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February 9, 2017 by Speakers' Spotlight

Speak Of The Week: Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live

Satire aims to ridicule and scorn stupidity, especially in the context of contemporary politics. The very arrows of injustice and oppression launched towards a citizenry by the powerful are caught, transformed, and flung back towards them as laughter. It can rob authority of its dignity, perhaps even its legitimacy, and as a subversive line of defence, this tradition stretches back at least as far as Johnathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels from the 1700’s.

Today, the world finds itself deeply divided regarding the newly-elected U.S. President. A rapid succession of Executive Orders that will significantly alter many aspects of modern American society have been issued. For some, there is concern, fear, and even outrage. And, to compound the situation, the officially-appointed spokesperson for the POTUS — who could potentially explain the thinking or rationale behind these orders, and perhaps bring a modicum of calm — has so far treated the Press with hostility bordering on contempt.

Tapping into this powder keg of tension and anxiety, Saturday Night Live recruited comedian Melissa McCarthy to don the guise of Press Secretary and Communications Director Sean Spicer in an outlandish, hilarious, and withering sketch. The look, manner and tone of Mr. Spicer were blown to absurd proportions, but not so far that they weren’t recognizable.  Evidence of the power and impact of this sketch could be found in the widely-circulated rumour that the President might be considering  a replacement for Spicer, due to his being made to look “weak” by the portrayal. It was probably particularly pleasing to the President’s detractors to know that despite fending off criticism and derision from notable authorities, it was a comedian who had managed to get under his skin.

Thanks to a crack writing staff and the inimitable talent of Ms. McCarthy, practically every word out of her mouth earned uproarious, sustained laughter. However, her attempt (as Spicer) to work her way out of her own twisted maze of Orwellian doublespeak might have been the most satisfying moment of the sketch for a population vexed and exhausted by a near-constant manipulation of facts and truth. Directing her vitriol towards a New York Times‘ reporter, and regarding the Trump administration’s executive order on immigration, she said: “I’m using your words. You said ban. You said ban. You just said that. He’s quoting you. It’s your words, he’s using your words, when you said the words and he’s using them back, it’s circular using of the words and that’s from you.”

For reminding us that we’ve not gone crazy, for bringing a hearty laughter to an uncertain situation, and for speaking truth to power we chose SNL and Melissa McCarthy as our Speak of the Week.