If not quite Richard Nixon’s “sock it to me?” moment on “Laugh In” almost exactly 40 years ago, Sarah Palin’s TV appearance on “Saturday Night Live” still proved two entirely separate but related and incontrovertible facts.
First: The lady from Wasilla has a sense of humor. Second: That little show over at 30 Rockefeller Plaza remains as vital a part of the cultural landscape as it did back in 1975, at birth.
An estimated 14 million viewers tuned in Saturday night, the biggest “SNL” audience since 1994, when Nancy Kerrigan and Aretha Franklin appeared. It was, in fact, one of the heftier audiences for any network program so far this fall.
Palin was on camera five minutes, if that, and had three, maybe four lines - including, of course, one of TV’s most indelible - “Live from New York ... .” But what she said didn’t really matter as much as what she did, which was to turn up.
Believe it or not, there was some political risk for Palin. An “SNL” appearance, however innocuous, threw her into the arms of the East Coast liberal elite - those arch, cynical, Harvard-educated types who presumably sneer at Joe Sixpack and Joe the Plumber - Sarah’s people. Moreover, “SNL” has bestowed upon Palin - just three weeks before D-Day - a little comic credibility and maybe even a few additional votes in the process.
Tina Fey - the other Sarah Palin - didn’t even meet her twin during the show, or at least as far as viewers at home could tell. Did Fey keep her at arm’s length because of her own political leanings? A topic, no doubt, for bloggers this week.
During an interview with WWOR’s Brenda Blackmon on Sunday, Palin said of her appearance, “We need more of these days. When it is just fun, I would do it again.” She also noted that she didn’t attend the famous after-show party - a reminder that for both Palin and “SNL,” this appearance was strictly business.