Why "SNL" Star Mike Myers Wrote an Apology Letter to Teenage Chelsea Clinton
The First Daughter was 12 years old when she was made fun of in a Wayne's World sketch.
In the early '90s, Bill Clinton was president, so naturally he was a regular target of Saturday Night Live. But, in the eyes of some—including Hillary Clinton and some of the show's audience—one 1992 episode of the show went too far in joking about the president's family. A "Wayne's World" sketch included a line about then-12-year-old Chelsea Clinton that led to backlash, the episode being edited for future airings, and cast member Mike Myers writing a personal apology letter to the first daughter. SNL creator Lorne Michaels also apologized publicly for the poorly received joke. Read on to find out what Wayne and Garth said about Chelsea and about the aftermath.
A joke about Chelsea was cut from the "Wayne's World" sketch in reruns.
In the 1992 "Wayne's World" sketch, musicians and local access TV hosts Wayne (Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) name the top 10 things they love about Bill Clinton, who had been recently elected president. The sketch is available to view on Saturday Night Live's YouTube channel, but a joke about Chelsea that was there in the live airing has been edited out.
According to Gawker, in the original version, Wayne and Garth say of Vice President-elect Al Gore's daughters, "If they were a president, they'd be Babe-raham Lincoln." They add, "Chelsea… well, she's a babe in development." At the time, Gore's three daughters ranged in age from 13 to 19. The joke has been interpreted as being a dig about Chelsea's appearance.
In the clip available online, Wayne and Garth talk about the second daughters, but the entire joke about "Babe-raham" Lincoln is removed. Then, the video skips straight from No. 3 to No. 1 on Wayne and Garth's list. Chelsea is still ranked as No. 2 but goes without any commentary.
Myers and Michaels apologized.
As reported by The Seattle Times, when the episode re-aired in 1993, the joke about Chelsea had been cut. According to the article, the decision was made following outrage from viewers and from Hillary.
In response, Myers wrote an apology letter to Chelsea and her family. In a statement, Michaels said, "We felt, upon reflection, that if it was in any way hurtful, it wasn't worth it. She's a kid, a kid who didn't choose to be in public life."
Bill said anyone making fun of Chelsea was "insensitive."
In a December 1992 interview with People, Bill talked about his daughter being the public eye as he transitioned from being the governor of Arkansas to president of the United States. He was asked specifically about how he'd feel about Saturday Night Live mocking Chelsea.
"You know, I really find it hilarious when they make fun of me. The Saturday Night Live skit where I was in McDonald's talking about Somalia—I thought that was hilarious," he said. "But I think you gotta be pretty insensitive to make fun of an adolescent child. I think there is something pretty off-center with people who do that."
He added, "We really work hard on making sure that Chelsea doesn't let other people define her sense of her own self-worth … It's tough when you are an adolescent because peer opinion and other people's opinion become more important. But I think she'll be OK."
Hillary complained about another Chelsea sketch.
In August, former SNL cast member Julia Sweeney appeared on SNL alums Carvey and David Spade's podcast Fly on the Wall. As reported by Deadline, Sweeney explained that Hillary wrote a letter to the show after she portrayed Chelsea in a sketch.
"People were saying how unattractively I was playing Chelsea, and all I did was not wear makeup and put braces on," Sweeney explained on the podcast. "If you say that, you're saying I'm unattractive! … I just didn't wear makeup and put on braces. That was it, and a wig. A long wig."
Sweeney added, though, that she could empathize with Hillary's perspective. "I understood what Hillary was saying, especially now that I'm a parent," the comedian said. "It's like, yeah [expletive] off. I mean, don't play kids. That was wrong. She was right, that was wrong."
Chelsea later spoke up herself.
Chelsea has admitted that hearing jokes about herself on SNL as a teen altered her feelings about comedy at that time. According to Insider, on an episode of the 2022 Apple TV+ series Gutsy, hosted by Chelsea and Hillary, Chelsea, now in her 40s, shared, "I had a different experience with comedy in some ways than a lot of people, because I was made fun of so much as a child, by people who were professional comics."
She explained that when comments were made about her by conservatives in the media like Rush Limbaugh, she knew they were more about her parents than herself. She added, "But when SNL made fun of me, I was like, 'Wow, a group of adults sat in a room, all decided this was a good idea, nobody thought maybe we shouldn't make fun of children,' I was like, 'Oh, I just don't think that's funny or OK, so I just don't think comedy's funny or OK.'"
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