I scored each sketch from the Donald Trump hosted SNL until I fell asleep last night, around the second Sia performance, but this episode doesn’t deserve an sketch breakdown. Needless to say, all but the highlighted sketches below were in the 1-3 range, and each sketch was made worse by the fact that the cast of SNL dignified the sham attempts at comedy by appearing and playing along with a buffoon.
There were very few attempts at humor in last night’s episode, beyond allowing Trump to play himself, which would only be funny to someone who has never seen Donald Trump before. There’s a English-speaking guy in the Ukraine, who probably watched last night’s episode and thought, “Oh my God! This guy is a hilarious caricature of American values. This is the best satire I’ve ever seen!”
But it wasn’t satire. Donald Trump played himself in nearly every sketch he was in, and there was little discernible difference between the SNL version of Trump and the actual version of Trump. The cast attempted (poorly) to play some of his positions and beliefs off as absurd, but more often than not it came off as, “This guy hates Mexicans. Let’s him help make fun of them!”
Case in point, in the opening monologue — which featured Darrell Hammond and Taran Killam doing their own Trump impressions — Larry David (who appeared again in the cold open as Bernie Sanders with much less success than the first time) shouted from off stage, “Trump is a racist! Trump is a racist!” It was an attempt to mock the Latino group that promised to pay a heckler $5,000 last night for calling Trump a racist, but what it did was to minimize the fact that Donald Trump is actually a racist. In other words, instead of taking seriously the issues that Latino groups have with Donald Trump, they made fun of them! (The Latino group Deport Racism still plans to give Larry David the $5,000).
Almost the entire episode was an unintentional infomercial for Trump masquerading as comedy. It was almost as if though the cast and writers didn’t know that Trump’s viewpoints were that extreme. They wrote a sketch in which Trump — as President — received a check from the Mexican president, who thanked him for building a wall between the United States and Mexico. That’s not a joke. THAT’S WHAT TRUMP ACTUALLY BELIEVES WILL HAPPEN IF HE IS PRESIDENT.
Beyond that, it was an hour and a half of Trump mostly saying, “I am the best! No one is better than me! Everyone is else a loser!” which wouldn’t be funny if he weren’t actually that way. But he is.
The only real pushback from the cast came during Weekend Update. At least there, Jost and Che (especially Che) took a few deserved shots at Trump.
But the only real biting highlight of the night came during Drunk Uncle’s appearance. Drunk Uncle came out as Trump’s number one fan, because of course he is! It worked, however, because it also came off less as parody and more as a reality. This is actually the kind of person who might vote for Trump. The truth of that is both depressing and funny and if you’re thinking about voting for Trump, consider the fact that that makes you no better than Drunk Uncle.
The only other highlight came at the end of the show, when the former porn stars campaign for Donald Trump and get a visit from Ronald McDonald McTrump. It was as good as the porn stars usually are, and it was marred only by Trump appearing at the end to say, “I do not endorse this.”
Beyond those few moments, however, the episode was an embarrassment. It would be one thing to have Donald Trump on in order to produce an episode that was actually funny, or if they’d demonstrated to us there were ulterior motives beyond ratings. But there weren’t. Nothing came out of the episode beyond more jabs at those “sensitive Latino groups,” and there was certainly nothing resembling political satire.
Look: I’m not one of those people who is always saying, “SNL is still on?” Or, “People still watch this show?” or “SNL hasn’t been relevant in years!” I defend the show, even as I criticize it each week. But last night, Saturday Night Live made the biggest case it’s ever made for shutting down, packing it up, and going home. It was a good 41 year run, but maybe it’s been long enough.