Hillary Clinton's SNL Cameo Was Toothless Satire—Like Most Politicians' SNL Cameos

There are rare exceptions, but this is how it usually goes.


This past weekend Saturday Night Live started its 41st year on the air, which means it's reached the point in its life when a more insecure show might buy a sports car, get an age-inappropriate haircut, and start dating a woman half its age. Instead it's taken up with an older woman, bringing on Hillary Clinton to lightly spoof herself in what amounted to a late-night campaign ad:

Saturday Night Live has a lot of experience inserting visiting pols into the show. The tricky part of such segments, at least in those years when SNL aspires to be funny, is that most political figures are not gifted comedians. Even Bob Dole, a bona fide witty guy, wasn't much of a sketch performer: Rewatching his SNL cameo from 1996, it's hard not to notice that he had trouble keeping a straight face. There are occasional exceptions—Jesse Jackson turned out to be genuinely funny, and Ron Nessen was, if nothing else, a pretty good straight man to Chevy Chase's Gerald Ford. But on the whole, you're not going to be able to count on a candidate or a political flunky to be a good comic. So the program is more likely to treat its guest as a comic prop: not a funny person, but a person it's funny to see there.

Note: This is actually Al Franken. Lyndon LaRouche has never appeared on Saturday Night Live.

The Hillary sketch followed one tried-and-true formula for doing this: Stick the politician on camera with the cast member who's been playing the pol. They did it with Dole, they did it with Sarah Palin, they did it with Hillary Clinton back in 2008, and now they've done it with Clinton again. This does the guests the favor of letting them show (or at least pretend) that they don't mind the joke; it also offers a contrast between the caricature and the image the politician would prefer to project. In this case, Hillary Clinton took the opportunity to turn in a better Hillary Clinton impression than her impersonator.

The Republicans in my Twitter feed have been complaining that SNL just planted a big wet kiss on the Clinton campaign's cheek. This is true, but it's also true that if Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush asked, he could probably get a similarly royal treatment. And if Donald Trump decided he wanted the world to think he can take a joke, the show would surely oblige him. The real scandal of these political guest turns on SNL isn't that the program favors one side more than the other; it's that they're so toothless. If they weren't toothless, most of the guests wouldn't agree to participate. There may have been a time when going on Saturday Night Live could be a risky move for a politician, but those days are long past.

So let's wrap this up with a rare case when a sitting official—in this case, a Georgia state senator—was willing to risk crossing, in his own words, "the fine line between comedy and poor taste." From 1977, here's the late Julian Bond:

Decades later, Bond would write that he "feel[s] uneasy about this joke even today." But he also said it was his favorite moment from his episode.

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  1. She was stiff and inhuman, so a little bit better than normal.

    1. But still better than a Republican, right?

    2. On the contrary, her behavior was entirely appropriate. In the new, stronger, and limper America that we are trying to build, satire must be toothless. Otherwise it risks crossing the line ? in some instances even into rank criminality, as when an individual sends out “Gmail confessions” sordidly portraying a distinguished academic department chairman as justifying an act of alleged plagiarism on the grounds that “if I had given credit to this man I would have been banned from conferences around the world.” So let us keep the base satirical impulses of certain elements of the population confined to late-night television shows where the audience expects what they are going to see; let us enact laws that require all satire to be expressly labeled as such; and let us make it clear to everyone that inappropriately deadpan mockery will be requited with prosecution and prison in this country, just as in other countries like Russia and China. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal satire case at:

  2. The Julian Bond sketch disproves the oft-heard contention that SNL was never funny.

    1. SNL damned sure was funny when I was in high school in the 70’s, and into the 80’s. Even some recent shows. But the last 4-5 seasons are so bad I just quit watching at all.

      1. Everytime I come across it, everyone in the sketch is trying to hold back their own laughter.

      2. What Almanian said.

        Even the Week-End updates were good; especially under Miller.

        Now SNL you watch for the intro and change the channel; if that.

        It’s a shame because there are some really funny people that have come through in the last little while. Like Bill Hader.

        1. Bill Hader was awesome. Andy Samberg was sometimes awesome (Lazy Sunday), sometimes stupid.

          Now it’s just….well, I don’t know, cause I haven’t watched in over two years.

        2. SNL is not meant to be watched in its entirety in this age. You wait until Sunday morning to hear which sketch is worth checking out on hulu.

          And yeah, until the past couple years, that was usually the Hader sketch. Their current lineup is sad; most of the women are funny, while only Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan are the only men with anything to offer.

