By Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - James Downey knew something odd had happened when he stepped away from watching the Democratic presidential debate on Tuesday night to check on something in the kitchen and his phones started ringing.
Hillary Clinton had cited the "Saturday Night Live" skit Downey had written to complain about her treatment by moderators Brian Williams and Tim Russert.
"In the last several debates I seem to get the first question all the time," she said. "I don't mind. I'll be happy to field it. I just find it curious if anybody saw `Saturday Night Live,' maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow."
The skit about an Obama-Clinton debate featured a lovestruck press corps fawning over Barack Obama, while treating Clinton as an annoyance in their way. A fictional Campbell Brown fanned herself in excitement after an Obama answer, while a John King impersonator suggested he had "nailed it."
Downey stayed up for the midnight rerun of MSNBC's Tuesday debate just to see what she had said.
"That usually doesn't happen unless it resonates," said Downey, "so that's nice. It's good for the show."
Downey is an original "Saturday Night Live" writer who's also been head writer for David Letterman. He's been back at "SNL" since 2000, when he wrote skits about Bush-Gore debates; and he's been the lead writer at the comedy show on political material since then.
He said it's hard to recall a more dazzling political personality than Obama in his lifetime.
Still, Downey can't help but notice how many people in the news media have been seduced by the Illinois senator. The Clinton campaign has expressed frustration that it is getting a tougher ride from the press.
Clinton has been the first person questioned in six of the past 10 Democratic debates, and some argue this puts her at a disadvantage.
"It's like when the mom is in the grocery store and the kids rush up with this brand new cereal saying `We've got to get it, we've got to get it!"' Downey said. "The mom is the one who is supposed to read the box, check the ingredients. She's not supposed to go, `Oh, my gosh, this is great! It has marshmallows and chocolates and sprinkles."
While he loved getting his work noticed and understands what Clinton must be feeling, Downey said mentioning the skit might not have been her best move.
"It might, on balance, make her look a little whiny," he said. "She might have been better off if other people pointed it out for them."
MSNBC might have also been a source of some of Clinton's annoyance. Both Chris Matthews and David Shuster have apologized over the past months for remarks about the Clinton campaign, which briefly considered backing out of the network-sponsored debate. Tuesday's debate was seen by 7.8 million people, the largest audience in the network's history, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Already, "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels has ordered Downey to write another skit on the campaign for this weekend's show.