SNL's Blind Spot


About a million "Saturday Night Live" lifetimes ago – 1977, to be more precise – Ray Charles hosted the show, and was presented a shrouded painting said to be a priceless Monet.

When Michael (“Mr. Mike”) O’Donoghue, the brilliantly demented SNL writer and occasional performer, pulled the cover from the canvas, it revealed not a Monet, but a message: “Please don’t tell him!”

When O’Donoghue left the stage, Charles told the audience: “Now, what Mr. Mike doesn't know is, at the (cast) party, (there) are going to be ten or twelve of the biggest black dudes he's ever seen in his life. And they're gonna whoop him upside his head and break every bone in his body. So please don't tell him.”

It was classic SNL – tackling the taboo, but cleverly giving Charles, the epitome of cool, the last laugh.

New York Governor David Paterson is far from cool these days – but there’s nothing clever about the way SNL has been lampooning his blindness.

On Saturday’s show, Fred Armisen reprised his role as the accidental governor, rolling around aimlessly in a chair behind the Weekend Update anchor desk, and using binoculars to read an index card.

Now there’s plenty to make fun of when it comes to Paterson, from his admitted past drug use and marital indiscretions to turning his pick of a Senate replacement for Hillary Clinton into an embarrassing circus to his own sometimes goofy attempts at humor.

Truth be told, SNL did a pretty good job of hitting the governor on the Senate fiasco, even if Armisen’s Paterson strangely spouted constant one-liners at the expense of New Jersey.

Paterson is a politician and is fair game. But if SNL is going to take on his blindness, the joke needs to be more than just a cheap shot – or, as the legally blind Paterson put it when SNL took first portrayed him as a befuddled bumbler, “third-grade” humor.

Good satire makes a point. If SNL can’t do better than a disoriented Paterson on wheels, it should roll the recurring bit into the retired sketch room

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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