      3. What Almanian said.

        In those days it was so funny that I would stay home Saturday nights until it was over and then go out. That is a statement when a male in his 20s takes time away from hunting females with likewise raging hormones.

      4. Absolutely. I was in high school when it debuted, and it was a can’t miss every week. Remember, this was a time when kids and parents occupied completely separate pop culture worlds, and for the most part TV was on the responsible adults’ side of the divide. As teenage druggies, our consumption of comedy was pretty much limited to records– I still remember the many stoned hours spent listening to Fireside Theater, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Cheech & Chong; that, and reading National Lampoon.

        In that universe, SNL was revolutionary– TV your parents wouldn’t get. Even within the puritanical FCC regulations then governing TV content, the swearing and drug references were everywhere and obvious if you knew what to look for. There’s been a lot of rough going, interspersed with the occasional stellar cast, in the decades since, but the first five or so seasons were both hilarious and subversive.

        1. *Firesign Theater, that is. Auto correct apparently has a different set of memories than I do.

          1. It’s actually “Firesign Theatre.”

            1. Yeah, the moment I noticed that correction was the moment I flung the phone across the room. Why isn’t Android content to let me make my own mistakes?

    2. That was funny.

      SNL was funny when it took risks. Now, it is rarely funny because they never take risks for fear of offending a celebrity, etc.

    3. I hear it’s what they call a two-joint show now, that’s how much it would take to make it funny.

  3. SNL is still a thing?

    1. Not really

      1. …then there’s still hope!

            1. No!

    2. It used to be, way back when Hillary barely even qualified for AARP membership.

  4. If Citizens United had been decided the other way, would SNL have been allowed to run this? Serious question.

    1. Only if the FEC gave them the okay.

  5. SNL clips on Hulu are about the 800th funniest thing on streaming tv right now.

  6. Also, Miley Cyrus is 22. Why does she sound like a 50-year-old 2-pack a day smoker? I guess gargling cum and thumbtacks really is bad for you.

    1. am i the only one here who appreciates her joie de vivre?

      1. You and the crew of the USS Saipan

    2. For your next trick whine about airbrushing and how plus size models have even less realistic body types than the anorexic waifs. That Jezebel-reading is washing your brain.

      1. Do you even know what you are complaining about anymore? or are you just a squid shooting out a cloud of ink at anything that scares you in the least?

        1. Fat SJW’s broadcast their insecurity with snarky whining about Miley Cyrus.

          1. And you project yours bitching about the phantom cosmotarians that plague your every waking thought.

            1. No, that’s me. One of the components of Wartyvision projects images directly into the human brain. I’m using SIV as a test subject since the already insane suffer fewer noticeable effects than normal people.

            2. I hate cosmotarians and Miley Cyrus, who is like the ultimate SJW so I really don’t know what SIV is talking about.

            3. Damn it SugarFree, two people can’t hate the same thing! You whine about Cyrus? You must be a SJW white knight trying to score by bitching about her.

    3. Also, Miley Cyrus is 22. Why does she sound like a 50-year-old 2-pack a day smoker? I guess gargling cum and thumbtacks really is bad for you.

      This sounds like sound moral judgement plausibly disguised as decent taste…

      As a libertarian I say, “How dare you?!?!”

      1. I thought she showed that she still has comedic chops in her sketches – despite the lame writing. She’s doing her “weird pop star” thing, trying to make some bucks. As 22 year old party-girl gozillionaires go, she’s not doing so bad. She’s still working hard, which is more than most 22 year old gozillionaires manage.

        I ain’t throwing any stones.

        1. This made me curious so I asked google. Apparently her net worth is $160 million. At 22. Also per the googles she’s been working in entertainment since she was in elementary school.

          I’d say she’s due a little defference on her life choices, since she seems to be doing a lot better than any of the rabble here. But then that’s the default libertarian position anyway, isn’t it?

    4. You leave Miley alone!

  7. The Republicans in my Twitter feed have been complaining

    Complaining? On Twitter? You don’t say!

    I like how the right-wing answer to the left-wing’s social media dominance is to become like them, but somehow even more whiney.

    1. Yeah! they should whine in the comment section of an obscure libertarian blog instead *runs away*

      1. Ohhhhh, SNAP!

      2. We are …snarkier? We have SugarFree, Warty and STEVE SMITH?

        Help me out here, people!

