I can't believe no one has written about how terrible Fred Armisen's impression is of Barack Obama on SNL. It makes me cringe in horror. If comedy were my life the worst thing about it is it's almost never funny; it hasn't been funny since it began, before he was elected, and not being funny is the original sin. But this impression, the worst in a pantheon of great presidential impressions on SNL -- suffers from issues even greater than its clunky, flat, uninspired writing, and general dreariness.
The ugliness of this impression is that looming over the whole thing is that it is done in blackface. Do people not know the humiliating racist history of blackface in vaudeville? And in his blackface, Armisen looks nothing, sounds nothing and acts nothing like Obama. He has no smile, no charisma; he embodies none of the characteristics that dazzled the country and the world. But I quibble. It is way deeper than that. It is not that embodies no positives, it that it embodies so many mysterious negatives.
Every caricature is cartoon. W. was full of malapropisms, and with Will Ferrell's now in the culture "strategery", he showed that W. wasn't comfortable with big words. Gerald Ford, in Chevy Chase's unforgettable impression, was a klutz and couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. Amy Poehler's Hillary was a shrill, trying to be liked Alpha-dog, Tina's Sarah Palin was a winking pageant walker who couldn't answer the big q's'.
But Armisen's Barack from the beginning was slow and dumb. He was calling Hillary at 3am not knowing what to do; he's over his head, stumbling and bumbling. He gets a bad report card, for doing nothing. You can say a lot about Barack-- he did a good job himself at the Correspondent's dinner. But he seems to have stumped the writers at SNL who can only think of him as either dumb, or bursting out of his pent up en in a rage like an animal as Super Obama, (once played by the Rock.) He is either docile -- aw shucks, or a wild animal, neither of which are accurate, funny or mimic anything other than unconscious racial stereotypes.
We can make fun of Barack, we can make fun of Stalin's mustache -- as my mother used to say -- we can and should make fun of everything. Just three rules.
1) make it funny 2) have it bare some relation to reality, 3) not in black face.
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