Saturday Night Live and the 1976 Presidential Election

A New Voice Enters Campaign Politics


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About the Book

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.

About the Author(s)

William T. Horner is Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. He has written, or co-written, five other books.

M. Heather Carver is a professor and department chair in the Department of Theatre at the University of Missouri. She is the co-director of the university’s Writing for Performance Program (2017 Gold Medallion winner from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival).

Bibliographic Details

William T. Horner and M. Heather Carver
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7184-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3059-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface: “I’m Gerald Ford and You’re Not.” 1
1. SNL, Live Theater and Politics 5
2. Ford’s Image Problem Began Before SNL 15
3. Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night! 28
4. Chase-ing Ford 37
5. Ron Nessen Discovers SNL 48
6. The Episode 63
7. “Hello! My Name Is Jimmy Carter, and I’m Running for President” 95
8. Jimmy and Jerry Debate While Dan and Chevy Do the Same 105
9. The Final Days (of Campaign ’76) Through the Looking Glass of SNL 121
10. SNL in Campaign ’76—What Was Their Intent and What Difference Did They Make 132
11. Post ’76, SNL Marches On 154
Chapter Notes 175
Selected References 187
Index 193