        1. I think it’s true, Swiss, that the levels of snark here seem at times to approach epic proportions.
          Of course, there’s also the brutal deconstruction of others in keeping with a driving misanthropy (either naturally extant or developed over time) and the widespread mordancy somewhat unique to this comment section.

          I enjoy the inane diversions some of us engage in as well, even if they sometimes risk going so far of topic that we never return to whatever an article was discussing.


  8. Thanks for the link to Jesse and “Green Eggs and Ham”.

    One of the best moments to ever air on SNL.

  9. Does anybody actually watch that show anymore?

    1. It seems to exist solely to produce short videos which the entertainment media can talk about on Monday morning.

  10. Clinton’s proposed gun regs on her site are absurdly amorphous as expected.

    Ban on “military style assault” weapons such as.. ?? Pistol grip? Suppressor? SBR? Semi-auto?

    1. The shoulder thing, that goes up.

      1. Bayonet mounts are a big no-no.

        We’ve been lucky so far that none of these gunman went in with bayonet mounted.

        1. Does this mean I have to give up my M-1 WITH ORIGINAL BAYONET??

          Not happenin’…..

          *tightens grip with cold, not-yet-dead, hands*

  11. Politicians being funny! Why, it’s like they’re almost human! Oh, could I love them more?

  12. Bayonet mounts are a big no-no.

    But I REALLY REALLY want a Trench Gun, goddammit!

  13. Isn’t that cute!? She thinks she’s people! Silly Hillary.

  14. Ron Nessen, although a real human being, was played by writer/actor Buck Henry in that clip.

    1. Arrgh, I linked to the wrong one. Thanks. It’s fixed now.

  15. At least it was just one episode.

    “Madame Secretary” is full-blown Hillary 2016 series.

    Which, of course, could be done away with if Hillary got her way on Citizens United.

    1. Unfrickenbelievable there’s such a stupid show.

      1. The Left West Wing was the fantasy Mario Cuomo Administration – Madame Secretary is the hallucinatory-planted memory style Hillary history.

  16. Who sits down at the bar and says, “And uh, how ’bout you?” to the bartender when they ask, “What brings you here tonight and/or what do you do for a living?”

    1. That’s the joke, DUH!

      1. Silly me, I must be out of touch with the common bartender.

        1. Yeah, that’s the sticking point. Beyond that, the whole skit is plausible and worth watching.


    1. Worse than bullshit–she, as President, would have tried to shut down Congressional investigations? I believe we call that dictatorship.

    2. From her Wikipedia page: “In 2005, Clinton called for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate how hidden sex scenes showed up in the controversial video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”

      So you see that she supports federal investigations of *important* topics, just not the first murder of an American ambassador since the Carter administration.

  17. most political figures are not gifted comedians

    Then why do so many judges think they are? Bad judgment, I guess.

  18. I watched SNL.
    Besides the cameo from Hillary Nixon, the “Weekend Update” segment was shilling for her hard. It was embarrassing.
    And Miley Cyrus? Yeah, I would.

    1. The only bright side is they made fun of Uncle Bernie

      1. Let me guess – because he’s running against Hillary?

        1. yep. I’m sure they’ll sing his praises if he gets the nom.

  19. Over the mountians and through the woods dude.

  20. That old Mad TV skit titled “I’m sorry Mrs. Jackson” is more funny than that SNL skit.

    As for Miley Cyrus, some ponder if she’ll be in the 27 club?

  21. The problem with shilling hard for a politician in a comedy show is that it kills the comedy. Having Hillary come out and get ribbed for how awesome she was to do so much for gay marriage (but she could have done it sooner!) isn’t funny. Sure, the team-Hillary kids in the crowd ate it up, but it ain’t even a little bit funny.

    But you can’t blame them for not hitting her during her appearance. That’s always poor taste. You can blame them for failing to do anything with any of the issues this administration has given us. Heck, how can you fail to make some decent comedy out of the personal email server? That’s politician comedy gold, because it mixes hubris with banality and it doesn’t touch any real political issues that might trip you up into preachy-land.

    Instead they rib the administration for how difficult it is having to deal with all those evil republicans. Har-har…. comedy gold!

    These guys aren’t even good progressives. They are just team-blue democrats. At least if they had some good hardcore progressive ideals they’d be able to gin up some outrage against the Dem leaders and make a decent biting commentary.

    1. “Mrs. Clinton, your campaign has the momentum of a runaway freight train…why are you so popular?”

      [laughter, extended applause]

  22. Not a single mention of the ‘best’ presidential candidate cameo ever, John Anderson? He was even featured in a skit by a future Senator!

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