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When SNL does something important

When SNL does something important

There was a subtle and powerful message behind the gag lines in a Saturday Night Live skit this week. Kenan Thompson has a recurring bit called “Black Jeopardy.” This week, the gameshow parody featured Tom Hanks playing a Trump supporter.

Usually Black Jeopardy plays out as another “black people do this and white people do that” bit. Sometimes funny, but unremarkable. For those who have been lulled into anticipating the usual routine, Hanks’ role may have been particularly striking.

Just looking at a stereotypical Trumpster dropped into that setting is enough to bring laughter, but as the skit plays out it becomes almost a parody of itself. In a way, it’s almost a parody of the whole race-humor genre. It turns out, Hanks’ character knows the answers to most of the questions. Why? Because his life is pretty much like theirs.

It might sound silly, but it was an extremely heartening performance. It suggests that figures in entertainment are beginning to recognize the degree of overlapping interests quietly shared by black and white voters, despite their fears and misperceptions about each other.

Take a look:



  1. I still can’t stop coming back to this sketch. It’s just so perfect. It really has left me wondering if there’s a future where communities that are voting for Trump could ever vote with working class black communities for the same candidate.

  2. Hi Chris,

    Regarding the Carbon Tax Initiative in WA State – I ultimately voted against it. However it is a complicated issue and pretty controversial. Approximately, half of the various environmental organizations are opposed to it and approximately half support it. The WA Audubon supports it, but Seattle Audubon, with which I am very active has not taken a stand. The state Sierra Club endorses it. In principle I support a carbon tax. However, this particular measure cuts the state sales tax by 1% and the State Office of Financial Management estimates that the state general fund revenue would decrease by $797 million in the first six years.

    Related to this is the educational funding crisis in the state. The state legislature is under sanctions by the State Supreme Court to equalize educational funding across the state. Currently most of the school districts depend on local property tax levies for basic educational funding. The rich districts (primarily urban and suburban) accordingly are well funded and the poorer (primarily rural) have insufficient funding. The state legislature, with the House controlled by Democrats and the Senate controlled by Republicans, has so far been unable to resolve this issue. The dirty secret which many politicians (primarily Republican) are loath to admit is that to resolve this crisis a tax increase will be required. Since our state sales tax is very high at 6.5% plus the local sales tax (most local areas also have a local tax; in Seattle it is 3.1%), raising the sales tax is essentially a non-starter. We do not have an income tax or capital gains tax. To resolve the educational crisis may require as much as $3.5 billion. In my judgement, the revenue hit was too much given the educational funding crisis. I would much have preferred an initiative without the sales tax decrease. That is my personal judgement. As I said it was a difficult decision. I suspect my partner will vote for it. This is one of those issues, which reasonable people who have similar objectives, may reach different conclusions.

    On the other hand, if the measure passes, the legislature may be forced into actually addressing the revenue crisis?????? That would be much desired!!

    1. As wealthy and progressive as WA is, I am amazed that the citizenry (and business community) will not increase taxes for education. Here’s fact:

      “The five states with the highest average combined state-local sales tax rates are Tennessee (9.45 percent), Arkansas (9.26 percent), Alabama (8.91 percent), Louisiana (8.91 percent), and Washington (8.89 percent).”

      Note that only WA state in this group of 5 lacks a state income tax as well. Seven U.S. states currently don’t have an income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. If you will look at the combined sales tax rates (local/state) in the other 6 states who do not utilize a state income tax in the Tax foundation link you will see that WA really could do more given the tax break afforded through elimination of the state income tax.

      Just sayin’.

      1. Mary, you are absolutely correct. Washington has an extremely, if not the most regressive tax system in the nation. The problem is that regardless of the progressiveness of Pugetopolis, there are large portions of the state that are conservative. There are some areas, such as the 4th Congressional District, in Eastern Washington that could easily fit into some of the most reactionary areas of the US. Every time that a more progressive tax system that might include an income tax is proposed, it ends up on the ballot through a Referendum or other measure. We also have a law now that requires any tax increase be submitted to the public for an advisory vote. Of course you can imagine how much money would be directed towards defeating an income tax. In so far, as an income tax goes, the argument is that in time it would be extended to all the people. The public then gets scared and votes NO. So the net result is that we suffer along with an inadequate revenue stream. There is also a residual effect from 25-30 years ago when WA was relatively speaking a high tax state. We are now in the lower half of the states. Yet we are the second most urban state in the West.

        The situation is similar to that in CA before Jerry Brown was able to get the tax increase through.

