Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SNL and Health Care

I caught an SNL my wife was watching on-demand this past Sunday and saw a part of yet another sketch about health care reform. I remember back in early October SNL did a "Hall and Oates" sketch where fake Hall and Oates sung about the benefits and drawbacks of health care reform. The October sketch highlighted only a desire not to hurt the insurance companies as a reason to oppose health care reform. And this sketch I caught this weekend (which must have been from the past few months), presented the Republican opposition to healthcare as being motivated only by opposition to President Obama. When pushed, Republican Senator Mitch McConnell (played by Will Forte) responds to an angry Barack Obama (played by the Rock, having transformed from Fred Armisen) by saying that Republicans would be for health care reform if Obama was against it.

It's a relatively fair jab at the Republicans, given the behavior of the Republican party over the past ten years, but it's not a particularly fair portrayal of health care reform. To be fair to SNL, they've gone after Obama this year and should no way be seen as any sort of Democratic mouthpiece. (And on a side note, I've got to say, I absolutely love Jason Sudeikis's portrayal of Vice-President Biden, a perfect showcase of politics meets stupid.) But ultimately, the problem is that policy makes for bad sketch comedy and complex policy is even worse. It's hard to do jokes about health care when 90 some percent of the American public, including I think many of the SNL writers, don't fully understand all the issues themselves. So instead what we get are very lame jokes where the only conclusion I can see is that health care reform is supposed to be a good thing and there is no good reason to oppose it.

But as I said, my advice to SNL would be this: stick to what works and point out the ridiculous side of politics and politicians that everyone can see. Don't turn into Jon Stewart and slyly wink at your audience about how anyone opposing this particular set of health care reforms is either stupid or evil.


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