Republicans are easier to make fun of because they will laugh at jokes about them while Democrats will take jokes about them personally, Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night Live, said in an interview with New York Magazine.
"Are there any basic rules for what works and what doesn't politically?" Michaels was asked.
"Republicans are easier for us than Democrats," he answered. "Democrats tend to take it personally; Republicans think it's funny."
SNL has not done jokes about Benghazi or the new federal budget agreement in Congress, Michaels added, because "the country has lost interest in it. I can't tell you why. It's no less important, but in some way you can't do health care more than twice, at which point there's just nothing left."
Later in the interview, he noted that the show has more difficulty doing comedy about politics or world events than it used to because the news has become so fragmented that some of the audience will not have the background knowledge needed to understand the joke.
"It was much easier to do when everyone knew the references," Michaels said. In the 1970s, "you had a complete unity generationally – in music, movies, politics, and sports. It's much more fragmented now ... Even news is fragmented now.
"There used to be much more cohesion – everyone saw the helicopter take the people out of Saigon. I don't know whether people know what's going on in Fallujah right now. So it's just harder to do comedy about that. Now we do comedy that's more about the way we live our lives."
The interviewer also noted that a number of former SNL cast members have become outspoken conservatives. After mentioning Victoria Jackson, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Norm MacDonald, Colin Quinn, Jim Downey, and Adam Sandler, he asked Michaels why he thinks that is the case.
Michaels suggested that each case was different and there is nothing about SNL in particular that causes some cast members to become more conservative. The job of SNL, he said, is to speak "truth to power."
"I'm registered as an independent, not because everything that we do would be undermined if we were partisan – Jon Stewart has that role. Us? Theoretically, whoever it is in power, we're against them."
Michaels is also producing two new NBC shows with former SNL cast members – "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" and "Late Night with Seth Myers."
The interview appears in the Feb. 10 issue of New York Magazine and was posted Sunday online.