    2. Tmerrit, thanks for that level of detail. I didn’t realize, as you pointed out downthread, that initiatives can’t be altered for two years, so that does give me pause about how easily it can be fixed if the revenue doesn’t make up for the sales tax cut. I think a lot of reasonable people with knowledge both of the State’s revenue issues and of the science of global warming are going to come down on both sides of this initiative. That probably means it will fail, because I presume that the entire “it’s a hoax” crowd will automatically vote No.

  3. Couple of noteworthy things going on today:

    Desperation makes for interesting hypocrisy. As Darrell Issa’s numbers in his CA district plummet, apparently he or someone close to him thought it a good idea to send out a mailer touting cooperation with President Obama on a sexual assault survivors’ bill.

    Immediately in the aftermath, President Obama singled out Issa directly, calling him “the definition of chutzpah”.

    Are we absolutely sure we can’t elect Obama for a third term? No? Damn.

    Also, early voting numbers in N. Carolina point to a very strong lead for Clinton. Count on her campaign to keep trying to rack up those kinds of leads as much as they can.

    1. This just flashed across my email from (Houston Chronicle) about voting in Houston:

      “As polls closed at 6 p.m., more than 63,000 people had turned out for the first day of early voting, shattering the previous record of 47,093 set on day one of early voting in 2012.”

      What we don’t know is which party is benefiting, but that will likely emerge in time……Still, high interest…lots of “I just want to get this over with” sentiment…..

      1. Harris County effectively split right down the middle in ’12 with President Obama eking out a narrow victory. Given how much of a minority population it has, one would assume that larger turnout leans more towards the Democrats, but it’s hard to say.

        Texas is looking to be very interesting on Election Night, that’s for certain.

  4. Getting ready to early vote this morning. If the lines are too long I may wait for a couple of days.
    I enjoyed this clip. Most of the black folk I know do not talk like that but they are mainly middle to upper middle class. I live in and close to poor working class neighborhoods. My church is very diverse. A retired black pastor who ministered to poor inter city people is starting a ministry for poor white people in my area and asked me to help. I said yes. It is just like the Lord to use a black couple to minister to poor white crackers. Yes indeed poor blacks and whites do have much in common. I think the strategy for those who want no change has been to keep people from discovering that, hostile to each other. If Hillary can start a process of helping poor whites and poor other ethnicities together she maybe able to wake up that sleeping political colossal. United they would dominate politics.

    1. I early voted this morning. I mean 8 am early. The parking lot was full. The line snaked in and out of rooms in order to keep one line.

      Guests on the Diane Rehm show this morning said that so far indications are that the Dems are doing a better job of getting out their voters.

      I hope that’s true. I hope that every one of those people in line was a D. (I know, I live in Texas…. but I have big dreams…)

      I really want the Rs to be smashed this election. The Rs owe the nation an apology; what they’ll likely do is continue their immoral ways until something even more destructive comes along — like Cruz. The party needs to die.

      I especially want tRump to shrivel up in public, like the Wicked Witch. Puff of vapor and he’s gone.

      1. My polling place was very busy too!! It’s been a long time since I’ve had to wait a bit in line (and only ~10 minutes, so no big deal). In addition to candidates, I also voted for raising my property taxes a bit- school bonds. Education is even more important- so I put my $ where my mouth/keyboard is.

      2. It’s heartening to see people proving all the media hype and inflated concerns about not turning out wrong. I’m saving my vote for Election Day, but I’ve already planned to have the whole day off so I can get out first thing in the morning.

      3. Now, this is how you organize GOTV! Sen. Reid is going out with a bang, not a whimper……It’s good to see Democrats fired up and ready to go…with enthusiasm like we saw in 2008. The Party has been beat down and it is standing up. I give the GOP credit for being effective bullies for 7 years. It’s time they shared governing, not blocked governing.

      4. Calling it a bang might be an understatement. If Democrats’ Nevada operation keeps going at this rate, they’ll not only keep Reid’s Senate seat in their hands, they’ll sweep the entire Nevada state legislature and even have a chance at a trifecta of state control in ’18 with Gov. Sandoval being term-limited. It’s would be one helluva sendoff for Harry Reid.

        That aside, Clinton’s strategy in the early vote is assuredly two fold: to build up as much of a lead as she possibly can before Election Day of course, but also to have her called as President-elect as early into the night as she can.

        This is important. Republican voters that might’ve otherwise voted in a close election might very well just decide to stay home if they feel it’s a futile exercise for a race that’s already over. That could mean a down-ballot bloodbath in a lot of races that Republicans could’ve otherwise won. Who knows what implications that could have for the Senate and House.

