This past week, the most talked about television moments didn’t come from Glee’s multiple, melodramatic breakups or the much anticipated return of 30 Rock. On Wednesday night, it was President Barack Obama and his opponent Governor Mitt Romney who captivated audiences everywhere during the first of three presidential election debates.
Nearly 67.2 million people tuned in to watch the passionate political match-up, a statistic no other presidential debate has seen since 1992, according to Nielsen.
But after audience members dispersed from Magness Arena and the news pundits moved on to the next big story, it was late night comedy’s turn to have some laughs with this essential and telling aspect of our democratic process.
The debate’s aftermath bred numerous satirical spin-offs, proving once again that election years continue to be a comedy writer’s best friend. Late Night with Jimmy Fallon decided to poke fun at the debate’s moderator, PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer. Politics aside, most could agree that Lehrer was (at best) passive and bumbling in his attempt to guide the night’s conversation. Thus, “Romney & Obama Tell Lehrer to Shut the F— Up” was born. Fallon, playing an impeccable Romney, articulated what we were all thinking when he told the actor playing Lehrer to “shut your yapper” because “you’re a worthless human being.”
Over at ABC, Jimmy Kimmel organized a focus group with children to get their take on the debate since “kids love politics.” After quizzing the youngsters on the candidates’ names (“Mitt Ronnie!” one exclaimed), Kimmel managed to hilariously convince them that Obama spends his entire paycheck every week on cotton candy.
And of course, no major political occurrence can pass without the maestros at Saturday Night Live having their shot at it first. The skewering was at its finest during the cold open, where former cast member Chris Parnell returned as Lehrer, and Jay Pharaoh and Jason Sudeikis put on their best Obama and Romney suits, respectively. In a clever twist, we heard the imagined inner monologues of the three men: Obama preoccupied with getting a last-minute gift for Michelle and feeling woozy due to the altitude; Romney feeling overly-satisfied with his listed answers; and Lehrer downright fuming over Romney’s plans to cut funding to PBS. Later in the show, Big Bird himself even showed up at the “Weekend Update” to defend his honor. And for those playing at home, that was no understudy: Seth Meyers revealed via Twitter on Sunday that really was Carroll Spinney, the Muppeteer who’s been performing as Big Bird since 1969.
With 29 days to go until the election, there is simply no better time for knockout political humor than right now. Be sure to keep up with the late night election-themed viral videos circling around Hulu, as well as new episodes of SNL on Oct. 13 and 20. And just think: we still have the vice presidential debate to look forward to this Thursday night.