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Saturday, February 16, 2019

The biggest question going into Saturday Night Live this week was whether the show would address Donald Trump’s history of racist and sexist comments – most notably the remarks about Mexicans being “rapists” and “bringing drugs,” with which he launched his presidential run. Protesters marched from the Trump towers to outside 30 Rock to boycott the show, feeling NBC – which severed ties with the Trump-connected Miss Universe pageant and also a corporate sibling of the Spanish-language network Telemundo – was hypocritical in giving a racist demagogue and opportunist a platform. But if any of the cast or crew members had an issue with Trump hosting the show, they didn’t say anything.

The protests were mentioned, if obliquely, in Trump’s monologue, which featured Taran Killam and Darrell Hammond, both of whom have played Trump on the show, dressed as him. It was more amusing to see the differences in the wigs placed on Killam and Hammond – and the shades of gold between the three – than to hear the jokes, which were old and irrelevant and garnered few chuckles. Larry David, who had shown up to play Bernie Sanders in the opening sketch on Friday’s Democratic Forum with Rachel Maddow (“the debate no one watches”), shouted out “You’re a racist” at the end of the monologue – but any actual danger in doing so was diffused by David shrugging his shoulders and saying that he only shouted it because he heard he could get $5,000 for doing so. Apparently, he is getting the money – an anti-Trump group known as Deport Racism was offering the bounty to anyone who dared to say it. But the whole thing was staged: SNL punted, for rather than courting real controversy – or making a strong statement – they went for an easy laugh.

Anyone expecting a harsh indictment of Trump or his rhetoric was disappointed. In fact, Trump barely spoke at all, letting the show speak for him. A skit structured entirely around Trump tweeting nasty words about the performers – Killam, Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson, and Leslie Jones – didn’t even have him in it; he opened the sketch by saying he just didn’t have the time to rehearse. The tweets just appeared onscreen. (Trump himself was not tweeting during this sketch, but did hint on Twitter earlier in the evening that there was going to be a sketch based around him doing just that.) The highlight of the episode also barely featured him, a spoof on Drake’s “Hotline Bling,” a video that will never fail to be gif-able, and one that works no matter the performer.

Unlike some recent episodes of South Park or even some of SNL’s most memorable sketches skewering Trump, there wasn’t much sharp satire in evidence. When Amy Schumer hosted in October, the episode was filled with biting jokes about guns and gun culture. But in a skit featuring Trump two years into his presidency – instead of South Park’s version, where division and suspicion of others is rampant – the scene was infused with sunshine and nonstop winning, from the president of Mexico handing over a check to pay for Trump’s wall to ISIS being neutralized because they are all working as blackjack dealers at the Trump Hotel & Casino in Damascus. I kept waiting for a Charlie Sheen-style “WINNING” to be shouted, to reveal the obvious dystopian nightmare hidden behind the gold façade. But it came off as merely an ad to promote Melania Trump as First Lady.

A lot has changed since Trump last hosted in 2004. Two of the show’s star female performers have completed successful runs of sitcoms they starred in and produced (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler), and two former male cast members currently have their own late night shows (Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers). SNL now leans more towards true ensemble work and sharper cultural and political humor. Presidential candidate Trump stands out in this world, a blunt man who doesn’t really tell jokes or appreciate nuance. At the time of Trump’s first hosting gig, SNL seemingly had a Trump skit every episode, and the joke was that this smug baron, obsessed with The Apprentice and Rosie O’Donnell, couldn’t pronounce things properly. But that joke just isn’t funny anymore, as Trump’s doofus persona has lately curdled into something truly frightening: He’s a real candidate who is parlaying anger and xenophobia into a credible presidential campaign.

It’s fitting that it would be Larry David, an angry, cranky comedian now channeling another angry, cranky politician, that would interrupt Trump – and that it was he who had the chutzpah to call The Donald a racist — but only as a joke. They’re both rich old white men, with prestige and access – and nothing to lose.

Photo: “Part of the reason I’m here is I know how to take a joke,” said Donald Trump in his opening monologue. He wasn’t really in on the joke nor the butt of it at SNL, but merely a prop that the episode revolved around, as in this sketch with Kate McKinnon, left, and Kenan Thompson, which revolved around Trump tweeting nasty remarks about the cast members. He only appeared in the sketch to explain that he wouldn’t be in it. Screenshot via NBC

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20 responses to “Pulled Punches And Easy Laughs When Trump Hosts ‘SNL’”

  1. bcarreiro says:

    Part of the reason I’m here is I know how to take a joke and the other part knows he is one.

  2. @HawaiianTater says:

    “He’s a real candidate who is parlaying anger and xenophobia into a credible presidential campaign.”

    A credible GOP primary campaign? Yes.
    A credible presidential campaign? LMAO!

