The President of the United States doesn’t take criticism lightly. Donald Trump regularly takes to his Twitter account to jab at those who oppose him, with the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live being no exception.
Trump has been portrayed on the show several times, but his run for office gave SNL reason to have him featured both as a character and as a host. When he announced in 2015 that he was running for the Republican Presidential Nomination, the general response was amused disbelief. We chuckled at the idea of the reality TV star and real estate mogul turning to politics, saying “maybe on SNL but not in real life.”
I personally remember sitting in my dorm and smiling at the absurd idea of the celebrity going up against front-runners Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz as they prepared for the first Republican Debate. Now we are in our first week with this newcomer in the Oval Office, but SNL has made sure to remind us of the outlandish antics that make Donald J. Trump our most unconventional president.
With his nomination and the consequential Presidential Debate with Hillary Clinton, Saturday Night Live went outside of their regular cast to have Alec Baldwin come into Studio 8H to play Trump. Baldwin has returned for 9 episodes as an orange-dusted caricature of the new Commander in Chief, but his absence from Saturday’s show was unexpected.
According to Entertainment Weekly, Baldwin is to come back to play Donald Trump sporadically throughout the rest of the season. The unusual series of episodes starring a non-cast member in a featured role was fitting for an unusual election, but there is no word on a cast member potentially assuming the impersonation in the coming seasons. Current show announcer Darrell Hammond portrayed Trump before Baldwin, but I would rather see a cast member take on the role as has been done in previous seasons.
No matter who plays him, the President shows no sign of softening his criticism of the show or Baldwin himself. Trump has not failed to rail on SNL despite hosting just last season as a Republican nominee. Utilizing 140 characters or less at a time, @realDonaldTrump posts regularly in response to the satire produced by NBC. His response, however, is not unprompted. In every appearance, Baldwin has shown no effort to hide his personal disdain for Trump. With rips often going beyond the traditional impersonations seen on Saturday Night Live over the years, it is no surprise the Twitter-savvy new President has not watched in silence.
While it has been quite common to open the show with a cold take on American politics, particularly involving an election or the President, it is uncommon for SNL to display such clear opposition to a nominee.
The show is known to be liberal, having strong support for politicians including Obama and Hillary Clinton. Even when portraying a Republican politician, the opposition has been more subtle. Will Ferrell’s representation of George W. Bush has become a fan-favorite for its impressive realism, but despite the pokes at his southern drawl and simple language, Ferrell never went beyond a comedic caricature.
Baldwin and the writers at SNL have gone further than this satire, making blatant political statements. Since Trump has proven to be such a divisive candidate and president, I believe these measures are necessary for the show and cast to take. However, it does make the sketch show feel more like a political commentary show, akin to the Colbert Report.
During the cold open on November 5, 2016 – the final episode before the election – Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton stated “Trump has single-handedly ruined so much of what we as Americans hold dear. Kindness, decency, Tic Tacs….” This was after reminding viewers he was endorsed by the KKK and his Vice President supports gay conversion therapy.
We know Trump himself does not consider his election to be a crisis, but his harsh public criticism of Saturday Night Live suggests the President does not take this comedy sketch show lightly. In the past, SNL simply made fun of the news and politics, but this time they had a clear message: Trump should not be President.
With the exit of Baldwin as a regular, it is unclear if this message will still be written between the scripted lines. I will continue to watch on Saturday nights to see how they take on the president. And I will be scrolling through Twitter each Sunday morning to see how the 45th President of the United States thought of the show.