Humor is a great palliative. It can help us forget our troubles. It can cut hypocritical political leaders down to size.
But “Saturday Night Live's“ skit on New York Gov. David Paterson was not funny nor was it good satire.
Comedian Fred Armisen portrayed our legally blind governor holding a chart upside down to make fun of his blindness. The actor wandered around the stage pretending to be directionless. Later he showed up in another skit, walking aimlessly, acting as though he didn't know where he was.
Good political satire is based on reality. This was not. Paterson is a remarkable man, who manages to keep track of a myriad of facts, even statistics by just memorizing what is read to him. He memorizes speeches too and seldom falters when he addresses people. So to characterize him as a bumbling fool is not only cruel. It's stupid.
Gov. Paterson has overcome his disability. He gets adjusted to whatever his environment may be. He can laugh at himself and no one can accuse him of lacking a sense of humor. But this was over the line. Paterson said the “SNL” skit was a “third grade depiction of people and the way they look.”
“I run the place I work in so I don't have to be worried about being discriminated against,” Paterson added.
A spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind told the New York Post: “Obviously the governor of New York is blind and he's doing the job. Whenever you have a portrayal that calls the basic capacity of [blind people] into question, that's a potential problem.”
The governor's spokesman, Errol Cockfield, said that the governor is sure that, with all its talent, “SNL” can find a way to be funny without being offensive.”
Political satire goes back to ancient days and, in America, Benjamin Franklin, Will Rogers and many others have exposed the vanity and hypocrisy of politicians with gusto. Trying to make fun of a person's disability is not funny. It's tasteless and stupid.
Some of the greatest figures in history have overcome great disabilities. John Milton, despite his blindness, became one of the greatest English poets. Beethoven composed his epic Ninth Symphony when he was deaf.
“Saturday Night Live” has treated us to some superb moments of political satire. Most recently, Tina Fey's portrayal of Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin had all America and even Sen. John McCain and Palin laughing.
But “SNL’s” portrayal of our blind governor was not their finest hour.