From James A. Miller and Tom Shales' 2003 Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests.
James Downey, writer:
To me it was always, number one, to do comedy about things that are going on in politics or the culture, and do it without confusing or offending the smarter people. I always thought that if comedy is going to confuse anybody, by rights it should be the stupider people. You shouldn't be punished for knowing more. Sometimes there are things on the show that really annoy me. The more you know about the target of the satire, the more you go, "But wait a minute. That's not right. He's precisely the opposite of that." But for people who only have a passing acquaintance with it, it just feels, "Yeah, that's right."
One time there was a Willard Scott thing on the show, and the basic idea was that he was a big, dumb buffoon, and it just made me crazy -- and I was the producer at the time and I could have killed it, but of course it got big laughs from the audience. But my point was, "Wait a minute -- he knows he's a big buffoon. That's his act. So for us to skewer him by having someone do an impression the point of which is that he's a buffoon makes us look like idiots." And if I were Willard Scott I would call up on Monday and go, "Hey, morons. I was joking, and you took me seriously."
Tags: James Downey, Tom Shales, James A. Miller, Saturday Night Live