2016 is the election, and 2015 is the year, when politicians are communicating with voters in the most creative and unconventional ways.
On television Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have combined comedy, news and credibility in new and refreshing ways to engage large audiences and excite the interest of big political players. It’s no exaggeration that Mr. Colbert’s many fans are thrilled he has taken the great David Letterman’s place as host of The Late Show on CBS, while Mr. Stewart’s legions of followers eagerly await news of his next big ventures.
Across the landscape of politics, news and entertainment, the revolutionary power of social media is coming into full bloom and transforming politics and culture in real time before our eyes.
Into this maelstrom of media change has stepped Saturday Night Live, the gold standard of cutting-edge late night comedy that has thrilled generations of viewers, some of whom were not even born when I first doubled over with laughter watching Chevy Chase stumble and bumble in his good-humored imitations of former President Gerald Ford. For true aficionados of hilarious political comedy, journey to YouTube for early SNLs, which are brilliant and priceless.
This year SNL has entered the political fray with flying colors. For those who don’t like Hillary Clinton, come on, be honest, her “Val” was funny and fabulous. And for those who don’t particularly like Donald Trump, admit it, he was a ratings smash last week and his huge audience loved it!
Wouldn’t it be smart to spread the wealth? I know a bit about entertainment—my most important client in the 1990s was Frank Sinatra, when I worked for his talent management agency—so I take the liberty of suggesting two Saturday Night Live hosts to build on the success of Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump.
The recent segment by Larry David imitating Bernie Sanders was spectacular. Mr. David is a genius in his own right. With a little work he looks almost identical to Mr. Sanders and with his great talent his impersonation was picture perfect.
What I would propose, if legendary producer Lorne Michaels would consider it, is that Mssrs. Sanders and David co-host a show together!
The Sanders-David duo could make a grand entrance down 5th Avenue on their way to 30 Rock. Wouldn’t it be a fantastic sight to watch them walking side-by-side while onlookers, not sure who is the candidate and who is the comedian, tell Mr. Sanders they always enjoy his comedy and offer Mr. David donations for his candidacy?
As a Washington insider I can reveal Mr. Sanders never had the reputation of being a funny guy. But watch him on shows with hosts such as Ellen Degeneres, a wonderful performer, and his talent comes out. Mr. Sanders can joke and laugh, and viewers feel the Bern when they learn that he can indeed dance—though he will never compare to Fred Astaire. (For dancing aficionados too young to know, another trip to YouTube will be richly rewarded!).
While it would be tough for a Sanders-David SNL to compete with the master of audience-building (Mr. Trump), the Sanders social media machine and his band of faithful supporters will warm the hearts of 30 Rock execs.
It is good for Americans to learn more about future presidents by watching them outside political environments.
Spreading the wealth across the political divides, another great host—who has the potential to create the mother of all ratings blockbusters—would be Matt Drudge, creator of The Drudge Report, the most influential and powerful site of media influence in the history of American politics.
While I do not agree at all with his conservative views, the truth is that for any writer (present company included, to be honest) it is a banner day when anything we write is run by Mr. Drudge, and it is a banner day for any candidate praised by a story on The Drudge (or whose opponent is attacked on the site).
It is impossible to predict if Mr. Drudge has a talent for comedy, and whether he would relish appearing on SNL or would fail to return phone calls from Mr. Michaels. What is predictable is that SNL‘s writers would have a field day with skits for Mr. Drudge, and viewers would find him a fascinating host.
From the perspective of network television execs there is a very high likelihood that a Drudge-hosted SNL would achieve blockbuster ratings and could well become the most watched SNL show in the history of the program. Here’s why: Everybody who is anybody in politics and political media reads The Drudge Report (whether they like it or not) as closely as Wall Street analysts read corporate earnings reports. Stories on Drudge reverberate throughout all media to be quoted in major news publications, linked on countless websites, discussed on talk radio, and reported on network and cable television.
If NBC ever green lights, and Mr. Drudge agrees to, a Drudge-hosted SNL, the banner headline of the story that breaks the news will run atop The Drudge Report and multitudes of Drudge fans measured in many millions, and equal multitudes of those who can’t stand Drudge, will be canceling their plans for Saturday night to watch must-see TV!
It is good for Americans to learn more about future presidents by watching them outside political environments. It is good for politicians to move beyond sound bites of conventional campaigning and show comedy and variety to address voters like normal human beings, not like automatons regurgitating political spin that voters long ago tuned out.
Above all it would be good for American politics to have less anger and venom and more humanity and humor in our political discourse. And wouldn’t it be fun if an SNL starring Bernie Sanders and Larry David included a cameo appearance of Mr. Trump bantering at a barstool with Ms. Clinton’s Val? That would be a moment to be remembered in the history of television comedy!
Disclosure: Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the publisher of Observer media.