The skit that opened “Saturday Night Live” this weekend featured impressions of President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Strangely absent was Vice President Joe Biden who, of the four top candidates, seems the most ripe for humor.
But ol’ Joe was there in spirit.
In a partisan sleight-of-hand, “SNL” writers and Jason Sudeikis attributed Biden’s goofy, gaffe-prone personality and a couple of his actual gaffes to Mitt Romney.
Watch the skit here if you missed it Saturday. The premise is that Obama has done a terrible job running the country but he’s not worried because his campaign has a secret weapon. That weapon is Romney who is presented as a clueless gaffe-machine who may be an idiot, a racist or both.
The first time the scene shifts to Romney the writers make a silver-spoon joke – “I understand the hardships facing ordinary Americans … this summer one of my horses failed to medal in the Olympics.”
The Romneys did have a horse in the Olympics, but it belongs to Ann Romney. Her husband never pretended this was an ordinary-guy thing. In fact, Romney was asked about it and said he wouldn’t even be watching the event in question, i.e. he ran away from it. Still, the gag is at least reasonably representative of the kind of thing Romney’s critics have been saying about him.
The next time we cut back to Romney he is telling a gay couple that “no one here wants gay marriage” but he is embarrassed when an off screen gay couple in the army tell him they do. Now this incident is very loosely based on an actual encounter Romney had with a gay marriage supporter at a diner last year.
However, in the real encounter, Romney did not state his opinion apropos of nothing in a room full of people. He was asked his opinion by a man he was talking with and he gave it. Afterwards he shook the man’s hand and moved on.
The actual tone of faux-Romney, played by Sudeikis, isn’t Romney at all, it’s Biden. Biden is the candidate with a history of saying something absurd in public with no apparent sense of self-awareness. In fact, the final time we cut back to him, Sudeikis’ Romney is comparing a black man in the audience to Lou Rawls. When the man asks who Lou Rawls is, Romney replies, “an African-American who looks just like you.”
There is one candidate running this year with a long history of uncomfortable racial gaffes. Remember this moment where Biden assured an Indian supporter that you couldn’t walk into a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts in Delaware “unless you have a slight Indian accent.” Speaking of which, Biden did his version of an Indian accent when talking about call centers earlier this year. And it was only a few weeks ago that Biden told a largely African American audience Romney would “put y’all back in chains.”
But the skit doubles-down on the Biden gaffe-making. Moments after the Lou Rawls gag, Romney apologizes and asks the man to give him a high five. At this point he suddenly realizes the man in question has no arms. Again, there’s only one candidate who has made a gaffe like this and his name is Biden.
Back in 2008 Biden asked a man in a wheelchair to “stand up” then quickly realized his mistake.
Of course political comedians can always retreat behind the claim it was all just a joke, but the choice to omit Biden from the skit entirely and, on top of that, to portray Romney making Biden-like gaffes is telling. It suggests the writers know where the real comedy is to be found this election but, inconveniently, the man who should be the butt of these jokes is on the wrong team.