"I think the work she needs to do is not the kind on a comedy show," he said. "It would be great if she could go on a snobby serious discussion show and blow everybody away. You ultimately want to distance her from Tina Fey, not point out how similar they are."
What Fey and some of these other impersonators have done so well is to highlight the very things the mainstream media have been reticent to point out about Palin, according to Thompson.
"Tina Fey's impressions got out there and became delivery systems for the original sources she was making fun of," Thompson said, referring to the Charles Gibson and Katie Couric interviews.
There is a risk, however, that the jokes will backfire. To some extent, they already did by the time of the debate. Thompson said expectations for Palin were so low in part because comedians had done such a good job of highlighting Palin's weaknesses. When it came time for "SNL's" skit on the debate earlier in October, Thompson said it was not nearly as funny as the week before, because neither candidate did anything too outrageous.
There's also the concern that with an Internet filled with Palin impersonators, there could be a kind of "cultural meltdown" where people start to feel like Palin is being picked on. Thompson said it happened with Dan Quayle.
Ultimately, though, the election does not hang in the balance by these fake Palins. "Whoever loses this election will lose for an incredibly complex recipe of reasons," Thompson said. "Tina Fey may be one of the ingredients. Like that little bit of salt in a chocolate chip cookie, she not insignificant."
Check out some of the many Palin impersonators popping up on the Web:
A fake Sarah Palin Facebook page turned up on the HolyTaco.com. In it, Palin's political views were listed as "None -- I'm not very political," and for religious beliefs it said, "Jesusologist." The page also showed that she listed Katie Couric as a friend before dropping her three hours later. On her wall, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote: "I seen how you be starin at me from across the water." And McCain wrote: "You're a woman right? Are you busy for the next four years?"
Harry Shearer, the creator of "The Simpsons," has also gotten into the act with a music video called "Bridge to Nowhere," which stars wife Judith Owen, singing an ode to that famous symbol of pork-barrel spending, backed by singing salmon and moose. The song's chorus goes: "Bridge to Nowhere, you're under my skin, when my world is at stake, forsaking you is no sin."
A comedian who goes by LisaNova has posted several videos on YouTube. She plays Palin being interviewed by Gibson, debating Biden and getting schooled by Ralph Nader, who plays himself. But in her most popular video, which has been viewed more than 2 million times, she pretends to be Palin getting the phone call from McCain about being his vice presidential pick. "Scream it, John. Say my name. Say it," she shouts into the phone.
There's even a man playing Palin. In his video, Kevin Watts's Palin accepts the nomination to be the next president before correcting himself and adding "the interim vice president." In a press conference, he said, "No I'm not running with the young black one. I'm running with the old one, Don McCain. We met twice."
Donning glasses, single-strand pearls and a down-do in a Web video for Funnyordie.com, actress Gina Gershon playing Palin "sets the record straight" on rumors about the Republican veep pick.