Shark Fu's got a great post up at her place about Fred Armisen playing Senator Obama. The first time I saw the portrayal, I had approximately the same reaction as I've had to all the other many roles played by people not of the same race or gender on Saturday Night Live—or the famous Twin Peaks sketch in which Jan Hooks had to run offstage mid-sketch to put on another costume and re-enter, because they'd run out of women—which was to think: If the cast were more diverse, this wouldn't be a problem.
Thing is, what's interesting about the decision to use Armisen is that, of course, SNL has a black cast member right now—Kenan Thompson, who's a pretty decent impressionist, to boot.
But he's pulling double token duty at the moment, serving simultaneously as Black Guy and Fat Guy. So they couldn't possibly cast him to play Obama, because treating fat as if it doesn't matter would go against three decades of carefully constructed and constantly reinforced fat-hating, live from New York. After years of building gags around the idea that just being fat is hilarious, how to cast a fat guy as Obama without the suggestion his fat isn't part of the joke…?