    I would love nothing more than Trump to get the GOP nom because there is zero chance in hell of him winning in the general election. There is nothing credible at all about his presidential campaign in the sense that he might actually win the WH. The only thing credible about it are his chances to get the GOP nom and that’s only because the current GOP voting base done lost their damned minds.

    • Joe Smith says:

      I wish you were right. This all seems like a joke, but when push comes to shove this won’t actually happen, right?

      I wouldn’t be so sure.

      Look at how the GOP just destroyed elections last week. Anyone who gets the GOP nomination has a serious shot at the presidency. If he wasn’t polling so high, I’d be laughing along with you. Hell, I might have found a skit like the one where Trump is in the White House two years from now funny. Instead it’s terrifying.

      If you think people won’t actually vote for him when it comes down to it, you’re giving the American public too much credit.

      • @HawaiianTater says:

        You’re worried over nothing. The general election is a different beast than any other election. This is all about the electoral college and there is no way in hell Trump would ever get anywhere near 270. I’d be stunned if he even topped 200. The Dems already have a large number of states locked up as it is and due to changing demographics, you can’t win the general election without getting a certain percentage of the minority vote. You’re out of your damned mind if you think he will get enough minorities to vote for him to win the WH. Did I mention the single woman vote? Yeah, they hate him too.

        Just sit back and enjoy the show and hope like hell that Trump gets the nom because that guarantees the GOP stays out of the WH. I don’t particularly think any of them have a good shot at the WH but with Trump it’s no shot.

        • Cloudherder says:

          I think the Democrats are really overconfident with this one HawaiianTater. I wish I was as sure as you.

          • @HawaiianTater says:

            The only reason I have confidence in keeping the WH next year is due to knowledge of demographics and how the electoral college works. I have no confidence in anything else election related. Keeping the WH won’t do the good it needs to do if the GOP cheats their way into continuing control of Congress and more stolen governor’s seats.

  3. Otto Greif says:

    Advocating sensible immigration restrictions isn’t “xenophobia”, it’s sanity.

    • Paul Bass says:

      Yep, sanity like Hitler’s “Final Solution”.

      Again otto, you are showing just how much of a lunatic you are.

      The last county that tried to “deport” millions of people form it’s borders was the Nazis in WWII. How did that work out for Germany? And do you really want to live in a country that rounds up people to deport them on cattle cars? Really?

      Well, I guess, you might want to live in that country, but most US citizens would not.

      • Otto Greif says:

        Equating immigration reduction with genocide is insane.

        • Paul Bass says:

          Um, 12,000,000 people YOU, OTTO, are proposing “reduction” (sounds a lot like “solution”)!

          Hitler “ONLY” murdered about 6 million Jews! And maybe a good estimate of about 8.9 million “different people” in all.

          So ,no, Otto, YOU, are proposing a “reduction” of about twice as much as ALL the Jews murdered by Hitler! So tell me who is talking genocide, but YOU! Nice try, but you should TRY thinking before you type.

          • Otto Greif says:

            No one is going to be murdered, lunatic.

          • Paul Bass says:

            Exactly what the Third Reich said.

            What if the “illegals” don’t want to get on your cattle cars? Are you going to say “that’s cool , have a great life in America.?”

            Otto, you can’t think even ONE step beyond you stupid notion of “deport the aliens”. How, otto, are you going to do that? That IS the next step!!! It IS IMPOSSIBLE!
            Get a clue otto, what you are proposing is only possible with mass deportation, something most Americans won’t do.

          • Otto Greif says:

            Deportation isn’t mass murder, either.

          • Paul Bass says:

            Exactly what the whites said to the American Indians during the “Trail of Tears”!

            Amazing Otto, parroting ALL the phrases of some of the WORST ACTS of all humanity! Are you citing these phrases deliberately or are you truly this clueless? Did you sleep through high school history?

          • Otto Greif says:

            Did you forget to take your medication?

          • Paul Bass says:

            As usual, when you got nothing resort to ad hominem attacks, got it.

          • Otto Greif says:

            The guy calling everyone Nazis complains about ad hominem.

          • Paul Bass says:

            No Otto, I’ve only called YOU a Nazi, because of your posted beliefs.

            As you might note, by my over 1000 comments public, (yours are private, I wonder why?) I only use “Nazi” or “slept through high school” after a posted belief by another person/troll.

            The belief posted by that person/troll corresponds to the belief system of a “Nazi” or “someone who slept though high school”. So naturally I assume you are proud to be thought of as a “Nazi” or “someone who slept thorough high school”.

            Since you keep making the statements of your posted beliefs, you can see why I might assume that.

          • Otto Greif says:

            Since you keep babbling incoherently and making deranged claims, you can see why I might assume you forgot to take your medication.

          • Otto Greif says:

            Why do illegals want to stay here given the very real risk they will be herded into death camps?

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