The message that next week's presidential election is the Most Important in (pick your timeframe here) has been drilled into voters' heads for months on end now. And there's no question there are deadly serious issues at hand.
Perhaps counterintuitively, though, the tone of the campaign helps the comedians whose job is to poke fun at politicians. At least that's the way Will Forte feels, and he should know: He plays President Bush on "Saturday Night Live."
"In a way it almost makes our job easier that it's so serious," Forte says. "More people are paying attention, so you have more to play with. There's more of a base of knowledge that people have."
Forte and his fellow "SNL" candidate, John Kerry portrayer Seth Meyers, will be featured on the special "Saturday Night Live's Presidential Bash 2004: The Great Debates," airing at 9 p.m. Monday, the night before the election. The show will offer up some of the best political sketches from "SNL's" 30-year history, along with some new material from Meyers, Forte and Darrell Hammond as former President Clinton.
Meyers and Forte agree there's a lot at stake in the election. They watched the Bush-Kerry debates "as concerned citizens first and comedians second," Forte says. On stage, though, any political thoughts they may have are secondary to being funny.
"Our job is still pretty clear," Meyers says. "Being comedians, we just have to attack what's funny about this. I think as soon as we start worrying about how serious the election is, we're not going to be able to do our jobs."
Forte and Meyers each have something at stake in the election as well: a guaranteed recurring character on "Saturday Night Live" for the next four years. They say they're not letting that fact interfere with their relationship, however.
"Will and I are fortunately incredibly good friends outside the show," Meyers says. He lowers his voice just a bit, then adds, "But mostly my friendship toward him is just to lull him into a false sense of security, and hopefully using that, swoop in and take this from him. Because in the back of my mind, I ruthlessly want this and could care less about Will and his feelings."
"Hey, I just stepped out to the bathroom for a second. Did I miss anything?" Forte asks.
"No, you didn't miss anything," Meyers says.
Yes, that's a joke. And no, they aren't rooting for their guy to win just to have a character to play (we think).
"It's so busy around here week to week that it's really hard to think past the show coming up on Saturday," Forte says. "It's much more short-term."