We guess after the year that Saturday Night Live had, it couldn’t just go quietly into 2009 without some form of controversy. During this past weekend’s final episode of the year, hosted gamely by Hugh Laurie and featuring a disastrous performance by Kanye West, one of the skits took dead aim at New York Governor David Paterson, and the governor is not happy. As the New York Post so sensitively put it: “Paterson in a Blind Rage Over SNL Skit”.
Honestly, we can’t say we’re very surprised. Fred Armisen eviscerated the governor during Weekend Update (Armisen-as-Paterson: “I’m a blind man who loves cocaine, who was suddenly appointed governor of New York; my life is an actual plot from a Richard Pryor movie”) and his impression at times felt incredibly inappropriate. Once again, much like with his take on President-elect Barack Obama, Mr. Armisen is not African-American. This is a problem. Just because Mr. Armisen possesses multiple ethnicities in his ancestry doesn’t mean he should always be the go-to cast member when a minority is needed. We find this really insulting to everyone involved: Mr. Armisen, the African-American community and even the viewers.
There was also the blindness thing, which seemed preordained to cause issues. Mr. Armisen played Governor Paterson as a Mr. Magoo-like dullard. That portrayal seems to be the governor’s real problem with the skit, or, at least more of a problem than all the cocaine jokes. Speaking to the Daily News he said, “I can take a joke. But only 37% of disabled people are working and I’m afraid that that kind of third-grade humor certainly adds to this atmosphere. Let’s just say I don’t think it helped.” Ouch.
For us though, Mr. Armisen’s worst offense occurred during Amy Poehler’s heartfelt goodbye from Saturday Night Live. At the end of Weekend Update Ms. Poehler announced to everyone who hasn’t read a news story in the last three months that she was leaving the show. As Ms. Poehler thanked everyone and seemed genuinely touched, Mr. Armisen’s Governor Paterson stumbled in front of the camera and blocked her out. (Get it? Because he’s blind he doesn’t know where he’s going! Sigh.) We’re not naïve enough to think this wasn’t planned, but we think Ms. Poehler deserved better than to have her final appearance on Saturday Night Live ruined by a lesser performer doing a hack bit. She’s carried the show on her back for the better part of two seasons. The least they could have done was give her two minutes alone to bid adieu.