It’s looking like Mitt “Mittens” Romney is in position to take the Republican nomination this summer for the presidential election, which means that he’s got about six months to turn himself into one heckuva likable guy.

Of course, that means a mandatory stop on SNL to prove that he can laugh at himself.

What once was a charming, spontaneous act by some politicians has started to feel a little forced, like the show and the candidate are going through the motions.

That’s not to say that all the appearances have been duds, but any time you get a non-performer on stage to make people laugh, the results will be mixed. Here are a half-dozen examples of which way these cameos can go.

Don’t forget to vote this November.

Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani and SNL enjoyed a very symbiotic relationship during his tenure as Mayor. He comforted America when the show returned after 9/11, reminding the country that it’s okay to laugh again, though not necessarily at SNL, because it’s not always that funny.

While Giuliani was never the most charismatic speaker or guest on SNL, he did feel like a godfather of the show, and that bit of goodwill made everyone a little more at ease, and a little more inclined to laugh. Even the fact that he’s championing his efforts to clean up the city doesn’t seem so self-aggrandizing, but rather a little charming.

Giuliani’s genuine enthusiasm for being on the show, coupled with Norm Macdonald’s mumbly creepiness makes for one of the successful appearances by a politician on SNL.

Don’t get too excited, though. They’re not all winners.

Janet Reno

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, SNL had a real problem. That problem was that the show couldn’t offer up an impression or spoof of a celebrity without having that celebrity on one of the shows to “confront” the cast member doing the impersonation. Even the first time I remember it being done (Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro), it felt forced and cheap, and every subsequent time more so.

Here’s an example of a bizarre funny sketch that at no point needed an appearance by the actual Janet Reno. Further, seeing her dancing doesn’t really do anything other than make my eyes bleed. Sure, she’s a good sport for sanctioning this mockery, but that doesn’t exactly make her funny, now does it?

Sarah Palin

After SNL and Tina Fey spent the better part of a year mocking the lady that didn’t need to know foreign policy because Russia was just off her front porch, it was only a matter of time before Palin came on to do the whole “I’m in on the joke, too” bit.

The thing is, Palin shouldn’t be in on the joke. SNL seems to give every celebrity it mocks, especially the political ones, a chance to come on and give their seal of approval to whatever fun the show pokes at them, which tends to undermine the satire. It happens with such frequency now that it seems the skits are crafted with moments like this in mind. Nobody needs Sarah Palin or Bill Clinton, or Rudy Giuliani to sign off on these parodies, and the result is more than a little awkward. Kudos to SNL and Lorne Michaels for bringing in Marky Mark to diffuse the situation, cause if there’s any celebrity whose appearance can make everyone forget how awkward things are, it’s Wahlberg, right?


John McCain

Politicians seem to be very eager to jump on the SNL bandwagon in an effort to make them more likable, which makes perfect sense, as they spend most of their campaign making themselves out to be as humorless as possible.

McCain had an ever bigger obstacle to overcome as people thought that he wasn’t so much humorless, but sorta crazy. While McCain’s appearance wasn’t altogether unfunny, it should serve as a lesson to anyone who wants to appear very funny on camera: Don’t go up against or with Tina Fey. You will look very unfunny by comparison.

The premise of the sketch is great, and McCain doesn’t seem as wooden as one might have thought, but the humor of the segment seemed to be lost moments later when people realized, “Yikes. That doesn’t really seem too far from the truth.”

A funny sketch gives us a sobering reality that this Palin lady is very real, and McCain thinks that presenting her in this way might get us to vote for him.

That said, the talking Joe Biden doll is about fifteen types of awesome.

Ed Koch

The then-mayor of New York City always had an affinity for the limelight, so it’s of little surprise that he would step up to host the famously New York institution that is SNL. Fortunately, this appearance came during the nadir of SNL’s comedic power, so short of burning a flag and maybe beating up some orphans, his appearance would have been viewed as pretty much par for the course.

Koch actually hosted the entire show, which I’m sure made for a very long 90 minutes, broken up twice by musical appearances by none other than Dexy’s Midnight Runners!

The premise of Koch’s monologue (made with newspaper in hand) is that the FCC has repealed some law that allows for editorializing, or somesuch thing. It takes Koch about a minute to repeat this law change several times, sucking the air out of any momentum created by the announcer, band, and his introduction.

To give you an idea of how few people are interested in what Koch has to say and how he says it, this Hulu video had a whopping 34 views at the time I posted this. Here’s to hoping that Screen Junkies can double that number. Readers, do your part to make sure this clip is seen by more than just Ed Koch’s family and PR team.

You have your instructions. Go forth!

Bob Dole

This one is just bizarre. Dole had lost the election, and he appeared on SNL to…? Say goodbye? Bob Dole had proven himself to be funny after his election, and the more wooden the subject of the impersonation is, generally the more surprisingly funny their appearance is, but such is not the case here.

It seemed as though Bob Dole was actually, literally, and seriously appearing on Weekend Update to relieve Norm Macdonald from his post.

“Okay, Norm. Fun’s over. I lost.”

He seems jovial enough about it, but it begs the question, “Why?” Did he have a contractual obligation. The thirty seconds on camera didn’t do much except allow people to recognize Bob Dole, then scratch their heads as soon as he left.

“Bob Dole.”