The Increasingly Absurd Deaths of Gerald Ford
2016 was a very, very bad year no matter how you slice it. In tough times, comedy is often a form of escape that people turn to when they need comforting. With that in mind, we asked our contributors to pick the one piece of comedy in any form that they turn to when they really need cheering up. We’ll be sharing their choices throughout the week in a package we’re calling “The Best Medicine.”
Theoretically, a sketch about predicting all the ways a US president could die shouldn’t be pull-yourself-out-of-the-darkness material, but this sketch is just so gloriously ridiculous. The idea is simple: Tom Brokaw wants to spend the winter in Barbados, but before he can leave, he has to pre-tape every scenario that could possibly happen. This includes all the different ways Gerald Ford could die, including being eaten by wolves and being strangled to death by a zombified Richard Nixon. The escalation here is brilliant, but there’s also the interplay between Brokaw and his producer (“He was delicious…come on now, that’s just superfluous!” “What, he’s a former President. You’re saying he’s not delicious?”).
The first time I saw this one was in November 2002, the golden age of SNL reruns on Comedy Central. It was 6pm on the last Monday of a three-day weekend, and while I was hardly miserable, I was a bit bummed out, as any 12-year-old would be, about having to go back to going to bed early and getting up at 7am for school. Luckily, this sketch sent me into one of the hardest bouts of laughter I can ever remember. By the time we got to “Gerald Ford dead today and I’m gay,” I couldn’t breathe I was laughing so hard. After that, the 7th-grade blues didn’t seem like such a big deal. The sketch became an inside joke for me and my friend, who is an even bigger SNL geek than I am. When Gerald Ford passed away — at age 93 — 10 years ago, he called me the following day, and I immediately knew the first words out of his mouth would be “Gerald Ford dead today…” The sketch may have a contain a decent amount of morbidity, but the concept is just too brilliant for it not to distract me from whatever hardship I’m dealing with, and temporarily put a smile on my face.