Dressed up like Bernie Sanders, Larry David on SNL looked and sounded almost exactly like Bernie Sanders. But that's not why he was funny. Or rather, that's only half of why he was funny.
In his public persona at least, Sanders focuses relentlessly on problems that in his telling threaten the future of American democracy and humanity itself: galloping income inequality and climate change. Larry David's humor focuses relentlessly on life's trivialities: tuck or don't tuck your shirt, slip a water bottle into a theater, suffer the consequences of new pants tenting around the crotch.
The joke was that David looked and sounded like Sanders but acted (or thought) like Larry David's character on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
David did spoof Sanders on the big picture: We're doomed! But it was funny precisely because he made no distinction between the momentous and the trivial:
Eh, not a fan of the banks. They trample on the middle class. They control Washington. And why do they chain all their pens to the desks? Who's trying to steal a pen from a bank? It makes no sense!The consequences of billionaire privilege are also a bit out of compass:
“I own one pair of underwear. That’s it. Some of these billionaires, they own three, four pairs!”David's toggle between the largest questions and the smallest is basically Woody Allen shtick, as in My Speech to the Graduates:
Put in its simplest form, the problem is: How is it possible to find meaning in a finite world given my waist and shirt size?That's how everything devolves for David's Sanders: banks put pens on chains, billionaires have lots of underwear and carry their stuff in super PACs
Thanks to David, BTW, we learn that Sanders does have a sense of humor, or can at least, as a capable candidate, fake it:
Viewers raved that David, with a white wig and half-baked Brooklyn accent, nailed the Vermont senator, joking Sanders only owns one pair of underwear.Who knows? Maybe David off-stage is consumed with worry over the fate of democracy and the earth.
On Sunday, speaking to reporters outside a fundraiser in Iowa City, Sanders very seriously — at least for a moment — disagreed.
“This is a serious question,” the senator said. “Last week I bought my second pair of underwear.
“That’s a joke,” he bellowed. “Joke, joke, joke. I have an ample supply of underwear.