Lorne Michaels' brainchild dodders on...

Saturday Night Live is considered a television institution.

I know this because SNL constantly reminds me. Remember when Chris Farley danced with Patrick Swayze? Remember when Will Ferrell played the cowbell? Remember Dan Akroyd and the bass-0-matic? What about when Adam Sandler sang about Hannukah? Hilarious!

But the reality is, SNL has always been mediocre. There have been flashes of brilliance, sure...iconic comedy moments we could recall as vividly as a Seinfeld episode. But try watching all those episodes back-to-back. The skits almost invariably go on too long, characters wear out their welcome, and players who've never been funny are inexplicably kept on (I'm talking about you, Kenan Thompson).

Somehow, though, like a nursing home mainstay who just won't kick this mortal coil, SNL lives on. This season, they've managed two bits of watercooler talk in two weeks.

The first was Tina Fey's impersonation of Sarah Palin in a skit featuring Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.

It's a funny skit. Fey isn't a great mimic, but she gets Palin's timbre down well, and while it lands a few direct hits on Palin's inexperience and Clinton's ambition, it's actually fairly kind to the Alaskan Governor compared to, say, The Daily Show, primarily because Tina Fey makes Palin so likable.

The second skit was far more controversial. I missed the show, so I heard about it from my dad, who was incensed. Here's the clip, where a journalist with the New York Times suggests Todd Palin may be guilty of incest toward his daughters.

The sketch angered conservative bloggers and commentators. I was just extremely confused.

The clip begins with this scrolling message:
"Todd Palin, Husband of Sarah Palin, is accused of Incest and Statuatory rape by Saturday Night live. Just a Joke? (sic)"
Well, to answer your question, scrolling message, I'm fairly sure it was a joke.

It was an awful joke...in taste, timing...you name it. I mean, it's really bad. I'm stunned it made it past even SNL's notoriously low standards. The audience response is absolutely abyssmal as a low smattering of nervous laughter gives way to a disgusted "oooh". The sounds of crickets at least denotes confusion...this elicited extreme displeasure from a Blue State audience, and that response was well-deserved.

But SNL was not accusing Todd Palin of incest. In fact, I'm not even sure how you could get that message, even from this edited down version of the sketch. The "joke" is obviously...and I mean obviously...directed at the media in particular and the Left in general. The message of the sketch is two-fold:

Message #1: The media is irresponsible in its reporting, and cares more about promoting controversy and selling ad space than reporting actual facts.

The media was caught off guard by Sarah Palin's nomination. While John McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden have been in the public spotlight for a long time and been subject to intense scrutiny, Sarah Palin was brand new. As the media scrambled to find out all they could about Palin's mysterious past, speculation was ridiculous and rampant, ranging from the completely irrelevant (Todd Palin's DUI in 1986) to absurdly disgusting (Palin's son Trig, who has down syndrome, was actually the son of Palin's daughter, Bristol).

The problem is, anymore it's difficult to pin this speculation on the media, which now seems to umbrella bloggers as well as seasoned journalists. My guess is, most of the wild rumors originated from bloggers looking to pull in traffic, though it's hard to say. Additionally, the sketch targets The New York Times, when cable news channels (from Fox to MSNBC to CNN) are far more culpable in the decline of journalism.

Message #2: The media views rural populations as stupid and inbred.

This message is a bit more focused, and addresses the Left's complicity in the so-called "Culture War". When Bill O'Reilly rants and raves about the battle for American values, he is basically attacking the way Red State America is viewed by the liberals and media in big cities. The perception is that flyover states are backward and naive, holding on to "small-town" values, completely ignorant of urban reality. We posted an example of that mentality earlier this month, when a Slate.com reporter arrogantly toured Palin's hometown of Wasilia.

It's a shame the joke was so horrible, since these are valid satirical targets.


Here's the irony: Conservative commentators are mad as hornets because they've missed the point of this joke. The point of the joke supports two commonly held conservative beliefs, and is aimed at Liberals. Exasperated Liberal commentators are now forced to defend a stupid, unfunny and disgusting attempt at comedy, even though it was directed at them.

This maze of logic came careening through my head late last night, so I couldn't sleep. It was like trying to solve a Rubick's cube of rhetoric. Eventually, I drifted off with these three points:

1. Conservative commentators don't understand comedy.
2. Liberal commentators don't understand comedy.
3. Saturday Night Live, despite a collection of excellent individual players (particularly the awesome Kristen Wiig), is still as bad as it ever was.

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