In the wake of a news cycle dominated by the tragedy in Arizona just over a week ago, SNL faced a challenge in writing their traditionally political cold open. Luckily for Seth Meyers and crew, all eyes were on cable news personalities as they attempted to tone down the rhetoric many initially attributed to the shooting.
Amongst all the accusations coming in from the left, Fox News president Roger Ailes told his people to ‘tone it down.’ Others, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, defended their choice of words (and crosshairs) as being unrelated to the incident.
SNL imagined what a ‘toned down’ Fox would look like on an episode of On The Record. Kristen Wiig portrayed host Greta Van Susteren by forcing her mouth to one side and slurring her words. She opened the sketch by referencing the order from Ailes, then introducing herself and the other players dressed as Fox talking heads such as Hannity, Malkin, and Beck. Within seconds they had filled the discussion on the Health Care Repeal Bill with violent imagery. She then reluctantly allowed James Carville — one of Bill Hader’s favorite impressions — to join them ‘in the name of civility’.
Carville let it be known that he didn’t believe it was possible for Fox to tone it down and began taunting the pundits who had just promised to behave. By the time he described animals as ‘people with fur,’ Hannity was foaming at the mouth. Literally.
Greta declared the era of civility over after only a few minutes when Abby Elliot (dressed as Rachel Maddow) wrote “Legalize Gay Marriage in all 50 States” on Glenn Beck’s signature chalk board.
The behaviors exhibited by the ‘pundits’ from both sides of the aisle, whether childish, animal-like, or both, reminded viewers that if they were searching for a civil, apolitical discussion about what unfolded in Tucson, or any story, for that matter, cable news was not the best place to look. (Unfortunately, Anderson Cooper, the exception to that rule, was assaulted by Pee Wee Herman in another sketch in which he joked about his beautiful eyes)
Later in the show, Myers poked fun at Palin for using the phrase ‘blood libel’ in her defense, then at America’s obsession with guns. He went on a tangent about how the founding fathers would be too captivated by the presence of cars and free blacks to care about the second amendment to remind the audience just how antiquated the document is.
“Yes, the founding fathers wanted you to have the right to bear arms, but the guys who wrote that would pee through all eight layers of their pants if they saw what guns are now,” said Meyers of the constitutionalist argument against gun control legislation.
He then reminded us of a time when a musket had to be loaded before it was fired and people had the time to think or flee before a shot was fired. “Isn’t that better?” He asked.
Many advocates of gun control, a group which Congresswoman Giffords was not part of, have argued that semi-automatic weapons and large cartridges, such as those used by Loughner, should be banned because they’re more suited for acts of violence than hunting or self-defense.
Sure, they had a week to process it, but SNL did a great job dealing with a tough event to cover. Not because those sketches were particularly hilarious, but because they were smart and tucked neatly between some of the funniest sketches we’ve seen in a long time.