Saturday Night Live is 38 years old. And, as much as I respect the show's cultural contributions on topics like lunch ladies and aging crooners, the show never does anything more important than mock the presidential election process. SNL still does the most prominent satirical take on the actual characters of the men who would run this country. While we all wish it were different, the truth is that those characterizations play a big factor in influencing the masses during these elections, and here are three reasons why:
1. It's appointment television.
I don't watch SNL that much. I'm an unmarried 26-year-old boy. I don't sit in my apartment on Saturday night. Not only that, but if I did, I wouldn't watch something that still required me to sit through commercials (I could possibly be seduced by a show called Saturday Night DVR-ed or Sunday Morning Not Live); but tonight's special is occurring on a Thursday night, which makes it Probably Wanna See TV. The election is only once every four years, which is the same reason I ever tune into soccer or any Olympic sports not starring NBA players. I can make time for this.
2. For the disinterested, this is the memorable part of the election ...
It's not what you say, it's what they hear. Anyone who's ever been in sales has heard this line. There's a lot of political chatter: It's on TV, it's on the radio, it's on whatever's replaced newspapers. It's on freaking Facebook! We live in a world of informational white noise, and while the election horn blares the loudest right now, that doesn't make it clear. What sticks out from past elections? Will Ferrel talking about "strategery" as G.W. Bush. Tina Fey pulling off a Sarah Palin impression that could have turned into a real life Dave situation if things got messy. Barack and Mitt* can talk policy all day long, but it's all starting to sound like a Michael Jordan interview, likable and empty.
[*I'm on the Ron Paul bandwagon simply because his first name is Ron]
3. The interest is more important than influence.
The most important factor of the SNL election coverage isn't the light they cast on the candidates, that's easily dismissed. The most important thing these specials do is make the election topical for all people. I don't watch SNL and I don't care much about the election, but I'm an unmarried 26-year-old boy. I need to be culturally relevant to be cool. And if this special is going to launch repetitious political jokes like it has in the past, I have to be up to speed: and that's the hook. It gets voting outliers like myself talking about the election. I talk about it enough that I find myself interested. Suddenly, I find myself at the booth because, hell, I've been talking about it since September 20. Now, which president is going to give me better jokes for the next four years?
The Saturday Night Live Election Special airs Thursday, September 20 at 8:00 ET/PT on NBC.