What is the point of political satire? Can it actually change peoples’ opinions, or is it mostly good for amusing people who already agree with you? In the most recent episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History, the author takes aim at Tina Fey’s SNL impression of Sarah Palin, which he considers a failure of the form. Though Gladwell says he understands the joke — “the outrage that someone this unqualified was running for higher office” — he claims that Fey’s “comic genius is actually a problem … Tina Fey is too busy being funny” to offer a sustained political critique of the Alaskan governor. “They want the laugh, so they make fun of the way she talks,” he argues. “But the way she talks is not the problem.”
As you might be beginning to expect, the Tipping Point author is also not a fan of Fey calling her impression “a goof.” “Like the role of the satirist is to the sit on the front porch and crack wise,” he says. “Why doesn’t Tina Fey just come out and admit that her satire is completely toothless?” Gladwell also disapproves of SNL inviting the real Palin onto the show, which is one place where he and Fey agree.