Jon Tudor? Jon Saxon? Jon Aryan?

    3. Stewart nee Leibowitz is a drop out from William and Mary no? Just as Garafalo never graduated but only "attended" high school according to IMDB; and Rosie O'D never made it through college; and Roseanne Barr and Sandra Bernhard seem to have never finished high school or college.

      Stewart tries to be open minded and seems to have a little intellectual curiosity. But these aren't people who have ever read Hayek or Rand or Sowell etc. Maybe "about" them or snippets. They are informed by HuffPo etc and are not widely read.

  7. Another question: Since when was Jim Carrey a part of the SNL cast? I mean, I realize that Phil Hartman wasn't available to play Reagan, but...

    1. Didn't he have a cup of coffee with the cast sometime in the mid 80s before joining In Living Color?

      The better question of course is since when does anyone want Jim Carrey to be a part of any cast?

  8. There's a story that Michael O'Donoghue's father called him and said, "Bad news son. Your mother's lost a toe." Without missing a beat, Michael asked, "Did you check under the refrigerator?"

  9. I think Carrey auditioned but wasn't selected.

    Didn't Piscopo do Reagan before Hartman was on the cast?

  10. Sorry, I couldn't watch this past the opening lines, where the fake Obama was spouting selling points like the announcer in a Metamucil commercial.

  11. that was the first time i've laughed at Dana Carvey in twenty years.
    whatshisname's Clinton is also kinda funny. the rest was shit.

    1. No love for Will Farrell?

      I actually they were all good except for Carrey (too weird) and Aykroyd (too WTF).

      1. Will Farrell is so spectacularly untalented that I wouldn't be surprised if his whole career was actually an Andy Kaufman-esque elaborate joke.

        SNL is comedy hell, and Will Farrell is Asmodeus.

        1. The only person in movies less talented than Ferrell is Vince Vaughn. I would pay half my life's salary to see those two fight to a mutual and painful death.

          1. No, it's Matthew McConaughey.

          2. My God man! If I were to name the three funniest people I can think of, off the top of my head, I'd probably name Fey, Ferrell, and Vaughn. Let's never go to the video store together!

            1. I am really sorry to hear that. Lets hope someday they develop a cure for whatever condition it is that you have.

              1. I just watched the video finally.

                Holy shit, that was painfully awful. *That* was Akroyd? And yes, Jim Carrey gave his usual abortion of a performance. Ferrell, for all that he lacks in talent otherwise, does make a good Dubya, though not up to Darrell Hammond standards as Clinton.

            2. Guy you don't get out much.

        2. Ferrell plays a passable idiot man-child, which is fortunate since it is the entirety of his acting range.

          1. His passable acting range is insulting the entire human race. Him, Vaugh and that fat guy from King of Queens need to be thrown in a volcano.

            1. There is a disturbing lack of Adam Sandler hatred in here.

              1. He is still alive? Yeah, him to.

                1. Ferrell was good in Zoolander, Sandler was good in Punch-Drunk Love and Kevin James...yeah, I got nothin'. Not really a fan.

              2. Just assume that it's always there in the sub-space; a meta-hatred for Sandler.

        3. Well, I liked Anchorman and Elf, though the point that these are essentially the same character is well-taken. However, while Stranger than Fiction was a flawed film in a lot of ways, but I think Farrell did a pretty good job with his part, which didn't fit into his usual mold. I haven't seen Land of the Lost but know of some people who usually don't like Will who liked him in that.

          1. Ferrell's done some good work. I liked Sandler in a couple of films, even though I'm lukewarm on most of his stuff. His albums have some classic material IIRC.

            1. I don't hate Ferrell or Sandler quite as much as I hate Vaughn and James. Maybe I would give them a quick death. But no death is too good for Vaughn and James.

              1. I've got Owen Wilson and Justin Long in the dead pool. C'mon guys, you can do it!

                Actually, I don't think many can surpass my loathing of Julia Roberts.

      2. I actually they were all good except for Carrey (too weird) and Aykroyd (too WTF).

        You thought Fred Armisen's performance was good?

        1. I'm a huge fan of his, for reasons that aren't clear.

          1. I don't think I've ever laughed at Armisen, but there's no accounting for taste.

            1. Have you laughed with him?

            2. What's an Armisen?

          2. I can clear that up for you. He was a member of this band.

            Trenchmouth were great!

          3. His send ups of Obama and Behar alone make his career.

  12. And also the two most talented people from the generation of writers who produced SNL were Belusi and Doug Kinney who both had the good taste to die before seeing their humor die. (Although Kinney didn't ever write for SNL, he pretty much created the form of satire that made the original SNL so good)

  13. Wow, fanatics really do have no sense of humor. People who can't laugh at something, or appreciate the nostalgia the bit is invoking, because they disagree with the politics involved therein need to loosen up a bit.

    1. If you're laughing at SNL, dude, you have other problems. See my statement above.

      1. Not all of us have your refined entertainment tastes, sir. I speak for us all in apologizing.

    2. Wow, fanatics really do have no sense of humor.

      Or self-awareness, apparently.

    3. Are you really so un self aware that you find no irony in a show that was once so anti-establishment now operating as a propaganda arm for the current administration?

