Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Thursday, July 19, 2018

Last night’s stunning, star-studded Saturday Night Live cold open begins simply enough: a black screen with white words that say “The following is based on real events” and a dissolve to Michael Cohen (Ben Stiller) loitering near a pay phone. He is placing a call to the Oval Office, where Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) sits reading a golf magazine.

“How are you holding up in prison?” Trump asks solicitously.

“I’m not in prison!” cries Cohen.

“Well, give it a couple of weeks,” Trump retorts.

Of course, Cohen fretful that they’re both going to prison, and assures Trump he “dialed *86” to make sure nobody could listen to their conspiring over the Stormy Daniels lawsuit.

The pair of FBI agents showed listening on another screen look bemused.

But that darkly funny tableau swiftly expands into a kaleidoscopic rendering of Trumpian chaos, as Cohen fumbles with “burner” phones that bring on Trump’s former doctor Harold Bornstein (Martin Short), a manic Rudy Giuliani (Kate McKinnon), Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Aidy Bryant), Omarosa Manigault (Leslie Jones), Melania (Cecily Strong), Mike Pence (Beck Bennett) — and Jared and Ivanka (Scarlett Johannson and Jimmy Fallon), whining because Giuliani had suggested Kushner was “disposable.”

As the sketch is about to spiral away, Trump says he wants to talk with Stormy Daniels herself to resolve her lawsuit. Cohen reluctantly dials the number. And who should pick up on the other end but that notorious actress — the real Stephanie Clifford — ready to tell Trump what she wants.

Do not miss this one — a remarkable SNL tour de force.