White House Press Secretary Jody Powell is considering an offer to appear as guest host of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," the irrevent comedy series whose satirical targets often include President Carter.
It wouldn't be a first, of course, since Powell's predecessor, Ron Nessen, press secretary to Gerald Ford, was the host of the show on April 17, 1976. Nessen endured some criticism afterward for having lent himself to such an impious enteprise.
Then, too, Ford lost the election.
But Powell said yesterday he thought an appearance on the show would be in keeping with the administration's anti-pomposity position.
"We've often said that if we could reduce by 10 per cent the extent to which people in Washington take themselves too seriously, it might be more important as a goal than zero-based budgeting," Powell said. "And that goes for people who report the news as well as those who make it," he added.
Although he has considered the offer, Powell said "I haven't any idea" whether he actually will accept and that if he does it will be "way down the road," with the earliest possible appearance having to wait until "middle or late spring."
"I'll let you know," Powell said, "if I decide to make an ass of myself on national television for an extended period of time rather than briefly, as it has been up to this point."
"Saturday Night" producer and writer Lorne Michaels visited Powell at the White House on Friday and showed him tapes of program highlights, including actor-writer Dan Aykroyd's impression of Jimmy Carter. Powell said yesterday he has seen the program and found it funny, but he did not know if the President shared this view.
Powell said he was impressed with Michaels and the other staff members in the "Saturday Night" delegation. "They're interesting folks. They see a purpose to it all beyond just being funny. It's part of the whole satirical tradition of this country and of forcing people to laugh at themselves."
Michaels said from New York that if Powell appears he would hope that, as in Nessen's case, the President would make a taped or filmed appearance as well. Powell said that "was not discussed" at Friday's meeting and that he "frankly had forgotten" that Ford as well as Nessen showed up on the previous show.
Also on the Nessen show were a spoof of feminine hygience spray commercials, an oratorio sung by men standing at urinals, a number of spectacular pratfalls by Chevy Chase as part of Ford imitation, and a man dressed up as Mister Peanut who was introduced as "Jimmy Carter's campaign manager."
Michaels said that he and Powell would talk again in March or April and that Powell seemed "receptive, warm and interested" in the program.