      5. That is a good point, Ryan…having the race called early to impact western state voting…but I also think it is important to note the importance of Clinton helping down ballot Dems – because it helps secure Senate majority and picks up House seats. She’s sharing her time and raising money for these candidates. That’s also a signal of a leader who is trying to consolidate power for her party. Obviously, she feels she can take time from campaigning for her own position because she is more confident she will win, but the point is – she’s doing it. One of the criticisms of Obama in the early years was that he didn’t do enough to re-build his own party. I attribute this to inexperience and naivete, but I think it’s a fair criticism. Clinton won’t have any delusions about what the other side intends to do and she might just surprise people.

        I’m with her.

    2. Me and the boss,(wife) voted a few minutes ago. Took about 20 minutes and the line stayed the same length. Our supervisor of elections is good. We look like Orlando about one third white, hispanic and black with a smatting of other ethnicities. Plenty of collage kids voting. This is not looking good for Trump. Talked in the line with an older black lady early voting because she is going on a mission trip soon. Her church is also diverse and she called out to a white school teacher who is a member of her church. As history shows , usually major social change starts in the church. My gut felling is the majority of the church is not voting for Trump. Remember white evangelicals are a minority within the body of Christ.

  5. Firstly a political coalition between black voters and Trumpian voters would be, to say the least, very interesting, and considering it happened during the New Deal Coalition may not be totally impossible, albeit very unlikely.

    Also not that I use a Marxian analysis but does class play an important part in “fears and misperceptions about each other”? It seems like lower and lower-middle class communities often resort to stronger community ties as a survival mechanism but with the unfortunate side-effect of increased intolerance towards perceived “out-groups” (whether on the basis of race, religion, sexuality, etc). As a community moves out of this vulnerable position and into a safer middle-to-upper class position they usually (though not always) become increasingly pacifistic and tolerant of “out-groups” because they don’t perceive them as being as much of a threat.

    I say this is not a Marxian analysis because Marxists take this as “proof” that the rich are playing the poors prejudices off each other to stay in power whereas it seems to be more a natural phenomenon that can be explained via evolution, and when wealthier politicians espouse these beliefs they are following the lead of those communities for votes not to dupe the working class.

    An argument I have for this is that the only people who consistantly still hold those stronger “tribalistic” ties and beliefs in the safer middle-to-upper strata, in other words people who adapt that thought process not due to survival mechanisms but because the ideology in-and-of-itself simply appeals to them (and as opposed to happening to hold those intolerant beliefs they DEFINE themselves via those intolerant beliefs), are addled morons, full-blown conspiracy nuts, and sociopaths. In other words as this worldview loses its evolutionary “advantage” the only people who still most strongly believe in it are evolutionary failures.

    1. And, that is why these people who hold views like this simply need to fade away over time. There will be no reasoning with them, no real opportunity on a large scale to soften their views.

      Minorities I know cling together because poverty and race necessitate it. Shared familial responsibility is a matter of survival in order to work and because there are inadequate financial resources to transfer these roles to institutions (child care centers, aging facilities). Many of the caregivers who assist me grew up in that role with a grandparent.

      In time, with improved educational and job opportunities, there will be more integration into society by those whose circumstances are driven by cost. Those which are driven by ideology alone rarely change.

  6. Good timing.

    To explain my relationship to Saturday Night Live, the best bet is the time I told my mother that I watched some ‘old school SNL’ with Mike Myers. Her eyes widened.

    Just a few months ago I sat down with some friends and watched some 70s Saturday Night Live, and what struck me was not only how anarchic, salacious, insane, and hardcore it was, but also how it compared in contrast of today’s SNL. I definitely never thought I’d see shit like that again.

    Watching Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks as Doug hurt. It hurt so hard that laughter was the only way to deal with it. And that’s the 70s SNL, for a brief moment.

    It gives me mixed feelings. I’d rather not have horrible things happen in the world in order for Saturday Night Live to have it’s apex comedy. But if horrible things are going to happen in the world, at least Saturday Night Live will have relevant comedy.

      1. Again, not my generation. I saw a few episodes of All in the Family and found them really funny. These days Archie Bunker has been replaced with Peter Griffin from Family Guy.

        The problem with Family Guy is that it’s trying to be All in the Family + awareness of All in the Family + going further than All in the Family + updating All in the Family to ‘modern sensabilities’ (in other words, competing with South Park, SNL, Simpsons, and pretty much all of Adult Swim on Comedy Central). It may have the comedy we deserve, but it’s not the comedy we need.