      Never mind don't answer that

    4. Good Afternoon, Shit Facktory.

    5. This isn't funny because they're not even trying to be funny here, they're trying to be serious about an issue. But the only way these people know how to communicate effectively their point is thru ridicule (because otherwise no one would listen to comedians for serious commentary about serious issues). So that's what they do. But ridicule doesn't mean funny. Yes, the impersonifications are a bit funny, but the main script tying it all together here isn't suppose to make you laugh but think about the issue.

      Unless of course you find it funny to hear that banks and credits companies are "evil" and that there isn't enough regulations. I would then say that you have a very strange type of humor my friend...

    6. You're the one with a humor problem here. Not even the Fox News audience could choke down the 1/2 Hour News Hour, which suffered from the same talking points/jokes confusion that prevades the Funny or Die political sketches. Both of them belabor the political point, but not with any cleverness, or even an outrageous manicheanism that may transcend itself into humorous absurdity, but rather with a pathetic earnestness. It doesn't use humor to to make a point - it uses humor to as a distraction to try to make the regurgitation of talking points palatable, like ketchup on a overcooked steak.

    7. Who says I didn't laugh?

  14. Mr. Mike is probably the most underappreciated character the first gen of SNL ever had.

  15. So the truth comes out..lil' Opie Cunningham's a heartless bastard.

    I don't think SNL's once-greats could have parodied themselves with less humor if they tried than in this cring-inducing video debacle.

  16. You're all wrong. This clip played almost continuously across the NBC affiliated network conglomerate yesterday and everyone--hosts, camera crew, fluff girls--thought it was high-larious.

  17. The only thing funny was the whole bit about Clinton lusting over Michelle Obama.

    1. Well, he is a known chubby-chaser.

      1. He was America's first black President. Clinton likes a little junk in the trunk.

        1. Michelle has more than a little junk. It's almost a whole junkyard.

          1. It's a FINE junkyard, FWIW.

            You don't have to be black to like a big round booty.

            1. For all that I don't like her, she's not terrible looking. At least she's not jowelly, fat Laura Bush or Hillary Clinton the Fury.

  18. It's Fred Armisen, not "Armistead"

    1. And he's still not black.

      1. We're all black. Africa was the cradle of the human race, and all civilization, which the Greeks merely copied.

        Don't you know anything?

        Are we going to have to send you to re-education camp?

    2. Doh! Thanks, and sorry.

      1. You're thinking of Dean Archer Armstead. Now that was comedy.

  19. Well. I guess it's "or die," then. Glad that's settled.

  20. I never liked that show.

  21. Carrey should have reprised his "Fire Marshal Bill" character and burned the White House down.

    That Aykroyd clip is like the only one they show about Carter. Quite unlike the weekly Obama love/Bush hate of today.

    1. As Obama gets more and more unpopular they are going to have to go after him. Damn that is going to hurt.

      1. They already got in trouble for their one sketch that was critical of him. It was the one about him not fulfilling his campaign promises. The powers that be must have been furious, because the next week they were back to their routine.

        1. GE owns NBC. I doubt GE wants trouble with the Whitehouse.

          1. I thought Comcast bought NBC? Not that they want trouble either.

  22. Funny or Die: Where the Funny Goes to Die...

  23. That is incredibly bad, not the humor, but the silly politics. Man, they are so edgy. It like getting the birds and bees speech from you dad.

  24. To me, Carvey, Hammond and Ferrell were funny, but I could take or leave the rest of the performances. I can sort of forgive Aykroyd and Chase though, because they were doing impressions of presidents who haven't been in office for quite awhile.

    1. Chase fell over things and called it political satire.

    2. Remembering Dana Carvey's take on Ross Perot.

  25. Apparently everyone in this clip took that video pledge to serve our new leader, and this is what it's done to comedy? about the same thing that the Brezhnev era did to the social observation in the lyrics of Eduard Khil:

  26. Does that count as corporate political speech?

  27. What's the rule on Fred Armisen and blackface? Is it offensive?

    1. Now that I think about my previous comment, I think I'm serious. Because Armisen is performing in blackface, he can't really go after Obama in a way that a black comedian could, or in a way that he could go after a white politician. (I'm not saying that Armisen should pull out a routine from Bamboozled, but once you put the guy in blackface, the writers have to start being more careful than they would in other circumstances.)

      1. It's more like beigeface.

      2. No one gave a crap when Darrell Hammond was doing sunburn-face for Jesse Jackson. Why is that? Is it because Jackson is the "bad" kind of black person so its ok, but since Obama is the "good" kind of black person thats not ok?

  28. Seth Meyer's "Weekend Update" is still pretty funny, and that's why I still TIVO SNL. The rest of the show ... meh.

  29. I watched this thing expecting a funny payoff and instead they told me to drink my ovaltine.

    What a disappointment.

  30. Maybe this point has already been made--I don't have time to read all the comments--but this article is absurd. This is not a presentation of Saturday Night Live and cannot be used as "evidence" of anything about SNL. The editor-in-chief of Reason is clearly faulty in his reasoning.

    1. Even though it is a more comprehensive slice of SNL cast members through the years than you can find on SNL itself?

  31. I am mostly impressed by how amazingly unfunny that whole skit was. Their are sparks of comic genius from the players but as a whole . . . just sad.

    1. You know Bill O'Reily played this video on the Factor approvingly and said he thought it was funny.

      I think that is pretty much the final word on whether this Funny or Die spot was the least but hip or funny.

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