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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Dull, from New York, it's Sarah Palin!

One of the main knocks against Sarah Palin since she became the Republican vice presidential nominee is that she refuses to do impromptu things – hold press conferences, take questions from the public at campaign events, banter with reporters on her plane. In short, the GOP doesn’t let her stray from the script.

So, naturally, we in the media were giddy when we learned Palin would be appearing on a live TV show – a comedy show, no less – this past weekend. We’d finally see Palin in an anything-goes setting – a setting that, even though scripted, has a history of being unpredictable.

But, sadly, Palin’s appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” wound up being more of the same.

Her role during the opening sketch was to stand in a hallway (away from the audience) and chat with the show’s producer, Lorne Michaels, while Tina Fey reprised her Palin shtick – a press conference during which she refuses to take any questions – in front of the studio crowd. (The scenario had Palin and Michaels watching Fey on a monitor, momentarily joined by “Max Payne” star Mark Wahlberg and Fey’s “30 Rock” co-star Alec Baldwin.)

Palin ultimately took over for Fey at the press conference podium, but only to belt out the show’s signature line – “Live from New York, it’s ‘Saturday Night!’” In other words, her handlers didn’t let her do anything off the cuff or spend more than a few seconds in front of the New York City (read: probably liberal) crowd. Perhaps they feared a reprise of her Oct. 11 appearance at the Rangers-Flyers hockey game in Philadelphia, where she was booed by thousands of people at the Wachovia Center.

Forty-five minutes later, Palin turned up at the “Weekend Update” news desk, but only to sit, watch and shimmy in her chair a little bit as Amy Poehler rattled off a hysterical rap number about Palin’s candidacy. Again, nothing risky for Palin; no real opportunity to screw up.

Much funnier would have been having the entire news segment done by Palin (a Fey look-alike) and Fey’s former “Weekend Update” co-anchor, Jimmy Fallon, who I’m sure would have jumped at the chance. But, again, that would have been too much of a gamble for the GOP, which doesn’t want any more Palin Problems in the crucial closing days of a campaign that has more than enough problems already.

So did Palin do a good job on “SNL”? Sure, I guess so – but only because, like in her debate with Democratic V.P. candidate Joe Biden, she didn’t commit any major gaffes. The way the show was set up, there was no way she could have.



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