Nov 2, 2008

Good satire and lame satire

I disagree with Crooks and Liars' assessment of the SNL spoof of Keith Olberman. If the "Special Comment" had been the entire skit, it would have been great. Affleck got the angry Olbermann's voice and mannerism perfectly, and the absurd topic of the comment works well because it caricatures the fact that KO's Special Comments all look and sound very similar regardless of what he is talking about. But the rest of the skit didn't work, for two reasons. First, Affleck is not at all convincing as Olbermann in a "normal" mood. Second, and more important, the writing is poor. Reader RayC explains it perfectly in the comments:
In order for a good satire to be the most effective to me you need to take a bit of truth and stretch it to the breaking point. That "truth" is false so the bit fails. I think they missed on this one. The "truth" they seem to be lampooning is that Keith is outraged over trivial matters and cuts guests off before they can disagree. I have never seen him do either one of these things.
Now lame jokes are nothing unusual, so in itself it is not a big deal. But the ending proves that the writers know how to write a funny skit, so why did they fail in the first half? The most likely reason - pointed out in lilybelle's comment - is also the most worrisome:
It felt scripted so that some NBC exec could say "See, we criticize liberals too." If such false equivalence is the only motivation for a skit, bad comedy ensues.
If your goal is to make a lot of friends, perhaps satire is the wrong line of work for you.

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