Last weekend's Saturday Night Live cold open featured a somewhat unconvincing Bobby Moynihan playing the adorably chubby supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un. The sketch revolved around the husky dictator's address to the people of NK, announcing a change in policy on two major fronts. The first was to reopen a nuclear facility capable of making weapons to leave their enemies "chagrined and discombobulated." The second? "To lift our nation's ban on same-sex marriage."
It was a thoughtful and provocative skit, with a timely cameo by Dennis Rodman (fresh off his Un-friendly trip to North Korea), but did the SNL writers steal this gem of a premise from The Onion?
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Atheist comics have often compared the isolated, myth-structured society of North Korea to the fundamentalist world of American evangelicals, who oppose gay marriage. Speaking as a refugee of a rural bible-belt culture, I can say that the demonization of outside cultures, and the quarantine-style misinformation you're fed in Christian high schools and by media organizations like TBN and The 700 Club, does mirror the propaganda tactics of North Korea (though we had shittier concerts and considerably larger waistlines). And that's what makes this joke such a pitch-perfect satire -- not of the "supreme leader," but the stone-age regressives in the U.S. who oppose same-sex marriage.
But the prize for delivering this top-shelf social critique does not go to the writers of Saturday Night Live; it goes to the writers of The Onion, who dropped this gay-Jong-bomb on us almost two weeks before the SNL skit. Characteristically, The Onion was able to sum up the entirety of the premise and punchline in a single headline: "Kim Jong-Un Comes Out In Support Of Gay Marriage: 'I'm Not A Monster.'" Anyone who knows about the physical and psychological torture that the Kim dynasty has inflicted upon its people in the name of nuke-fisted world domination had to instantly gasp with laughter at the idea of Un's moral superiority over anachronistic jerks like James Dobson and Rick Santorum -- and then immediately contemplate the strategic similarities of their causes.
Even though perhaps guilty of some (unintentional?) plagiarism, the SNL skit wasn't without its caustic merit. While the show isn't always the best at parodying mainstream society (often favoring wackiness over wit), it's almost always kept its satirical blades pressed tightly against the throats of politicians.
Explaining the new pro-gay policy, Moynihan's Kim Jong-Un says, "Lately, my thinking on this issue has evolved," mirroring Obama's carefully selected words on the road toward his own marriage equality announcement. The reason for his shift in policy, Jong-Un explains, was "a nephew who happens to be gay" -- a motivation similar to the sad (yet legitimate) explanation that politicians Rob Portman and Dick Cheney had for endorsing same-sex marriage.
"I still had to have him executed," SNL's Jong-Un clarifies.
Soon, jokes like this will seem as antiquated as an episode of All In The Family, so it's only fair that we get as many of them in as possible while we still can. With opponents of gay marriage dropping like the ignorant flies that they are in the U.S., it won't be long before making fun of the homophobic will be as useless as making fun of women's suffrage opponents. I only wonder how long it will take before the North Koreans themselves have their own weekly sketch program mocking their corpulent teddy bear of a leader.
For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.
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