James Andrew Miller, who is the co-author of Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, which has recently been updated and expanded to cover the last decade of the show — was on Deadspin over the weekend fielding questions about the book and about Saturday Night Live. He didn’t provide too many new details in the Q&A (you gotta save something so people will buy the book), but he did briefly allude to a Robert Smigel “TV Funhouse” sketch that never made it on Saturday Night Live when he was asked what his favorite “TV Funhouse” sketch was.
It would have to be the one that didn’t air that Robert Smigel talks about in the book, that candidate Obama told Lorne he wasn’t comfortable with being on the show he was on. That sounded like an all time great.
What? A TV Funhouse sketch that didn’t air because of Obama? Not having the book, I obviously still wanted more details, and thankfully it seems that the section on that TV Funhouse sketch was excerpted on The Hollywood Reporter:
Robert Smigel, writer: It wasn’t until my last season that the network refused to air a “TV Funhouse.” It was a live-action one that was meant to be about racism and profiling, an airline-safety video with multilingual narration, and whenever you heard a different language, they would cut to people of that nationality. First, typical white Americans, then a Latino family, then a Japanese family, all being instructed about seat belts, overhead compartments, et cetera. Then it cuts to an Arab man, and the narrator says, in Arabic, “During the flight, please do not blow up the airplane. The United States is actually a humanitarian nation that is rooted in the concept of freedom,” and so on. … When the standards people freaked, Lorne fought them. Standards pushed back hard. They even got someone at NBC human resources to condemn it. … Lorne said, “I have a plan.” Obama was doing a cameo in the cold open. Lorne told me he would show my sketch to Obama. “If Obama thinks it’s OK, they won’t be able to argue it.” I thought it was a brilliant idea, except why would Obama ever give this thing his blessing? What if word got out? “Hey, everybody, that guy over there said it was cool. The one running for president of the country.” But I loved Lorne for caring this much and being willing to go that far to get this thing on TV.
And according to Lorne Michaels, Obama said, that “It’s funny, but no, I don’t think so.”
Who could blame him?