I can't see Sarah Palin as vice president, but I have no trouble imagining her as an Emmy winner. I'm not being satirical. She and John McCain kicked butt on Saturday Night Live. They were terrific. How good were they? They were better than Tina Fey and Darrell Hammond.
Sure, they got some help from SNL's writers. But you can't be funny just by reading from a Teleprompter. It's been tried. It doesn't work. McCain and Palin had perfect comic timing. They had perfect energy. They possessed two of what George C. Scott said were the three requirements for a good performance: They were correctly cast, and you sensed their joy of performance.
They had their lines down cold. They made them sound spontaneous, not rehearsed. They made the physical moves smoothly. They shared the stage. Cindy McCain was perfect as the QVC demonstration model. All of that is technique. It doesn't account for this: I laughed with them, not at them, and politically, I'm not a fan.
Should McCain-Palin lose on Tuesday, the Senator will return to the Senate, where once again he will be free to go rogue. He may have had his last hurrah, but far from his last curtain call. Freed from the Neanderthal scaredy-cats who locked down his campaign, freed from the need to watch every single word in fear of a gaffe, I expect him to remember what it once did mean to be a maverick.
Now as for Sarah Palin. I can't do without her. Of course, that wasn't really Sarah Palin on SNL Saturday night. It was Tina Fey. Pranked you! But really, what's the difference? The impersonation is so uncanny, it transcends performance. And it's still true. I still can't do without Palin. Oh, I can do without her as a candidate, all right. The thought of her in Washington terrifies me, and has chased all of the thoughtful conservatives out of the GOP, leaving behind only William Kristol. It's Sarah Palin the person I cannot do without.
She didn't learn how to be a vice president during this campaign, but she learned how to be a star. Star power is real. It's celebrity that is fake. Robert Mitchum worked on the Lockheed assembly lines with Norma Jean Baker. Nobody could take their eyes off of her, he said. It wasn't sex appeal. It was some kind of psychic magnetism (okay, those were not Mitch's exact words).
This was before she was Marilyn Monroe. It was before she knew she was Marilyn Monroe. She didn't need to be Marilyn Monroe. Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller would have married Norma Jean Baker, and she would have been a star. It wasn't the name that made her the most famous sex symbol of the 20th century. It wasn't even the sex. I don't know what she symbolized, but she sure did.
Sarah Palin will never, ever, be another Marilyn Monroe. That's because she is an original, like Monroe was, and she plays Sarah Palin better than anyone else possibly could. Notice I didn't say, "plays herself." I don't think she does. From what we know from old tapes, she didn't even once talk like that. Nor did Norma Jean Baker ever talk like Marilyn Monroe. It's a matter of projecting yourself into a persona that vibrates with people. When I was listening to her being so chirpy on the phone with the fake Nicolas Sarkozy, there was only one show in TV history I was thinking of, and it was "I Love Lucy."
That's why she's had that uncanny effect on people. Some voters like her so much they're voting for Palin, not President. In office, she might do better than Marilyn, who didn't have the hands-on executive experience, and couldn't look out of her house without bodyguards. If she is not elected, I think Americans will discover they want to keep her around.
"She" joked on SNL that she could be the "white Oprah." Senator, I've met Oprah, and she's no... et cetera. But could the Real Palin do a talk show? I think she could. She wouldn't need any ramping up. She's ramped up. She wouldn't need to build an audience. She's built the audience. Give her an upbeat set and some music and sit her down and let her be herself as only she can be. Her first guest could be Ellen, and she could share that one of her very best friends for years has been a lesbian. I'm serious. I'd love to hear that conversation. You know who would love it too? Ellen and Sarah.
There's this about Palin. She has those goofball ideas, but there is a mischievous part of her that knows they're goofball. I'm not talking about her core religious beliefs. I'm talking about witchcraft and Man walking the earth with dinosaurs and that fun stuff. She can stand outside those beliefs and wink.
Sometimes human nature has a way of not staying on message. I'm reminded of a TV interview that Elijah Muhammad did. He was asked, "Do you remain opposed to interracial dating?" The Supreme Minister replied: "Absolutely, I do. It's wrong." Then he paused, and reflected a little, and gave a tiny shrug and spread his hands palms up: "But the young people today, what can you tell them?"
I'm not saying Palin is a hypocrite. I'm saying she is a great comic talent and is unafraid to kid herself. If I were her agent, I'd sit her down and my first piece of advice would be: "Don't come within a million miles of Christian Broadcasting. Haven't you had enough of staying on message and receiving your talking points? Go rogue. As your agent, I'll become a millionaire in the first year, just on my ten percent."