- Jim Downey (comedian)
imagesize = 150px
name = James Downey
birthdate = 1952 or 1953
occupation = writer for "
Saturday Night Live" ("SNL"), actor
genre = comedy
notableworks = "SNL"
political satirecite news
title= 'SNL' Writer Narrows the Gap Between Politics and Farce
first= Dave | last= Itzkoff
The New York Times| date= 2008-03-03 | accessdate= 2008-03-13]
relatives = brother
Robert Downey Sr., nephew Robert Downey Jr.
Harvard Lampooncite news
title= Harvard's Gift to Gag Writing
first= Lisa | last= Belkin
The New York Times| date= 1987-03-29 | accessdate= 2008-03-13]
James Downey (born 1952 or 1953 [Downey was 55 years old as of early March 2008, according to a profile published at that time in "
The New York Times"] ) is an American comedywriter and occasional actor. Downey is best known as a long-time writer for " Saturday Night Live".
Harvard University, graduating in 1975 with a folklore and mythology degree. While at Harvard, he wrote for the " Harvard Lampoon", at a time when (as Steve O'Donnell said in 1987) "the proliferation of cable and the proliferation of comedy [led] the sensibilities of the Lampoon [to become] a little closer to the sensibilities of the mass media." Downey, a member of that first generation of Lampoon writers to make a career in television, has been credited with playing a role in that shift. In 1976, "100 Years of Harvard Lampoon Parodies" was published in magazine format, edited by Downey and Eric Rayman.
In 1976, Downey became a writer for "
Saturday Night Live". He worked on 27 of the show's first 32 seasons, one of the longest tenures in the show's history. His first stretch as writer for the show ran from 1976 to 1980, culminating in a brief stint as a featured cast member. By the 1979-1980 season, Lorne Michaelshad lost both Dan Aykroydand John Belushito feature film careers, causing him to look to writers like Downey, Tom Schiller, Dan Aykroyd's brother Peter, Al Franken, Alan Zweibel, and Tom Davis to fill spots as castmembers (along with SNL bandleader Paul Shafferand newcomer Harry Shearer). When Michaels left the show in 1980, so did Downey, along with practically everyone else.
After leaving "SNL", Downey went on to become
head writerof " Late Night with David Letterman" for a little over a year during its formative stages. He returned to "SNL" in 1984, serving for a while as head writer. When Norm Macdonald began as " Weekend Update" anchor in the mid-1990s, Downey wrote exclusively for that segment of the show. Downey and Macdonald subsequently became a team, working away from the rest of the cast and crew. When Macdonald was fired from the show in 1998, Downey went with him, only to return to the show in 2000. He continues to write for the show, pausing only in 2005 to work on a novel.
In 2008 Downey received attention for his political sketches on "SNL". In early 2008, his sketches mocked the Democratic Presidential Debates. The sketches depicted the
news mediaas biased toward candidate Barack Obama. After the first sketch aired, candidate Hillary Clinton referred to it at the beginning of the next debate. A profile of Downey appeared in the "New York Times". In the "Huffington Post", former "SNL" head writer Adam McKaycalled Downey "right wing" and an " Ann Coulterpal", and suggested that the skits were a ploy to favor Republicans, since Clinton would be a weaker candidate than Obama. [cite web
title= Live from New York...Vote Hillary!
first= Adam | last= McKay | authorlink= Adam McKay
date= 2008-03-05 | accessdate= 2008-03-03
The Huffington Post] According to the "Times" article, Downey "said he probably favored Mr. Obama over Mrs. Clinton, but that he genuinely felt she was receiving tougher treatment from the news media". He denied that "SNL" had intended to help Clinton. The "SNL" sketches may have prompted tougher news coverage of Obama, according to work by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. [cite news
title= A Harder Look at Obama, Post-'SNL'?
first= David | last= Bauder
date= 2008-03-04 | accessdate= 2008-03-09] Downey's political affiliation had been mentioned before in the news. TV critic
Tom Shales, author of a book on "SNL" ("Live from New York: The Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live"), [cite book
title= Live From New York
first= Tom | last= Shales | authorlink= Tom Shales
coauthors= James A. Miller
isbn= 0316781460] said on
CNNin 2002: quote|Jim Downey, who was kind of running the political humor [in 2000 at "SNL"] , is himself a Republican. You know, we just assume that people in the arts are all liberal Democrats despite the occasional Charlton Hestonor whatever. But not the case. Downey is pretty conservative. Shales agreed with host Al Hunt's opinion that "SNL" is an "equal opportunity slasher" in political comedy. [cite interview
last= Shales | first= Tom | subjectlink= Tom Shales
program= Capitol Gang,
title= Tracing 'SNL's' political humor
date= 2002-10-30 | accessdate= 2008-03-09]
In October 2008, Downey penned a sketch on the ongoing financial crisis and the passage of the
Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which credited President Bush with trying to prevent the subprime meltdown, parodied liberal investors Herb and Marion Sandler as Jewish stereotypes, running a chyron "People who should be shot," portrayed Rep. Barney Frankas having prevented Congressional oversight into their purported corruption, and also parodied billionaire investor George Sorosas profiting off the crisis and being the "owner of the Democratic party." The storyline of the sketch paralleled a piece, published September 29 on The American Thinkerwebzine, critical of the Sandlers and Soros as being part of a "left-wing conspiracy" with Barack Obamaby conservative writer Ed Lasky. [cite news
last=Lasky | first=Ed
title=How allies of George Soros helped bring down Wachovia Bank
September 29, 2008] After placing the video of the sketch online, NBC removed, then replaced it with an edited version that did not call for the assassination of the Sandlers. [cite news
title='Saturday Night Live' yanks, then reposts, controversial bailout sketch
October 7, 2008
publisher=L.A. Times Showtracker]
Additional information about Downey’s political affiliation is provided in a New York Times article dated March 13, 2008 titled “Pro-Clinton? ‘SNL’ Says You’re Joking”. The article states “Mr. Downey said he was a registered Democrat.” cite news
last = Carter
first = Bill
title = Pro-Clinton? 'SNL' Says You’re Joking
The New York Times
date = 2008-03-13
url = http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/arts/television/13snl.html
accessdate = 2008-03-19] The article also stated that Downey indicated a preference for candidate Obama, “Mr. Downey said that he would definitely vote for him if he were nominated.”
Although he was only a credited actor on "Saturday Night Live" for one season, Jim Downey has appeared in over 40 sketches from 1977 to 2005, his most notable being parody commercials such as "Craig's Travellers Checks," "First Citiwide Change Bank," and "Grayson Moorhead Securities". In 2007, he appared in a "Digital Short" titled "Andy's Dad", where he portrayed the father of cast member Andy Samberg, and having a romantic relationship with guest star,
In 1989 Downey had a role in a three-episode arc of the last season of "
Kate & Allie", a situation comedy starring "SNL" alumna Jane Curtin.
In 1995 Downey appeared in the film "
Billy Madison" as the high school principal who referees the quiz contest at the end of the movie.
In 1998 Downey appeared in the film "Dirty Work" in the role of a homeless man.
In 2007 he appeared in Paul Thomas Anderson's film "
There Will Be Blood" as the proprietor of a real estate office.
Downey's older brother is
Robert Downey Sr., father of actor and former "SNL" cast member Robert Downey Jr..cite web
title= Jim Downey
work= Saturday Night Live Bios
accessdate= 2008-03-03] He also has one son.Fact|date=March 2008
* cite web
title= Marci with James Downey
work= SNL Backstage
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