Ken Tucker
April 25, 2003 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Saturday Night Live: venerable source of irreverence, or Jay Leno with multiple-personality disorder? Once, we had Dan Aykroyd’s psychotically furtive Richard Nixon and Phil Hartman’s perfectly smarmy Bill Clinton. SNL could be mining the current living-room war with explosive impersonations and wicked ”Weekend Update” sallies. But, taking examples from April 12’s episode, let’s avoid the Saturday Night Dead cliche and go for accuracy: Live, from New York…it’s just toothless and spineless!

00:01 Horatio Sanz plays Saddam as a harmless, jovial idiot, repeating ”I’m not dead!”

43:20 Tina Fey giggles at her limp Iraqis-are-looting joke. Jimmy Fallon bombs comparing ”Chemical Ali” to a ”Chemical Frazier.” Darrell Hammond as Iraq’s minister of information orders Fey to ”surrender.” Oh, I get it: The Iraqi regime isn’t death-dealing — it’s just deluded.

1:27:00 Fred Armisen as Uday Hussein in campaign ad: ”Why elect the less competent son of a former president? Well, you guys did it!” Subtext: The war is ”over,” so America is free to risk a tame little Bush dig. Which SNL writer has the cojones to wake up Lorne Michaels and tell him to start watching Jon Stewart for pointers?

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