        New comedy can be built out of today’s culture as long as that comedy is based in today’s culture, not yesterday’s comedy. There’s still a lot to say about the world today in ways that’ll make you laugh and cry at the same time. At the very least, the one thing Lorne Michaels has going for SNL is a tradition of looking horror right in the face and screaming [with laughter]. SNL may have softened up over time, but there’s still opportunities there.

      1. I received my ballot on Thursday, spent a couple hours sorting through the down-down ballot races and the various initiatives and issues yesterday at my desk, then made a short stroll to the mailbox at the corner and deposited the ballot. BTW, one of the initiatives was calls on the state to pass a resolution requesting Congress and the WA congressional delegation to propose an amendment overturning Citizens-United. There was also a carbon-tax initiative as well as a measure to increase to state minimum wage to $15.

        Voting by mail is convenient. Also having the initiative process does make for more difficult ballots, but sometimes it is the only way to get past the gridlock in our state capital. All in all though, it is a mixed bag as it results in some poorly drafted and unconstitutional legislation. But sometimes that is the only way to get past the gridlock.

      2. > Any thoughts on the carbon tax initiative? It’s been a pretty contentious issue out there.

        My “progressive voters guide”, which I agreed with on most issues, suggested a No vote. I voted Yes, because we need a carbon tax and we can fix the non-ideal aspects later. I believe the Stranger (Seattle weekly paper) endorsed Yes, but my Yes vote was based on my Physics background more than any endorsement.

      3. There was a good article in the Houston Chronicle recently on this subject. Generally, I favor a carbon tax but, as with all bills, details will matter. Those of us who support alternative fuel development for our environment’s sake, have to be reasonable. Fossil fuel is going to be around for a while – there is simply too much investment there to allow it to disappear. As with most programs (entitlements as well of which I am a Medicare/SS recipient), reason has to prevail and changes will be needed. Key is to be as fair as possible to all who would lose under the changes – something America has not shown much willingness to do if one looks at today’s fall out from trade deals.

      4. Greg Wellman – the problem is that the legislature cannot modify the initiative for two years and that can be very difficult to do. As I said in my post above reasonable people with similar objectives can and do reach different conclusions. That is part of being in a democracy.

  7. That was really funny, and thoughtful…reminded me of President Obama at the correspondents dinner sharing a quote from the rancher involved in the stand off with fed agents…..”Let me tell you something I know about the Negro”….per the President, ‘it doesn’t matter what follows, that sentence isn’t going to end well…just a heads up to all you journalists”….

    Comedy can efficiently get to the truth of where and why our unity ends.

      1. EJ

        In academia, it’s called the Other Person effect. Genuine racists tend to be ignorant of their own biases, often intentionally so, and so will claim not to be racist. (“I don’t see colour.”) People who have thought long and hard about it tend to be much more conscious of their own biases, but also tend to be able to spot and avoid biased thinking and so avoid acting in a racist manner (“I acknowledge my privilege.”)

        Humans are fascinating.

      2. EJ

        In academia, it’s called the Other Person effect. Genuine racists tend to be ignorant of their own biases, often intentionally so, and so will claim not to be racist. (“I don’t see colour.”) People who have thought long and hard about it tend to be much more conscious of their own biases, but also tend to be able to spot and avoid biased thinking and so avoid acting in a racist manner (“I acknowledge my privilege.”)

        Humans are fascinating.

  8. Whoever contributed to the writing of that skit deserves a nice bonus. That was the perfect storm of funny (I’ve seen that clip several times and it still makes me laugh hard) and a very important message.

    Also bonuses for all the actors- nicely played all around. Of course Tom Hanks is a national treasure.

    1. Also while that sketch is probably the highlight of SNL’s season, I do want to say THANK YOU to them for stepping up their comedy game big time on the politics. This is the best political humor they’ve done in years. Yes, they do have a comedy gold mine in you-know-who, but those raw materials still have to be developed. Kate McKinnon is absolutely killing it with her HRC/ Conway impressions, and Balwin is getting under someone’s thin orange skin, so he’s doing it right.

      1. The other thing I appreciate is how quickly they have to develop their material…..This is current stuff, which makes it even better for the viewers, but challenging for the writers and actors. The 3rd debate was laugh out loud funny, and everyone in Black Jeopardy was fabulous. Like Ladd said, lotsa lessons in this piece played and delivered, flawlessly.

  9. Martin Luther King tried to appeal to poor white people by explaining they shared many of the same problems and could join forces to bring about change that would help them all. One wonders what could have been if King had lived to make inroads into the white community on the basis of common need.

    I loved the Black Jeopardy sketch on SNL…If we can ever as a people and a nation get past race and ethnicity, we might be able to focus on common goals. Maybe humor will teach us how to get this done where politics has failed.

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