Cockburn never wants to criticize people for trying to be funny, even if they fail. He’s fallen flat on his own comedic face more than once so he knows the pain.
But last night’s Saturday Night Live spoof on Fox News’s Tucker Carlson show missed the mark in several unfortunate and interesting ways.
Let’s begin with what worked. Alex Moffat’s impersonation wasn’t too bad — his impression of Carlson’s ‘listening face’ was amusing, certainly. Moffat was also helped by Kate McKinnon, who did a brilliant and hilarious Wilbur Ross routine, and Cecily Strong did a pitch perfect Judge Jeanine.
But the conceit was wrong. SNL appears to think that Carlson’s show is the same as Laura Ingraham’s (which it recently lampooned, see here) or Fox & Friends (here): a Pravda-like exercise in Trump propaganda. ‘Our top story tonight: President Trump’s heroic end to the shutdown,’ said Moffat in his opening, for instance. Ho ho ho. But Carlson is not a moronic Trump booster. Quite the opposite, see his appeal against Trump’s Syria intervention here.)
In fact his show is far more subtle, perceptive and deliberately funny than a lot of SNL comedy routines. See his recent moving monologue on the state of America or his hilariously surreal interview with Michael Avenatti here.
The SNL writers presumably believe that all Fox News shows operate on the same level of idiocy — and that isn’t right. There are of course plenty of good jokes to be made at Carlson’s expense, but it could have been much funnier if they had noticed that his show is different in quality to, say, Judge Jeanine.
Steve Martin is of course a comedy legend so we must be as charitable as possible about his impression of Roger Stone at the end of the sketch. He gave it his all, but the jokes were poor.
SNL is only a bit of fun, Cockburn realizes, but it’s a shame when the writers don’t put a little more thought into the routines.