His Best Role Yet: McCain the Comedian

12/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

John McCain's performance on Saturday Night Live last night just may be the long-awaited October surprise of the election season.

That's because last night we learned---as we might have suspected---that McCain is hands-down a better actor than a politician.

While most of the credit for the show has to go to SNL's writers (and to the brilliance of Ben Affleck in all of his incarnations) McCain also showed us a side of himself that cannot be ignored.

Last week's New York Times Magazine reported on the changing McCain personae---McCain the Maverick, McCain the War Hero, McCain the Force for Change---but the GOP had yet to trot out McCain the Comedian----and in its last ditch effort to tighten the race, they just might have made their biggest mistake for our greatest pleasure.

To clarify: I don't believe that McCain's performance could possibly win over any voters.
But what we saw on Saturday was McCain at his strongest and most appealing: loose in his QVC skit with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin---hawking plates and knives; jovially sitting in on Weekend Update and offering up a few more possible narrative strategies: McCain the Reverse Maverick, McCain the Sad Grandpa.

Bottom line: McCain was in his element, with good timing and none of stiffness, nastiness and vitriol we've seen from him during this campaign.

The John McCain we---or at least I----saw on SNL is one I'd watch on stage any day---unlike the McCain who's stood at platforms throughout the election, awkward, grimacing, uncomfortable in every role thrust upon him, gnarled, snappish, desperate, accusatory.

Despite the fact that McCain's stance on the arts is woefully incomplete, incoherent and unsupportive, despite his repeatedly wretched record in voting to reduce funding for the National Endowment for the Arts or destroy it completely----his involvement in the arts---at least because of his performance---was a welcome change.

Whether McCain sees himself as an artist or not, he was a more than competent on he comic stage. He was a guy you'd like to tune into, a jester unafraid to puncture his own pomposity. At last.

In other words, McCain showed tonight that he was strangely, if reluctantly, a bonifide member of this nation's creative economy.

Maybe, in fact, that's where he could make his greatest contribution.

I honestly wouldn't mind seeing him and his running mate on a regular television variety show.

Like Sarah Palin before him, McCain showed that maybe the best place for him isn't in the Oval Office but in our living rooms, making us feel at last that, while watching him, we don't have to change the channel.