Saturday Night Live and the 1976 Presidential Election: A New Voice Enters Campaign Politics
William T. Horner and M. Heather Carver
The debut of Saturday Night Live and the 1976 presidential election between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter had enduring effects on American culture. With its mix of sketch comedy and music, SNL grabbed huge ratings and several Emmys in its first season. President Ford’s press secretary, Ron Nessen, was the first politician to host SNL. Ford also appeared on the show, via video tape, to offer a comic counterpunch to Chevy Chase’s signature line, “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.” Since then, it has become a rite of passage for national politicians to appear on SNL, and the show’s treatment of them and their platforms has a continuing impact on political discourse.