Sensational census reports outdo wacky SNL sketches

By David Edwards and Ron Brynaert
Wednesday, May 12, 2010 14:04 EDT
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Saturday Night Live sketches about wacky encounters with census workers don’t seem as bizarre as some of the headlines floating across the web this week.

The latest episode of NBC’s long-running sketch comedy series contained a bit where former cast member Tina Fey attempted to get some simple census questions answered by a befuddled Betty White.

The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe wrote,

In a nod to Christopher Walken’s classic census spoof, Betty White and Tina Fey acted out what some census takers might be enduring as they attempt to count everyone on last night’s “Saturday Night Live.”

“How would you describe your race or ethnic origin?” Fey asks.

“Well, superior to Asians, but not as intelligent as blacks,” White said.

In 2000, Walken shocked census talker Tim Meadows by asking if his plants and pet leopard should be counted, as well.

TIM MEADOWS AS CENSUS TAKER: Yes, Mr. Leonard, I’m with the U.S. Census Bureau. How many people live in this residence?

CHRISTOPHER WALKEN AS MR. LEONARD: Oh boy, that’s a good question. I’m bad with numbers, maybe 80.

TIM MEADOWS AS CENSUS TAKER: Eighty people live in this apartment?

CHRISTOPHER WALKEN AS MR. LEONARD: Seems high, doesn’t it?


Not 80, how about 4?

But the following three stories were not written by SNL writers.

California’s The Union

A homeowner on the San Juan Ridge allegedly threatened two U.S. Census workers with a machine gun and a crossbow in a “dramatic confrontation” less than a week after census workers began local visits.


A Nevada County census worker called 911 Friday evening to report a man on the 18000 block of Cruzon Grade Road aimed a crossbow at her earlier that afternoon. She said he threatened her with a machine gun, although she did not see the weapon.

“Two census workers went to the residence, which had a no-trespassing sign,” said Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal, adding that trespassing laws don’t apply to public officials.

“They went past the sign and went to the residence, and the resident became very confrontational,” Royal said. “He said he was going to grab a submachine gun, trying to scare them off the property. They decided it would be best to leave, and he followed them down the driveway with a crossbow in his hand.”

The two federal employees got in their car and, as they were leaving, the man allegedly pointed the crossbow at them, they said.

“Nationally, six census workers have died, all in vehicle accidents,” The Union noted.

Tampa Bay Online reports

A 65-year-old man grabbed a 10-pound pickax and threatened a census worker who was trying to collect information, police said.

Police said Gregory Sijesta identified himself as a U.S. Census Bureau employee and showed the identification badge around his neck when he approached Thigpen’s apartment.

But Thigpen became enraged and grabbed the pickax from the trunk of his car, Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said.

“Thigpen told police he felt threatened by the census worker, but Davis said there was nothing threatening about Sijesta,” TBO adds.

Meanwhile, a disturbing report from Indiana’s WXIN notes, “A U.S. Census worker has been charged with rape and burglary, after two women in southern Indiana claim they were attacked. One of the victims was a 21 year-old physically handicapped woman. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, he had been with the agency for two weeks.”

The attack occurred Saturday morning in Pekin, Indiana in Washington County.

Police said the man broke in while a mother and daughter slept and attacked them. According to investigators, the mother had taken a mild sleeping pill. The man, identified as 39 year-old Daniel Miller, was arrested following the incident. He said he worked for the government.

Four days before the attack, neighbors in the area say they saw Miller in the area on census business. The victim told police Miller had asked about their census information. She said they had already submitted the form. She also told police that Miller stuck around and tried to get more details.

WRTV from Indianopolis adds, “The U.S. Census Bureau does stringent FBI background checks and turns away anyone who doesn’t check out OK, officials said.”

A census worker should never ask to come inside the home and should show an official identification badge with a Department of Commerce watermark. The workers should also carry a black census bag with titling and a seal.

“I would think the federal government would have trained them, and I would just feel safe,” said Indianapolis resident Dave Kubley.

Jim Accurso, of the Chicago Regional Census Center, said the screening process for prospective employees is more rigorous than ever.

This video is from NBC’s Saturday Night Live, broadcast May 8, 2010.

This video is from NBC’s Saturday Night Live, April 8, broadcast 2000.

This video is from WXIN, broadcast May 11, 2010.


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