SNL Parodies Palin, Debates

“Saturday Night Live” is continuing to weigh in heavily on the presidential race, hitting Sarah Palin and John McCain hard in last night’s installment.

Tina Fey reprised her role as Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live,” again appearing as the Republican vice presidential candidate in an opening sketch. Saturday night’s show — the third of the season for the NBC comedy program — brought back the season premiere tandem of Fey and Amy Poehler, who opened the season with a memorable sketch featuring Fey as Palin and Poehler as Hillary Clinton.

This time around, Poehler played CBS’s Katie Couric, parodying the interview with Palin earlier this week. Poehler, though, mostly played straight man to Fey, who ratcheted up her performance of Sen. John McCain’s running mate by satirizing her foreign affairs experience. When Poehler’s Couric pushed Fey’s Palin to specifically discuss how she would help facilitate democracy abroad, Fey gave in: “Katie, I’d like to use one of my lifelines. … I want to phone a friend.” When a confused Poehler informed her that that wasn’t how the interview worked, Fey’s Palin responded — alluding to one of the governor’s most quoted lines from the interview — “Well, in that case, I’m just gonna have to get back to ya.”


Fey wasn’t the only former cast member who returned Saturday night. Chris Parnell came back to play presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer in a sketch that parodied Friday night’s contest between McCain and Democratic rival Barack Obama — which occurred less than 27 hours earlier than the live “SNL” broadcast.

The sketch mainly played up McCain’s attempts to shake up the debate process, as Darrell Hammond’s McCain urged his opponent to join him in “nude or seminude” town hall meetings. At the outset, Parnell announced: “Throughout the debate, I will urge you both to look at one another up to and beyond the point it becomes uncomfortable.”

SNL’s treatment of the 1992 debates, notably their caricatures of Ross Perot and Jim Stockdale, and their dead-on parodies of Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000 were instant classics and helped shape the public perceptions of those candidates.

They may well help transform Palin’s image from a feisty hockey mom to a clueless ditz. Then again, they’ll need to be funnier than this to do it. The first Fey-Palin segment was genuinely clever parody; this was just lame jokes delivered in Palin’s accent.

The Obama-McCain “intro” spot was mildly amusing:

The debate spoof was much better:

They’ve long had Jim Lehrer down. Hammond is a master impressionist but hasn’t gotten McCain down yet. The writing on the debate skit was pretty solid, though. The hits on McCain’s various gimmicks and Obama for playing the race card were clever. The Chicago corruption stuff with Obama, less so.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rick Almeida says:

    I particularly liked how, at about 4 minutes into the Palin/Couric sketch, Fey works in some of Palin’s actual answers to the real Couric interview, and it blends seamlessly into the parody.

  2. Michael says:

    I particularly liked how, at about 4 minutes into the Palin/Couric sketch, Fey works in some of Palin’s actual answers to the real Couric interview, and it blends seamlessly into the parody.

    I thought at first it was going to be a word-for-word copy of Palin’s actual answer, which I think would have been much funnier.

  3. anjin-san says:

    There is really no need to parody Palin. In this case, art imitates life. Wilde stuff, but kind of upside down…

  4. rodney dill says:

    Even Tina Fey isn’t as funny as Obumble in real life.