In a recent Vulture interview with Saturday Night Live Producer Lorne Michaels, we learn that Republicans have a much better sense of humor than Democrats do.
Vulture: Are there any basic rules for what works and what doesn’t politically?
Lorne Michaels: Republicans are easier for us than Democrats. Democrats tend to take it personally; Republicans think it’s funny. But we’re not sitting here every week going, “We’ve really got to do the First Family.” This week, our cold open is about three big stories. We have Piers Morgan interviewing A-Rod, Chris Christie, and Justin Bieber. We’re doing more of that kind of thing than stuff about Benghazi or the new budget agreement. The country has lost interest in it. I can’t tell you why. It’s no less important, but in some way you can’t do health care more than twice, at which point there’s just nothing left. But Jay Pharoah does a really good Obama.
Vulture: Between Victoria Jackson, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Norm MacDonald, Colin Quinn, Jim Downey, and Adam Sandler, SNL seems to produce a lot of conservatives, which is rare for a comedy show. Why do you think that is?
Lorne Michaels: Well, let’s put Victoria in a separate category. When she arrived here, she was married to a fire-eater. Then she married an old boyfriend who was a cop. She was always deeply Christian. I would say Norm is more cranky than political. I love Norm. We’re both Canadian. I think Downey grew up with parents who were Kennedy Democrats and then he evolved. But we’ve never been agenda people. Our job—and it sounds too grand to say and none of us ever say it—is speaking truth to power. I’m registered as an Independent, not because everything that we do would be undermined if we were partisan—Jon Stewart has that role. Us? Theoretically, whoever it is in power, we’re against them.
Of course, most of us already knew that Republicans had a better sense of humor. We get made fun of a lot more than your average Democrat, and we’ve learned to roll with the punches. Michaels is exactly correct – Democrats are babies who take jokes personally. Can you imagine a Comedy Central roast of Hillary Clinton? No way! But Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, President George W. Bush…they’d probably love it!
I think the most important part of this interview, though, comes when Michaels says this, “Theoretically, whoever it is in power, we’re against them.” That’s how it should be. This is the job of comedians to be ruthless in their attacks on whoever is in power. It’s why I have no respect for Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. It’s easy for them to lob their attacks at Republicans who are out of power and have no way to advance an agenda because of their minority status in the Senate. How often do they take aim at the White House, or at Harry Reid? Not often enough.
We are in a dangerous place in our nation’s history because our media has forgotten that they are the front lines against tyranny. The media (newspapers, magazines, networks, cable, and Hollywood) should be the chief weapon we use against the encroaching power of government… but our media has forgotten its purpose and become a tool for the very thing they are supposed to defend against.