The joke of taking life too seriously 

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On Sept. 28, “Saturday Night Live” premiered its 45th season in grand style. The episode’s most viral sketch (excluding the cold open) was a spoof of this year’s Democratic presidential primary debates, cleverly dubbed the “Impeachment Town Hall”. Even as a diehard liberal, I love these exaggerated mockeries of each candidate’s eccentricities! Maya Rudolph’s portrayal of California Sen. Kamala Harris particularly stood out. I mean, the contentiousness with Joe Biden, desperate self-references, even calling herself a “funt”—it was all so hilariously savage and spot-on. Yet I’m perhaps even more struck by the reactions of some of the satire’s subjects. Case in point: Harris tweeted a brilliant response the morning after the “SNL” broadcast, taking her depiction in stride. I’ve always found it refreshing when these politically inclined individuals take a moment to laugh at themselves and ingratiate themselves with the public, but I know that the general consensus surrounding such incidents is more mixed. 

First, I’ll address the downsides. Chief among them, can we view said incidents much more cynically and suggest these politicians are merely feigning reliability for personal gain? Sure, it’s a fair point. After all, they’re trying to posit themselves as our representatives in every sense of the word. There’s also a growing sense of oversaturation, an insistence that American politicians and their input are infiltrating the public realm needlessly for the sake of self-promotion or even controversy and heated debate. Just look at Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars,” Omarosa and Anthony Scaramucci on “Celebrity Big Brother,” late-night talk show guests and skits and the aforementioned “SNL” sketches, for starters. Those of us who conduct surface-level evaluations of these instances may get turned off by such “force-feeding” and thus lose sight of the bigger picture. 

Speaking of “the bigger picture,” I’d like to offer some counterpoints. For one, we shouldn’t condemn our politicians for fulfilling their duty to engage with us; instead, we should applaud their foresight in improving their public image and embracing various perspectives and platforms in a timely manner. Also, can we appreciate their willingness to knock themselves down a peg while they’re trying to present themselves as favorably as possible? Seriously, that’s gotta be nerve-wracking! But generally speaking, I enjoy the personalization of these stereotypically robotic politicians. Although I sent out a rather snarky tweet about it a few days ago, I find Spicer’s “Dancing with the Stars” stint relatively inoffensive and amusing thus far. “Celebrity Big Brother” and late-night talk shows provide a widespread outlet for political outsiders and aspiring candidates to speak their truth (or at least as much of it as is permissible). And satirical programs like “SNL” allow us to ponder our current state of affairs more critically and objectively. Despite its liberal leanings and several high-profile conservatives’ ensuing complaints, it makes a concerted effort to mock all sides of the political landscape. At a time when we’re perhaps more divided than ever, these olive branches can unite us all. 

Ultimately, I propose a collective removal of the sticks from our butts. Stressful times like these are precisely when we must seek relief and prevent ourselves from getting offended too easily, for if we read into things too much, it’ll only induce greater disappointment and negativity. Yet while I recommend invoking humor as a healthy coping mechanism, we shouldn’t disregard less-than-ideal situations entirely or else we’ll become complacent in their midst. Furthermore, we can’t cite disgust with our politicians’ overexposure and calculated tactics as an excuse to disengage from what’s happening in the world around us. So whether you run for public office someday or remain a common citizen, remember to not take life too seriously, as it’d be a rather pitiful joke to do so. 

Thumbnail photo courtesy of @nbcsnl Instagram.


Michael Katz is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at michael.i.katz@uconn.edu.

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