Speed Reads

Kid gloves

Veteran SNL writer: We were 'an arm of the Hollywood Democratic establishment'

In an excerpt from the updated version of 2002's Live from New York, an oral history of Saturday Night Live, former SNL head writer and producer James Downey says that the show avoided attacking President Obama for multiple seasons:

But I have to say, and even [Al] Franken agrees with me — I've talked to him about this — that the last couple seasons of the show were the only two in the show's history where we were totally like every other comedy show: basically, an arm of the Hollywood Democratic establishment. [Jon] Stewart was more nuanced. We just stopped doing anything which could even be misinterpreted as a criticism of Obama. [Live from New York, via Hollywood Reporter]

While Downey's former SNL co-worker Horatio Sanz attributes this assessment to the conservative Downey being "the Karl Rove of SNL," Downey casts himself as a conservative Democrat who declared support for Obama in the 2008 election. In the same excerpt, Downey says that his own writing of Obama contributed to the friendly portrayal:

If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, "Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10." It's like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled. There's not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature. [Al] Gore had these "handles," so did Bush, and Sarah Palin, and even Hillary had them. But with Obama, it was the phenomenon — less about him and more about the effect he had on other people and the way he changed their behavior. So that's the way I wrote him. [Live from New York, via Hollywood Reporter]

The new edition of Live from New York comes out Sept. 9.