Saturday Night Live's Growing Political Popularity

 Saturday Night Live (SNL) is an American late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show created by Lorne Michaels. SNL tapes live on Saturday nights at 11:30 p.m at NBC Studios in 30 Rockefeller Center in Midtown, New York. The show has won 45 Emmy Awards and has influenced popular music, films, and even politics.

SNL original cast

The Beginning

The show was originally called Saturday Night and premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975. Chevy Chase, an original cast member, solidified his career and President Ford’s klutzy persona when Chase debuted his Ford impersonation on SNL. Although President Ford was an accomplished athlete, due to a few filmed mishaps including slipping on the Air Force One steps the persona of clumsiness was built around Ford. Every week, Chase would contribute to the clumsy nature of Ford by tripping, falling and dropping papers. Eventually, Ford decided to laugh along with the show and invited Chase to a political dinner and sent his press secretary, Ron Nessen, on the show.

In “Humor and the Presidency,” Ford said, “It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a measurable correlation between humor in an administration and the popularity of that administration’s policies.”

Rise of Weekend Update

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The Weekend Update segment is set up like a newscast by providing commentary on current issues and fake interviews with cast members or even real political figures. Between 1975 and 1980, Weekend Update reached an audience of about 30 million people informing viewers about interesting and relevant current events. Since the segment began over 20 anchors have graced the desk, including head writers, members or featured players. “Fake news” has increased the ability to get political information to viewers by disguising political commentary through parody and satire.

Presidential Impersonations

SNL has a reported effect on voters which leads to an influence on U.S. elections and presidential candidates. Around the 2008 presidential election, the theory of the “SNL effect” emerged stating that the content voter saw on SNL affected how the voted in the election.

Each cast member fights for the position of the impersonation of a president or candidate to earn more air-time. Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin was so good that even though she wasn’t a current cast member, Fey was a common cameo throughout the 2008 election. Fey’s impersonation also decreased Palin’s popularity dramatically

Palin on SNL

 

However, not only do the parodies influence viewers, but they also influence politicians to appear on the show as well. Several politicians have made cameos on SNL, including Senator John McCain, President Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton and more recently presidential candidate Donald Trump has hosted the show.

Modern Campaigning

SNL has the ability to grow as another media form that candidates should use to promote themselves. However it’s no longer just the show giving off the prestige of comedy political humor, but cast members have also become politically active. Cast members have even been invited to prestigious political events, like Cecily Strong giving a speech at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner on April 25, 2015.

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Though Saturday Night Live occasionally goes through slumps, it has stood the test of time and will likely be around for many years to come. Politicians and campaigns officials should make sure to incorporate it in their future campaigns for office.

The Weekend Update segment is set up like a newscast by providing commentary on current issues and fake interviews with cast members or even real political figures. Between 1975 and 1980, Weekend Update reached an audience of about 30 million people informing viewers about interesting and relevant current events. Since the segment began over 20 anchors have graced the desk, including head writers, members or featured players. “Fake news” has increased the ability to get political information to viewers by disguising political commentary through parody and satire.

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