I admit I've had a grievance with SNL for about two years now. I thought their portrayal of NY governor David Paterson as a hapless blind buffoon was cheap and beneath them. The fact that some of my favorite cast members participated in the mockery griped me even more. This was my original rant from December 2008:
I usually don't torture myself with morning radio shows. Listening to morning "zoo crews" or whatever they call themselves now is like reading the dumbest YouTube comments but without the "thumbs down" button.Well, I see they took my advice! On Saturday night, Paterson made a guest appearance on Weekend Update to set the record straight:
But you've probably guessed why I'm writing this. I did listen to a morning radio show this morning... for a few moments... before I hit the off button.
The topic was Governor David Paterson's comments about this Saturday Night Live Weekend Update skit that mocked his blindness. The first predictable and juvenile joke the deejays made was along the lines of "oh my god, he's blind! He can't even watch the show!" The genius morning hosts, not catching the irony, proceeded to play the the SNL skit for their listeners... on the radio. They played the SNL skit on the radio -- that primitive device without pictures.
Then they went on with some other blunt ignorance scratching their empty skulls pondering why blind people would even rent DVDs or go to the movies.
But I think the attitude that annoys me the most is the idea that nobody should be offended by the SNL piece because "it's just a joke." The reality, however, is that comedy is part of our discourse now more than ever largely due to shows like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. These shows, through humor, change attitudes, and that's truly awesome.
Minorities like the blind and the disabled also try to change attitudes. A spokesperson for Paterson said, "this particular 'Saturday Night Live' skit unfortunately chose to ridicule people with physical disabilities and imply that disabled people are incapable of having jobs with serious responsibilities." People with disabilities struggle every day to create a new consensus that they are capable, smart, and ready to work.
The SNL skit failed because it reinforced the old hindering consensus -- the blind are hapless, clumsy, disoriented. The comedian portraying Paterson repeatedly wandered in front of the camera. The real David Paterson, however, is described as "rarely out of step with his surroundings and seems comfortable in virtually every setting."
I think the best humor is not merely comic relief. The best humor changes the way we view our world, breaks the established order of things, forces you to question your habits and prejudices. Nothing was daring about the SNL skit. It was a lazy reinforcement of the Mr. Magoo stereotype.
I'm sad that Amy Poehler's goodbye message was combined with this lousy humor. I'd like to see the real David Paterson on SNL's Weekend Update. He can at least show them that no matter what way you hold the charts, the economy still looks like crap.
And Amy Poehler was there too to say she was sorry. I guess you can call that closure.