There’s a famous story about Pablo Picasso painting a portrait of the writer and Paris literary salon hostess Gertrude Stein. Stein, who knew Picasso well, didn’t like the portrait, complaining “it doesn’t look like me.” Picasso, ever confident, replied, “Don’t worry, it will.” Today the portrait hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is most people’s sole experience of what Gertrude Stein “looks like.” Few people know Stein or her work, but everybody knows Picasso’s. Picasso was right — his picture is what Stein looks like now.
This comes to mind with the resignation of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the man with the difficult job, the pugnacious attitude and a memorable bad gum-chewing habit. Not many will remember Sean Spicer, but many will remember the Sean Spicer character created by Melissa McCarthy for Saturday Night Live. McCarthy’s Spicer follows in a long line of SNL mimicry that threatens reality in the public imagination. Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush, Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush and Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford all became cultural stand-ins for the real life characters they impersonated. (The SNL Jeopardy players did the same with Burt Reynolds and Sean Connery.) Melissa McCarthy’s Sean Spicer was uproarious and seemed at least as large as the man himself. McCarthy will probably assay some others on SNL in the future, but it seems certain her Sean Spicer just joined the so-called dustbin of comedy history.
Um, Melissa McCarthy is filming outside the CNN building in NYC pic.twitter.com/Az7AeWNrT3
— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) May 12, 2017