I think Al Gore did a good job on Saturday Night Live last night. He was funny, and he kept his dignity. There’s certainly no contest between Sen. John McCain and Gore for title of best performance by a politician on SNL, and if there were I wouldn’t be able to choose a winner. Both men did themselves proud (qualification: did themselves proud within a media/political environment in which this type of thing seems normal).
Much of the humor pushed sensitive buttons for Gore. The opening segment recalled “the kiss.” And Gore’s feelings about losing the 2000 election, whatever they really are, took plenty of lampooning–including a truly hysterical bit with Al Franken reprising Stuart Smalley.
As usual, SNL used the news of the day to its advantage. The Hardball sketch with Gore playing Sen. Trent Lott as an overt racist was overtly political. It was also funny.
Now, aside from being paid to host SNL (money he doesn’t need), why did he do it? Why would any politician do it? There is no simple answer. Certainly, I think SNL creates a chance to appear alternately hip and charmingly normal. TV creates a false sense of intimacy. A good showing on SNL would tend to arouse good feelings, connected feelings, among some viewers. Gore: regular guy. But even that goal was lampooned in the opening monologue.
Gore was stiff at times, but stiff is what he does best. I have always thought it a mistake that Gore handlers try to loosen him up. Instead, Gore should use that trait to his best advantage (turn stiff into dignified and presidential). His appearance last night did nothing to dispell the stiff image, and I think that’s a good thing.
UPDATE (3:36 p.m.): Considering the news above, I now wonder about the rhetorical purpose of hosing SNL. Stay tuned.