Saturday Night Live: Donald Trump, Sia – Season 41, Episode 4
Well…here we are. Donald Trump is hosting Saturday Night Live for his second time. This isn’t the TV host blowhard Trump that “graced” Studio 8H back in 2004. We loved to laugh at his crazy antics on The Apprentice. This is the significantly less funny, offensive Presidential hopeful Trump that SNL has mocked on a few occasions now. Many people are so upset by this, multiple petitions were made asking for his removal. None of that will happen, which means these very same people will probably just not watch (numbers likely replaced by actual Trump fans). I’m of the mindset that all people running for major public office should do appearances like this, whether it’s a quick cameo like Hillary Clinton or a full gig like what Trump is doing. It humanizes them in a way campaign rallies never can. So for an hour and a half tonight, I’m putting aside politics to focus on other issues, such as: Can Trump be funny? How much of a mess will the show be if there are unruly audience members? Who will Trump offend? It should be a…journey to get these answers and more.
Sia’s here for number two as well, though that’s significantly less newsworthy. She should totally use a face cover modeled after Trump’s hair.
I’m using the word “good” here pretty liberally because, to be perfectly honest, the whole show was terrible. There were a few times where I laughed though. The Democratic Forum Cold Open for example, which kicked the night off in enjoyable fashion. Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, and surprise returner Larry David killed their impressions, as expected, and David stole the show exactly like he did last time. This aggressively old fashioned and cranky Bernie Sanders is hysterical with David effortlessly delivering jokes like Sanders only accepting nickels and pennies that are incredibly old. Clearly this is a role David is more than happy to play and I can’t wait to see more of it.
David also stole the monologue too. The whole bit was pretty dull, mostly just Trump grandstanding with Taran Killam and Darrell Hammond elevating things only so much with their impressions. What made me laugh the most though was hearing someone yell “Trump’s a racist” and revealing it was David himself. This is the writers coyly recognizing that $5,000 bet made for an audience member to do that exact same thing. The fear of this happening was real so acknowledging it in a joking manner helped defuse things somewhat.
There were more pre-recorded sketches than normal, probably to reduce the chances of someone yelling at Trump, and I’m glad one of the them was dedicated to the Bad Girls of SNL. The female cast members really struck gold with these musical segments last year and it was great to have them back for their first one of Season 41. The joke this time around? They’re all bad girls by pushing garbage down to make it seem less full and still tipping 20% because the waitress’ bad attitude might have to do with personal problems. This also hit close to home for me because, no lie, my fiance has done some of these before (especially not putting grocery items back where they belong). Live fast, die young indeed.
“White House 2018” was a cringe filled four minutes as Melania Trump (Strong) fantasized how great of a President her husband would be. It was definitely one of the many laughless sketches we had to sit through. What made it good then? Ivanka Trump. Not because she was funny or the night particularly improved by her being there (like David). It’s because she was met with complete and total silence when she walked out. There wasn’t even a courtesy clap. I have never seen a surprise guest come out to no recognition (she was definitely expecting applause too) and it was probably one of my favorite parts of the night. I laughed more at that than at whatever she had to say.
SNL is a great show to get people out of their comfort zone. It lets anyone, whether they are a sports star, action movie lead, or a politician, come out and do things they would never do elsewhere. For politicians especially (or aspiring in this case), it lets them show the public that they do have a sense of humor. Clinton accomplished this when she portrayed Val the Bartender in the season premiere. However, so much of this hinges on if the host is actually comfortable with the material, and SNL has a long and documented history with certain big names wanting too much creative control. The show almost always suffered because of it. Last night can get added to that list. It was clear as day that Trump had a huge say on what aired and that the staff had to bend over backwards to cater to him. Case in point, the man was hardly there. He wanted the recognition of SNL without actually putting in the effort.
There are so many examples of this too. Let’s look at the Retired Pornstars first. As my favorite recurring bit, I was beyond excited to see them making their Season 41 debut. Vanessa Bayer and Strong once again carried the segment on their more than capable shoulders, despite the whole bit being an endorsement for Trump. That alone made it difficult to handle, but what made it worse was how the host wasn’t even present. It was Bobby Moynihan playing him. After spending the entire sketch wondering where the guy was, Trump shows up at the end to say he doesn’t support their endorsement. It wouldn’t surprise me if the writers used this single line to coerce Trump into doing something he clearly did not want a part in. This was also the first time I didn’t like this segment.
Next up? “Rock Band”! Trump was in this sketch for more time than normal, but that didn’t make anything better. It was probably the most outlandish he was willing to be on a live segment. Of course, by outlandish, I mean wearing a black trenchcoat and waving his arms over light beams. Seriously. The sketch required minimal effort and Trump was barely willing to put that in. He blew his lines, came in out of cue, and literally just tossed his hands around like someone extremely bored with their task. Sadly, all the jokes had to revolve around his character, so this was just a slog in the worst way imaginable.
“Live Tweeting” gets points for originality. SNL has never done a sketch like this before, and it was interesting, and pretty humorous at times, to watch cast members intentionally break the fourth wall as Trump insulted them on Twitter. Twitter is easily Trump’s biggest mouthpiece too so credit goes to the writers for finding a way to incorporate it. However, where the whole sketch fails comes right at the beginning when Trump himself exclaimed he wasn’t going to be in it. So not only was Trump MIA throughout the night. His absence was even acknowledged as the punchline for one of the episode’s longest bits. Again, it’s this type of shameless catering and blatant attempt to get the guy off screen that just killed the entire night.
Lastly, Kenan Thompson interrupting Sia’s introduction to talk with Trump as Toots from Toots and the Maytals. I have never seen an episode gleefully acknowledge the last time the host was on in such a manner, but clearly this was a night of firsts. It was horrible, to put it plainly. It wouldn’t surprise me if I found out later that this was added because Trump refused to do so many skits and they needed something to fill a void.
In case you didn’t realize already, this was a very bad episode. This wasn’t a night where a non-comedian got a chance to show the world they have humor. It was a night where the host clearly had a lot of demands and SNL was too willing to accommodate. Instead of getting segments with critiques on Trump’s policies, how the man has found success, or literally anything negative about the host, we got Presidential fantasies and attempts to keep him away from the stage. The Weekend Update, especially Michael Che, tried somewhat to counter this, and you can view Drunk Uncle as a decent indictment on the typical Trump supporter. However, this was all overshadowed by the many digs made at Trump’s opponents. As a longtime fan, it sucks watching SNL reduced to such a toothless and crippled shell for a night. Please bring Sia back too because she definitely deserves a better show.
Everyone involved with the night probably breathed a sigh of relief when it ended. Trump as a host wasn’t a win for either him or the show, and the best scenario now is having it in the past. I’m sure a lot of people there are excited for Elizabeth Banks. After a night like this, she looks like a comedy savior.
Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.